Lesson Plan


Jan. 15, 2014, 12:04 p.m.

NPR's Planet Money makes a t-shirt - Lesson Plan

By Katie Gould, PBS NewsHour Extra Teacher Resource Producer


NPR’s Planet Money decided to make a T-shirt and follow the process of its creation around the globe. This lesson plan takes your class along for the ride interspersing activities with NPR’s exciting video tour around the world. Students will recreate their own story with , a digital storytelling tool as the final assessment.


Economics, Geography

Estimated Time

One 90-minute class plus homework time for Meme Assessment Project

Grade Levels

Middle and High School


  • Colored pencils/ markers/crayons
  • Predesigned T-shirt pages "T-shirt cut outs"
  • “How to Make a T-Shirt” power point
  • “Vocabulary” handout
  • “Facts and questions” worksheet
  • Section handouts and questions:
  • Cotton and Cotton questions
  • Machines and Machines questions
  • People and People questions
  • Boxes and Boxes questions
  • “Project organization page”
  • “Project questions” worksheet
  • Optional “Factory collapse questions” worksheet

Warm Up Activity

Assembly Line Competition
  1. Split your class into two groups (Competition 1 and Competition 2) and then split them into two equal teams within Competition 1 and 2. Within each competition students will be racing against each other to create more T-shirts. One group from each competition will be the assembly line and one will work independently both with the goal of producing as many t-shirts as possible in the allotted time.
  2. Hand out materials to each group:
    • many copies of the "T-shirt cut outs" page
    • scissors
    • yarn
    • colored pencils/markers/crayons
  3. Instruct one group to have each person make as many shirts as possible. Instruct the other group to set themselves as an assembly line for each step of the shirt making process. The requirements for the shirts are as follows:
    • Each shirt must be made from half a sheet of 8.5 x 11” piece of paper (see predesigned T-shirt pages - T-shirt cut outs)
    • The shirt must be cut out
    • The shirt must have three holes around the neckline
    • Yarn must be threaded through the holes
    • The shirt must be colored (front and back)
    • The shirt must have a logo on the front
  4. Tell students that it is a competition and that they are competing against the other groups to make the most T-shirts in 8-10 minutes. 5. Allow students to make their T-shirts and at the end of ten minutes record how many T-shirts each group made - the assembly line groups should dominate the competition. 6. As a class have students explain the results and how they might affect the cost of real T-shirt making. Which way do they think most businesses would choose? Are there any benefits to the non-assembly line T-shirts?

Main Activity

NPR “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt” How and where are T-shirts made?
  1. In groups ask students to hypothesize what the 5 steps are to making a t-shirt and getting it to consumers. You can show them the answers using the “How to Make a T-Shirt” PowerPoint.
  2. Now introduce students to the Planet Money Makes a T-shirt project by showing them the introduction by clicking here or you can also click on the image on slide 8 to get there.
  3. Pass out “Vocabulary” worksheet and review the definitions with the students before watching the five part story of how a t-shirt is made.
  4. Pass out the “Facts and Questions” worksheet. Watch the videos for each section and stop after each to allow students to fill out their “Facts and Questions” worksheet.
  5. After watching the videos have students fill out their “Vocabulary” worksheet in small groups or partners and then share out to the whole class.
  6. Then return to the “Facts and Questions” worksheet and answer questions students had about the videos fielding questions from the students.
Middle School Activity
  1. Give students the opportunity to choose one section that they were interested in and give them the accompanying reading and question worksheet. Have them summarize the reading and analyze the charts, graphs or photographs in the text by filling out the accompanying “Questions” worksheet.
  2. Choose one group to share out for each section to the class and have students take notes as in a jig-saw activity.
High School Activity
  1. Set up stations where students will read a section and then have time to discuss with their group what they have read and complete the “Questions” section for each section.
  2. Then have students move to the next group and repeat. By the end each person should have read all the pieces and had a chance to discuss them with their classmates.

Assessment Project

Meme Project - Tell the story of your T-shirt
  1. Explain to students that you want them to recreate the process of making the T-shirts through an online digital storytelling device called Meme Creator . They will tell the story of the T-shirt: the processes, countries involved and of the people involved. For each stage they should have a moment about the process that takes place, a moment about the location that the stage took place and a moment about the people who were part of that stage.
  2. Students should gather the following information before starting their meme and write it down on their "Project organization page":
    • Photos or videos - of the place, the stage, and the people involved
    • Locations - three facts about the country or state
    • A brief written description of each stage (three sentences at most) which you will also use as your narration for each moment
  3. To see an example click on the the Meme Creator website below. Helpful Hints: To get a picture from the "Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt" video we suggest having students do a screen grab and then create an image out of it in Microsoft Paint. Screen Grab Directions
    • Go to the website you want to take an image from and find the image.
    • Click CNTRL and PrtScn at the same time and your computer will take a picture of the screen.
    • Open paint and click New under the file menu.
    • Paste your screen shot onto the blank space, then crop and save it.
  4. In addition to creating their assignment, they must share their project with at least three people (not from class) and ask them the following questions from their “Project Questions” worksheet about what they learned:
    • Are you surprised about the long journey the T-shirt took? Why or why not?
    • Did you expect to see something different? What?
    • What are the benefits and risks of this system of making a T-shirt?
    • Would you pay more for this T-shirt if you thought the people who made the shirt would be paid more or have better working conditions?
  5. Their goal is to share the story of how a T-shirt is made and educate others about the complex life of one of our seemingly simplest everyday items. To start creating your meme, click on Meme Creator.
  6. Once you have logged in you can work with your Meme Creator on any computer.

Optional Extension Activity

Watch the first 1:56 minutes of the “Garment Industry Under Scrutiny After Factory Collapse in Bangladesh” and have students answer the corresponding questions (Factory Collapse Questions Worksheet)

More recommended interactive resources:


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