Thursday, February 27, 2014

Increasing Background Knowledge: An Example based on NIGHT by Elie Wiesel

The following is a guest Post from Jill Thomas, 
Hoover High School teacher of Freshman English

The following activity was one that Kristen Westwood and I put together.  After intense reading and studying of the Odyssey over the past month, we wanted the students to have some time in the non-fiction realm, so they were to research background information on a very difficult topic – the holocaust.  

The students spent one full day independently researching an assigned topic on which they would become “the expert.”  

After one class period of research, the second class period was spent presenting their newly found information to a group in a jigsaw activity, so that at the end of the day, they would have complete and detailed information on a total of five different topics.  The topics they researched were: KristallnachtHitler and Nazi ruleconcentration campsghettos, and the “final solution.”  


After spending approximately 20-25 minutes presenting to one another, we then reflected upon what was learned over the past two days.  To do that, we watched a short 9-minute video trailer of Night that included some very graphic, difficult-to-see images of concentration camps and ghettos.  

(The video link can be found here:
I warned the students that the content would be tough to swallow, but that I wanted them to feel the weight and gravity of the situation that occurred not all that long ago so that they would be fully prepared, both mentally and emotionally, for reading the memoir of firsthand accounts of living through the holocaust.  

After watching the video, each student completed a one paragraph reflection accounting for at least five new things they learned.  I have loved reading through the reflections because so many students were touched and horrified (justifiably) by the actions of the Nazi regime.

This was a fantastic lesson to get us propelled into reading Night, and my students are equally as excited about reading this novel together as I am.  We will be studying the novel through a process called Literature Circles where the students will meet in groups three times over the next three weeks to discuss and present specific information according to their “role” in their Literature Circle groups.  


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