Sunday, June 01, 2008

Am I a Bad Person?

So I'm studying Night because I'm considering choosing that as our in-class novel.

However, the "big idea" that invariably grips me whenever I go back to it is 'dang, my life is GOOD.' And I feel like I ought to be getting more out of it than that! It seems to be more of a question-provoker than idea-inspirer, at least for me.

I'm just not sure that I know how to teach this. Any suggestions? What would you do with it?


cupcake said...

I taught this, and it actually was by far the most effective thing I did this year.

First, go to The Shoah Foundation, which has clips of survivor testimony. Steven Spielberg made it a mission to film all survivors, and he housed everything at USC's Shoah Foundation. I showed clips before we got to a corresponding part in Night.

Then go to The US Holocaust Memorial Museum site. They have some good resources for teachers, including a section devoted to Night. What I found particularly helpful was Nesse Godin's testimony. My students ate that up.

Now, it helps if you can show that stuff on a SmartBoard. If you don't have one, then project it onto a screen. The Nesse section is very small visually, but she packs a punch.

We listened to the book on audio CD, which students enjoyed for the most part. The narrator talks s-l-o-w-l-y at times, and takes long pauses, but it worked.

While we listened to it, I stopped at predetermined times (I went through the book and chose stopping points that I thought were effective) and asked personal questions that they answered in booklets we made in class. It would be questions like, "You are Elie and you just saw your father get beaten by a Nazi. What would you be thinking and feeling?" I really enjoyed reading their answers. My Geniuses, of course, wanted to use "their" language, so I let them, and occasionally, their entries got rather salty.

Afterwards, we watched "Life is Beautiful," for a parallel father-son story, and they liked that as well. Oh, and we watched "Night and Fog," which is a brilliant documentary made in 1954. It's in French with English subtitles, and my kids LOVED that. It disturbed them and affected them, and it worked well with the book.

Those are some ideas that ought to get you started on what you think would work for your students.

Dr Pezz said...

Get the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly! Powerful collection of poems written by artists' children from a single ghetto.

I assign each of the students a poem written by one of the ghetto's children. Then the students have a week to 10 days to prepare a dramatic reading (or recitation) of the poem.

However, the students each must create a butterfly to represent the poet, and the poem must be included on the butterfly. I give the kids about three days, and then we hang them from the ceiling. It's gorgeous!

But here's the kicker: when the student reads/recites his poem, I tell the student (by looking at the back of the book) if his poet survived. If the poet died, then the student must cut down the butterfly and let it fall to the ground. It stays there. Once all of the students have read their poems, only 2-3 butterflies remain. It's an amazing demonstration for the kids.

For the memoir itself, I have the students write double-entry journals and then compose a letter to a significant adult with a reaction to which the adult responds. I require a back and forth of at least two entries for the student and adult. I sometimes have the students compose poems along with the letters.

Outside of class I have shown Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda, which the students enjoyed. There's also a heavy, but powerful episode of Band of Brothers where the American soldiers come upon a concentration camp for the first time ("Why We Fight"). You'd have to be very choosy about the sections you show, but it's impacting.

Clix said...

How do you get the students to give up some of their precious free time to do class-related stuff (even something like a movie)?

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