by Tracy Goldsmith
Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School
My 8th grade Language Arts class students studied the Holocaust. They were assigned different Holocaust novels to read and they participated in literature circles using those novels. We started the unit by using the Step Inside Artful Thinking Routine with this image;
This is an image of Otto Frank, on the opening day of the Anne Frank House as a museum in Amsterdam. I asked students to stand up and quietly place themselves into the same position as the person in this portrait. While they quietly, stood in position looking at the image, I asked them to image what this person might be thinking or feeling. I wanted them to come up with a story about this picture and this man. They stood silently for one minute and then they had to write a journal entry answering the same questions. Some student responses are below:
The unit involved many different activities related to the Holocaust. One resource we used extensively was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website (www.ushmm.org). To extend the Artful Thinking routine of “Step Inside,” the students were assigned a portrait and first person narrative project. They started by finding one victim or survivor whose story they wanted to explore more on the USHMM website. There is a link on the website that shows ID cards with pictures and information about victims and survivors. After finding a person that they wanted to study more, students had to read the information about them and then turn that into a first person narrative. This first person narrative would be read out loud to the class later in the unit. The activity of writing in first person really stretched their understanding of what an individual was experiencing during the Holocaust. Being able to read it out loud to an audience, made that story come alive. Many students were emotionally touched by the narrative readings.
After writing their first person narrative, students had the opportunity to create a portrait of their person. These portraits, along with their narrative, were put into a display that became a memorial wall for the Holocaust victims and survivors. It was a beautiful unit that helped students delve deeper into one person’s story. Many students said this unit helped them understand this historical event on a more personal level. In the past, they learned about the victims in terms of large numbers but to be able to focus more deeply into one person’s life, they felt they could connect more to this tragic, historical event.
While students were working on the portraits, I asked them some questions about what they thought of this project. The following quotes are some of their responses:
To download the assignment and rubric for this project, click on the link below:
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