Saturday, February 5, 2011

Not Sure Where to Present a Big Idea? Try the Hallway, All of it.

January 27 was International Holocaust Memorial Day.  Rather than stand up in class an talk, I wanted to do something different with my students.  I wanted them to get an idea of the magnitude of 6 million people.  Looking online I found the Yad Vasham Shoah database but quickly realized that even presenting it on the IWB in our classroom wouldn't reveal the enormity of this partial list of victims. The 166 page list of adults and children ranging from 1 to 78 years old contains over 2000 names.  My classes and I figured it mathematically to be .03% of the total.   What caught there attention the most was that the list as we presented it stretched the entire length of our wing of the building.  As my students walked quietly down the hall I asked them to look for the youngest and the oldest to compare the number of adults to children and to determine why we have so much detailed information.  When we returned to class we were able to have a discussion of  the magnitude of the Holocaust that was appropriate to the meaning of the day.

By way of parallel instruction the Language Arts classes began reading the "Diary of Anne Frank" on the same day.  (Yes we planned this.  The heavy emphasis on Language Arts and the absence of a state test for Social Studies in our grade has given us the room to switch the history classes to a thematic platform to more easily connect the two classes.) The students will present differentiated individual projects in LA based on Anne Frank and group projects on the Second World War in Social Studies.  The student produced projects range from image based PowerPoint presentations to Common Craft style videos. Instructions for Common Craft in the classroom can be found at Blogush. At the end of the unit all of the students post a historic fiction piece on our class blog as if they had lived through some part of  WWII whether it was the Homefront, Europe, or the Pacific.

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