Unit Reflection for C. Douglas 7-15-02
The importance of teaching the events of the Nazi Holocaust are equally important to the study of the autobiography Night. Several activities besides the novel and comprehension guide enable students to understand these horrific events and Elie Weisel's place in a terrible time in history. A strength of this unit is the classroom activities that aide comprehension of a book slightly above grade level. The picture books are powerful. The video footage is impressive.
Making an impression is easy when it comes to teaching this novel. They can't escape it. Activities such as "Mr. Mulgrew's Museum" have proven themselves. In this activity, I post on my classroom walls twenty to thirty posters from Harper's Magazine Picture File. These graven historical images and grotesque annotations and descriptions are viewed as if we were in a museum. We walk around, we read, we comment to each other, and then we talk as a group. The activity runs itself and it does leave a lasting impression; former students return to visit me and they mention this activity when we discuss which class activities they remember. They don't like it, but they are in awe of it.
These visuals and activities allow me to make connections to the text that the students can not make because they have not lived under these conditions, and many are unaware of the magnitude or depths of inhumanity. They also help my ESL and special education students bridge gaps of understanding and comprehension.
These depths are what cause the weakness of the entire unit. It is very depressing to learn about this for too long a period of time. They are, after all, eighth grade students. But that isn't the sole factor for lack of attention. As a survival method students will "tune-out" if I stretch this novel too long. The saving grace is that I too get tired of "teaching death" for two weeks, so I limit it for what I believe will be adequate, and provide a list of other novels that students may read independently if they choose to pursue this field. I worry that the Vocabulary Essay Exam will take this unit a bit too far. If I am sensing this from the students I will then resort to a plan B modification and use it as an Honors task for extra credit.
Although I have taught this novel to five different groups over the past ten years, this year I think that the resources I have attained will allow me to do more justice to a very important novel.
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