Tuesday, June 30, 2015

summer blog party: books for 8th grade holocaust study

Hey all! Summer Blog Party is back! Today we're sharing best books for a grade level of our choice, and I bring you my favorites to use for a Holocaust Unit. I know, depressing topic, but I always taught it in October, November, and December, and then we worked on researching causes of interest and doing a community service project as a way to Change the World in the spring. Eighth graders loved it!

A little bit about my old middle school classroom - I had a huge rug, an armchair, and space for 7th and 8th graders to gather and read together. I read them lots - novels, of course, but also picture books. They thought it was odd at first, but then were used to it, and then loved it. Don't think kids are too old to be read to - I am in a Writing Workshop and love when the instructor reads to us, and I'm in my 30's!

Picture Books
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust (Bunting, Eve)

In this book, the Terrible Things keep coming for groups of animals, and no one ever stands up to save any of the animals. So, one by one, the groups of bunnies, frogs, and birds all get taken away. Great introduction to the unit and also, great way to teach allegory. Also, when looking for the image, I just found this video of the book!

The Butterfly (Polacco, Patricia)

From Amazon: Ever since the Nazis marched into Monique?s small French village, terrorizing it, nothing surprises her, until the night Monique encounters ?the little ghost? sitting at the end of her bed. She turns out to be a girl named Sevrine, who has been hiding from the Nazis in Monique?s basement. Playing after dark, the two become friends, until, in a terrifying moment, they are discovered, sending both of their families into a nighttime flight.

Another great story to orient the kids to the history in a fictional way with characters they can connect to. If you love Polacco, you'll love this book, too!

I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 (Volavkova, Hana & Havel, Vaclav)

This is a book of poems and drawings composed by children who were relocated to Terezin Concentration Camp. What's cool about the book is that the appendix lists the each poet's fate - whether or not they survived the Holocaust.

Here's how I used it: All kids made a butterfly that was strung from the ceiling. Those represented the child of the poem they were then assigned to study. Pairs of kids would then get a poem and/or drawing to close read. Together, they practiced reading the poem because they would later read it to their classmates, and share their interpretation. After they shared about their poem, I would let them know about the fate of their child. If the child lived, their butterfly remained hanging from the ceiling. If the child perished, we cut the butterfly down (leaving the string) and put the butterfly on a bulletin board. At the end of all the poem presentations, they kids had a good visual of the impact of those who died in the Holocaust. I wish I had pictures of this from the last time I did this....I would love to show you!

Book Clubs
For our book clubs, kids got to choose between these novels:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

It's a classic, and I think all eighth graders should read it, but your students definitely have to have the stamina and background knowledge for it. Last time I taught this, the kids really liked it, and a good part of that was because they had the structures of book clubs to support them through the novel!

Night (Wiesel, Elie)

From Amazon: Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

This is not my favorite - I didn't like reading it at home at night when I read it, but there will definitely be some groups of kids who might like to try it. Again, the thing with these books are the structures set in place so kids can talk authentically about the books they are reading. That will be a post for another day, but this is one you should have for your above-level and mature readers.

Number the Stars (Lowry, Lois)

From Amazon: As the German troops begin their campaign to "relocate" all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.
This title is one we had available for our below average readers. I'm kind of embarrassed to tell you that I haven't read it, and I'm sitting here thinking about one of the other literacy coaches in my district who finished it recently and raved about it. Must add to my list for the summer! My kids who read it really liked it!
Maus (Spiegelman, Art)

From Amazon: A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself.
Another I haven't read, and didn't even have available for kids, but if I ever go back, I'd grab a set of these! Graphic novel and has another book in the series, very appealing to kids!

So what about you? Have some great books to share for your grade level or content area? Please, write up a post and link up with us!


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