Thursday, January 14, 2010

Culminating Activity for Elie Wiesel's Night

A great way to incorporate research with teaching a Holocaust memoir is to have students research other humanitarians or organizations who are currently advocating for victims. I use this as a culminating activity after my unit on Night. The students watch the PBS documentary First Person Singular about Elie Wiesel and read his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in which he addresses the fact that neutrality helps the oppressor, never the oppressed.

PBS has a great unit (CLICK HERE FOR THE UNIT) that I have adapted to allow students to research and create a presentation in PhotoStory (free to download from Microsoft) that combines the use of research skills and technology. PhotoStory allows students to create a “movie” that shows still pictures and has the students narrate the sound and can also add background music. The website for the project is and it has even more details about the lesson which I have adapted to work within my requirements. Some of my adaptations include asking students to address what the organization/humanitarian has done to help human rights, taking a risk, and providing a brief history/biography in at least 10 “slides” with a typed narration that they read into the presentation.

Students have really liked this assignment because most of them are new to PhotoStory and they like learning new technologies. I also let them work with a partner, which they enjoy and they like having a product at the end, which I allow them to present to the class. While they sometimes cringe when they hear themselves presenting, they like having it already recorded rather than presenting “live.”

Another angle teachers could take would be to have students research genocides that have occurred since the Holocaust and create a PhotoStory presentation about the information they have learned, having student address similarities and differences between the genocides (I would recommend limiting this to two genocides, i.e. the Holocaust and Rwanda, or Rwanda and Darfur.)

Resources to supplement Night:
Memoirs: All Rivers Run to the Sea by Elie Wiesel
The Nazi's Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary by Richard Braham
The Last Days - DVD
First Person Singular - DVD
First Person Singular Teaching Guide

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