Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to teach a quality Holocaust unit in a high school AP course

Six years ago I began teaching AP European History in my high school instead of the regular World History class. I was excited about the challenge but also concerned about how much material I was expected to teach in such a short period of time. As a World History teacher I had the luxury of spending two to three weeks each year on my Holocaust unit. Shortly after the school year started it became clear to me that I would be lucky to have five class periods for my Holocaust unit in AP European History. Having studied the Holocaust for many years it was impossible to imagine cutting out certain lessons or topics because they all seemed very important to me. So how did I tackle this challenge? Below is the process I followed in creating my new Holocaust unit.

  1. Create an overview lesson. (1-2 days) - I wanted to be sure that my students had a general overview of the Holocaust before beginning my unit. I put together a power point presentation that included lots of visuals to use as we talked about different topics on the Holocaust.

    Topics I included in my overview:

    A. Antisemitism

    B. Problems in Germany Post WWI

    C. Rise of Nazism/Hitler

    D. Nuremberg Laws

    E. Kristallnacht

    F. Isolation of the Jews

    G. The Ghettos

    H. The Camps

    I. The Final Solution

    J. Jewish Resistance

    K. US/World Response

    L. Liberation

  2. Have your students submit questions/topics that they would like to spend additional time on. Once my students had submitted their lists, I pulled lessons from my previous Holocaust units that matched these lists. It gave me an opportunity to still use some of my best lessons, but also a chance to work with students on topics they felt they should learn more about.

  3. Using the MCHE resources http://www.mchekc.org and USHMM website http://www.ushmm.org, create 1 day lessons that fit with some of these topics the students have an interest in studying in more depth. (3 days)

Post AP Exam:

After my students take the AP Exam in early May we typically have several weeks left of school that are much more flexible for me when it comes to content/lessons. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss current issues facing the world today. During this time I incorporate lessons on recent genocides (Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur) which allows me to bring in some additional information about the Holocaust. We have discussed the events of these genocides, analyzed documents related to each, and done photo analysis.

One of the things I have come to realize over the past six years is that I can still provide my students with a valuable learning experience even though I only have a short period of time to work with. Ultimately, it is my hope that my students will be curious enough from our discussions to seek out additional information about the Holocaust.

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