Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Teaching Anne Frank and the Holocaust while preparing for assessments

In this day and age of testing, it can be very hard to teach the subjects we are passionate about. This is particularly true teaching middle school in Kansas, where students are given the reading assessment in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. However, it is important for us as educators to still teach those topics that we feel are essential for students going forth in their education. The Holocaust is one subject I feel this way about.

Most middle school students read The Diary of Anne Frank. In many districts, the story (diary, excerpts or the play) is in the language arts textbook. It is possible to teach the key points of the Holocaust while using Anne Frank's story.

Before reading the story, take a class period to explain the major details of the Holocaust. It is hard for students to understand why the Franks are going into hiding when they don't know what was happening in Europe. It is possible to give an overview in one class period and students will start the story with excellent prior knowledge.

In order to tie the subject in with state tested standards, you can teach your unit on persuasive techniques before teaching Anne Frank, and then discuss Nazi propaganda during the unit.

While reading the story, be sure to use context clues to discuss vocabulary and ask questions which require the students to use inference, again tying the story with state standards.

Anne Frank can be an excellent tool for character study and the elements of character which are tested on the reading assessment. Motivations, character changes, environment changing the characters and character drives are all done very well in this story.

If reading the actual diary, it can be a great chance to discuss author's viewpoint and position. As with all stories, plot structure can be analyzed in this story as well.

Personally, I have found it hard to come to terms with the fact that high stakes tests are going to have to take precedence in our classes. However, I have also come to the realization that I can still teach the things I love while also tying those things to assessment goals. They do not have to be taught independent of each other.

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