Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Teaching a Common Core Reading Standards through Holocaust Reading

Reading Standards for Literature Grades 9-10
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in the work from outside the United States.

Text to use:  Flares of Memory:  Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust, Edited by Anita Brostoff with Sheila Chamovitz.

Passage:  An Unforgettable Passover Seder by Ernest Light

April 8th, 1944: Passover.

The table was set with our special dishes, wine, herbs, and matzos.  Elijah’s cup, filled with wine, rested at the end of the table where I was.  Our family around the table consisted of my father, mother, sister, her two-year-old daughter, and my three brothers.
It was just about seven weeks since the Germans had occupied Hungary.  You could see on everyone’s face concern about the future.  But reading the prayers in the Hagadah, we temporarily forgot the present.
Suddenly our neighbor’s daughter burst into the house.  Almost hysterical, she screamed, “Hide me, hide me!  I just ran away from a German soldier.  He tried to grab me!”
Without thinking about the consequences, we pushed her into the next room, where she hid herself.  Everyone sat calmly and continued reading the Hagadah.  My father led the prayer.
Following Passover tradition, we had not locked the doors, so that the Prophet Elijah could come in and join us at the Seder.  This is how it was that a German soldier could just walk in, a gun over his shoulder.
Since I sat at the end of the table, he stood closest to me.  I could feel his breathing behind my back.  We continued to read as if we didn’t notice him.  He stood there for a while – I don’t know whether it was two minutes or ten minutes.  Then he turned around and left.
For the last fifty years, I’ve been wondering what made that soldier leave without inquiring about the girl, or threatening that we had to tell him where she was.  I’ve come up with several possibilities:
-          He thought that people who were hiding someone could not sit so calmly, conducting services.
-          The German military command warned the soldiers not to commit any unnecessary violence, not to alarm the local population.
-          He just might have been a human being.
. . .
I’ll never know the truth.

Questions to discuss with your students:

  1. What event is being described in this passage?  What are the clues (words) that showed you what event is being described? 
  2. Whose point of view is being presented in this passage?  How can you tell? 
  3. What do you think is the purpose of this passage? 
  4.  What emotions are displayed in this writing? 
  5.  What is the central theme of this passage? 
  6.  What questions do you still have after reading this passage?

Things to keep in mind for your lesson:
There are many short readings that you can use in your classroom to help address the Common Core Reading Standards.  This particular reading could be used as a part of a larger Holocaust unit or could be used in isolation.  You might consider changing the discussion questions depending on how you plan to use the article.  Putting students into small groups to discuss the questions in advance could give the class a richer discussion.

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