History comes to life in Sr. English Class

2015 english 2In the fall of 2015 the Cissna Park High School English class received a mini-grant from the Education Foundation to purchase a new set of novels.  British Literature is what is studied in senior English, but that can sometimes get dull for the students so the teacher Pricilla Soto wanted the students to read something modern.  Holocaust stories actually fall under the British Literature genre and the perfect novel for seniors to read was “Night” by Elie Wiesel.  In junior high they read “The Diary of Anne Frank” which goes through Anne’s life in hiding. In contrast, Elie is a survivor of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and his novel details his experience moving into a ghetto, in a work camp, and in the notorious death camp.

To begin the Holocaust unit students chose a camp and conducted research on it.  They then gave a presentation to the class giving details about the camp. Once presentations were over the students began to read “Night”.   This was by far the favorite text read by the students all year in English class because they were able to read a first-hand account of life in a camp. Elie’s story was extremely impactful that some tears were shed at certain parts of the novel.

What made this unit amazing was that the seniors actually got to go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC during their senior trip.  They were so excited to build knowledge on their own research as well as learn about the Holocaust.  Many students found information on the camps they had researched and were eager to share it with their classmates.  Students were able to learn about other survivors as well as those who did not make it out of the camps.

Overall, the unit was a success. Students were able to share knowledge they learned with their peers and then we read the novel as a class.  After every reading day there was a silence of disbelief at what Elie and other characters experienced. With Elie’s novel “Night” we can only begin to fathom what victim’s went through.  Going to the Holocaust museum reinforced and built upon what they had learned.