How to teach the Holocaust
Dear LA Teacher,
Last spring, a San Bernardino County middle school teacher handed her eighth grade students a printout from a Holocaust denial site claiming her source was credible. She wanted her students to write argumentative essays regarding the actual occurrence of the Holocaust. The use of propaganda as a reliable source is poor teaching. Please provide your readers with valid ideas on teaching students about the Holocaust.
Middle School Teacher
Dear Middle School Teacher,
The Holocaust is a terrifying reminder of the affects prejudice and intolerance can have on human beings and the dangers of keeping quiet or just not caring. Today, as we watch the 24-hour news feeds and Internet coverage of the heinous crimes being committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East and around the world, we are reminded of the crimes the Nazis committed against humanity 70 years ago in Europe. Consequently, teaching our children about the Holocaust is as relevant today as it was when Baby Boomers were in school back in the 1950s and 60s.
If you want your students to write an essay about the Holocaust, insist they use primary and secondary sources for historically accurate information. Primary sources can be found at the Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation, or the United States Holocaust Memorial.
Primary sources include diaries, letters, concentration camp records, photographs, film footage, and magazine and newspaper articles written during the Holocaust (1941-1945).
Secondary sources include non-fiction books, articles, documents, or recordings that relate or discuss information originally presented elsewhere.
When teaching the Holocaust to your class it is important to distinguish between primary sources, secondary sources, and propaganda. Students will encounter disturbing questions regarding human behavior that will require complex responses. So don’t over simplify the Holocaust.
Most curriculum guidelines suggest beginning Holocaust studies in the 5th grade. Here are a few suggested activities:
• Students create a Holocaust timeline.
• Students can read biographies of children who survived the Holocaust.They can then write letters or essays describing the book’s affect on them.
• Students can create a map or a 3-D replica of a Nazi concentration camp.
• Children can research compelling accounts of people, like Chiune Sugihara and Irena Sendler, who bravely rescued Jews from persecution.
• Develop a bulletin board of Holocaust pictures with student reactions in essay format.
There is so much information available about the Holocaust, just make sure your students find credible documentation during their studies.
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