Action Against Indifference: Eli Wiesel's "Night"
Taking Action Against Indifference is divided into a
teacher page (http://teachnet-lab.org/fklane/pmaslow/night.htm) and a student page
The teacher page includes four tests (essay and short answer) and
other resources for the teacher. It also has a link to the student
page. The student page is divided into several sections, the first of
which provides background for the book Night, by Eli Wiesel, a
memoir about the extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany. (It
is also recommended that students have studied World War II before
doing this unit.) The home page asks "Who is responsible?"
Are those who knew about Hitler's "Final Solution" and did
nothing also responsible for the deaths of people killed by the Nazis?
The taking-action page presents a Web-based assignment and a checklist
of the necessary elements for Web sites created by students in their
groups (or individually). The assignment is to design a site to inform
the world or specific groups about what the Nazis did to innocent
people. A page of links for information on the holocaust is included.
The first assignment includes reading two New York Times articles
and a chapter from the book Friedrich, by Hans Peter,
and writing about the impact of a sign that says "Jews are not
wanted here." Students also create a graphic organizer to help
them understand the word "indifference." Two other sections
have to do with responding to Night. Students have homework
assignments that they do by themselves and class assignments they do
in groups. They also use a discussion forum to display and discuss
their answers. I recommend nicenet.org as an easy-to-use forum. The
group work focuses on the language and themes in the book, with some
emphasis on taking action against indifference. For the final
assignment, students write their own memoir.
Language Arts: Students produce written work that makes
connections to related topics or information. They critique their own
writing and a classmate's writing, revise drafts, and publish to a
wide audience. They provide evidence of critiquing a public document
and use both primary and secondary sources of information for
research. They recognize a range of literary elements and techniques
and use these elements to interpret the work. They recognize the
relevance of literature to contemporary and/or personal events and
situations and maintain a consistent point of view, first or third
Social Studies: Students understand how the past affects individuals
know how to perceive past events with historical empathy; analyze the
effects of specific
decisions on history; and understand that the consequences of human
influenced by the means of carrying them out.
Technology: The students use computer applications for word
processing, publishing work on a virtual classroom space, and
reviewing teacher-developed materials. They navigate the Internet
efficiently to locate specified sites; employ the Internet as a
research tool and resource; compile, analyze, and evaluate data
collected while visiting an Internet site; use critical thinking
and established research skills to evaluate the credibility and
appropriateness of Web sites and the validity of the information
available there; and create their own Web site.
Required materials include computers with Internet connections,
along with Microsoft Front Page Editor and a word-processing program.
Two books will also be used: Night, by Elie Wiesel, and Friedrich,
by Hans Peter.
The students are from many different ethnic backgrounds and
religions, but none of them are Jewish. The range of ability is wide:
from students who need the resource room and have difficulty reading
and writing to those with fairly advanced skills. The students also
have a broad range of computer experience, although few have an
Internet connection at home and the majority do not have computers at
The language of Elie Wiesel's Night is especially
beautiful, filled with irony and figurative usage. While essentially
nonfiction, the language of this memoir is as beautiful as fiction
writing. Then there is the subject matter, the holocaust. Wiesel spent
his entire adult life taking action against indifference all over the
world, involving himself with many different ethnic and religious
groups He is an inspiration to all and I wanted to expose young
readers to him and his ideals while they simultaneously developed
language and technical skills.
I find that having the students work in groups while doing the Web
pages to be more fun for them, and they tend to help each other
as well. Prior to covering Night,
I also taught the book Kindred, by Octavia Butler, which deals
with American slavery in a fairly graphic way. The book is in some
ways more shocking than Night. But since it is farther
removed in time, students were somewhat less upset than when reading Night. Together,
the two books make for an interesting contrast. Some historians claim that Hitler's ideas were influenced by
American slavery, so the two stories are linked in this way, and also
in how the characters take risks to help one another. And they take
action against indifference, something students need to know that they
have the power to do themselves.
About the teacher:
Peggy Maslow has been a New York City English teacher for 24
years. She also teaches journalism and is currently the school
newspaper advisor. Her interest in using technology started 16
years ago when she began taking New York City Writing Project courses
that explored the publishing of student writing via computer as a way
of encouraging students to write. Recently she has been using the
Internet and Web-page design to motivate students.