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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

Taking Action Against Indifference: Eli Wiesel's "Night"

Project URLhttp://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/fklane/pmaslow/night.htm

How it works:
Taking Action Against Indifference
is divided into a teacher page (http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/fklane/pmaslow/night.htm) and a student page
(http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/fklane/pmaslow/night/night2.htm).  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.

Standards addressed: 
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 person.

Social Studies: Students understand how the past affects individuals and society;
know how to perceive past events with historical empathy; analyze the effects of specific
decisions on history; and understand that the consequences of human intentions are
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.

aterials used:
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:
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 home.

Overall value:
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.


Subject Areas:
Social Studies

Grade Levels:




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