Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Holocaust and the Relevance of History

Our final week of our Holocaust collaborative inquiry unit ended with students being assigned to an identify card of one of the victims of the Holocaust. Most of the victims were Jewish, but some were Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma (gypsies), the mentally ill and the "righteous", among others. Each card included a photograph of the victim, name, date of birth, place of birth and a description of his/her life before Hitler came to power before World War II, as well as after World War II began. 
The idea behind the victim ID cards is to have students assume the identity of their victim during our upcoming novel study of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (a fictional narrative of the Holocaust), allowing them to become more invested in the text once we begin reading it (the fate of each victim on their ID cards will be revealed at the end of our novel study). While students read their individual identity cards, I heard gasps and shouts of indignation. "Can you believe they allowed children to be born in these ghettos?"; "Oh, no! I've been assigned to a child who was separated from her family when she was taken to a labor camp."; "My victim was a soldier for Hitler's army, and it sounds like he didn't want to be. Does that really make him a victim, too?".  I also witnessed students silently grapple with their thoughts about the suffering that was endured in one of the darkest periods in the history of humanity. Clearly, these stories made an impact on students, and the collaborative nature of the inquiry unit as a whole made for a transformative learning experience for many. The complex issues and questions that arose during our study of the Holocaust encouraged students to think critically about important issues and values not only within the historical context of the Holocaust, but also with respect to inequalities and injustices we see in the world today - racism, war, violence, human rights violations, poverty, global hunger and more.  In what ways are we responsible for other human beings?
At the close of the inquiry unit last week, I brought students together to discuss an important excerpt taken from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. It reads: 
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Tomorrow, as we celebrate the birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I asked students to find a moment in their day to remember the importance of speaking up when we encounter injustices - whether it be within our own social circles, at school, in our town, state, country or globally. The legacy of the Holocaust calls us to create a compassionate and just society that respects all of its citizens.
Planting the seeds to change the world. 

“Our Lives Begin to End the Day We Become Silent about Things That Matter” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. |, 2012,
“Why Study the Holocaust?” Why Study the Holocaust? | Sarah and Chaim Neuberger - Holocaust Education Centre - UJA Federation of Greater Toronto,

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Exploring Russia's Culture

(zdrah-stvooy-tee = hello!)

Russia may be a world away from Boxford, MA, but bringing Russia into our classroom this week was about as close to an authentic cultural experience as one could get. 

Students enjoyed participating in a variety of cultural station rotation activities, including:

  • Learning how to read, speak and write in Russian
  • Discovering different aspects of Russia's exotic and decorative architectural forms and ultimately, creating a building design of their own (yes, including those amazing onion domes and kremlins!)
  • Exploring Russian literature and how it is influenced by its geographical northern location
  • Enjoying a performance of [Tchaikovsky's] Swan Lake ballet filmed at the Kirov/Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg
  • "Boarding" the Trans Siberian Railway for an excursion through Moscow and eastward towards Vladivstok. FUN FACT: Did you know that if you were to travel the entire length of the 6,152 mile rail line, you'd travel through EIGHT time zones?
  • Touring Lake Baikal through Google Expeditions (a virtual reality experience) - "way cool", was how it was unanimously characterized.  

Interested in listening to some familiar voices convey personal greetings in Russian?  Click on the links below.  These greetings were recorded using the ever-popular, social learning platform, Flipgrid.

наслаждайтесь (naslazhdaytes' = enjoy yourself) 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Poetry Palooza!

How does a teacher keep her 6th grade students engaged as writers during the days leading up to the winter break?  Host a Poetry Palooza, of course!  

Poetry creation rotation stations allowed the kids to move around, to share ideas, and to be their best creative-thinking, problem-solving selves all week long.  These student-centered activities allowed students to build off of their background knowledge and apply their understanding of literary devices and structural elements of poetry, while having the freedom to wholeheartedly create and enjoy the writing process. Two words: total engagement. Students created a variety of poetry, including blackout poetry, book spine poetry, paint card poetry, flip side poetry, roll-the-dice poetry, newspaper poetry, found poetry, magnetic poetry and haiku.  A culmination of the week's activities resulted in 'Open Mic Friday', where, with the help of our energetic emcees, Paige and Ross, students presented their poems orally to the class. Here are just a few examples of some of the glorious poetry that was created this week: 

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The Holocaust and the Relevance of History

Our final week of our Holocaust collaborative inquiry unit ended with students being assigned to an identify card of one of the victims of ...