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What Do Kids Know?: Project 180, Day 46

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Solid day with the kiddos yesterday. Funny how our most solid days seem to be when I let the kids drive.  And while this has not always been a comfortable role for me, as we move deeper into the 180 journey, it is a role that I’ve come to relish more and more. Today we will start our viewing of The Book Thief, the first of three movies that we will watch about the Holocaust before reading Night. But before we begin down that path, there was some stage-setting to be done, and to that end, I gave the kids a QUEST yesterday.


  1. Using the 7 mini-articles and corresponding puzzle pieces, complete the Jigsaw activity for the history of the Holocaust.
  2. Read the letter from the school board, and issue a team response. Write your response on the letter.
  3. Review your work from Elie Wiesel’s speech “Hope, Despair and Memory.” Determine the central idea of the text and write it on your poster. Use one of the Statement Starters to begin your statement.
  4. Attach all work to the poster.
  5. If time allows, add images that represent the Holocaust.
  6. As a team, decide when to take your brain break.
  7. Posters must be complete by end of period.
  8. Go!

The Book Thief

Today, as I mentioned above, the kids will begin watching The Book Thief, but not without some controversy. I am not sure if you can read the letter on the posters, but there has been some concern raised over using movies to teach the Holocaust. The concern stems from the “Hollywoodization” of the Holocaust and whether a not-always-historically-accurate approach to this dark period in history is worthy of the respect and recognition it deserves. Seizing it as an authentic learning opportunity, we will view the movies through the critical lens of determining their value in understanding the historical and modern impact of the Holocaust on the human experience. Ultimately, the kids will get to play a vital role in determining the outcome of this issue. It was rather remarkable to witness the level of engagement upon their reading the letter. Simply, they came to life, the lights on bright as they cussed and discussed the issue, offering their initial responses. It was amazing.

Driving question: Should we use movies to teach the Holocaust?

Critical Lens #1: Historical Accuracy. Here kids will look for “I wonders.” Essentially, they will keep tabs on historical accuracy by using the stem, “I wonder if _____________________ is historically accurate.” Then, later, as teams, they will take on the role of fact-checkers, determining the historical accuracy.

Critical Lens #2: Point-of-View. As the movies will present various points-of-view, the kids will analyze, both formally and informally, the Holocaust and the various angles from which they see it.

Critical Lens #3: Audience Impact. As members of a modern audience, kids will identify and analyze the director’s choices with various scenes, looking for the intended impact on creating understanding and empathy among members of an audience now 70 years removed.

Of course I want the kids to enjoy the movies, but I also want to establish that this most-familiar medium can also be a powerful teaching tool. But I want the kids to discover and make the case on their own. I just wanted to give them a nudge in the right direction, placing them where they belong: in the driver’s seat, making me a privileged passenger.

Happy Thursday, all.

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