Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans

 
 

Jewish children in snow
Jewish children in the ghetto sled in the snow.
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Using Poetic Images to Initiate the Exploration of Resistance During the Holocaust
Jeanna R. Collins
North Habersham Middle School (Retired)
Clarkesville, Georgia

 

 
 


Overview

The following lesson plan is the first in a unit of ten lessons in which students respond to the Holocaust through poetic images, each lesson building on previous ones. For example, the first lesson is just the beginning of thinking about resistance and lessons two and three continue this topic. Before this unit is presented, the students in my language arts classes take notes on a chronological overview of the history of the Holocaust. They then choose from a wide variety of Holocaust related topics, write a research paper, and present a summary of their paper to the class. They also read the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank as a class and, individually, either a fictional or personal narrative account of the Holocaust which they also present to the class. In this way, they have the necessary background to undertake the writing assignments in this unit.

In all of the lessons, the primary objective in the writing assignments is to create a poetic response to a written or visual image. Although coming up with a poem that is correctly written is a part of the lessons, the main emphasis is on creating an honest and meaningful connection between the student and the image to which they are responding. Sometimes just a simple poetic image that touched the student who is writing as well as the other members of the class becomes more important than the overall work. I read once that every true poem has that "aha" moment when a word or image takes the reader into a different realm--a mysterious realm that connects the writer and the reader to something beyond. Connecting to these images creates a real interest in the students that is age appropriate, and they have related through the years that they have continued to read and explore Holocaust studies. 

This lesson and the others in the unit were also used effectively in language arts and social studies methods classes at three universities as a part of my Mandel outreach project. In most cases the degree candidates and the teachers working on advanced degrees knew very little about the Holocaust, and, because of the rural area in which they live, had virtually no opportunities for Holocaust studies. Responding poetically to the written and visual images seemed to generate genuine interest, and many of them expressed a desire to incorporate Holocaust education into their curriculum.

Objectives

  • Students will identify and use specific parts of speech in writing a pattern poem.
  • Students will recognize and use symbolism in reading and writing poetry.
  • Students will identify and use poetic images as similes.

Time Required

Two 90-minute class periods

Grade Level

Middle or high school

Curriculum Fit

Language arts or social studies

Materials

  • Innocenti, Roberto.Rose Blanche. Mankato, Minn.: Creative Education, 1985.
  • Overhead projector
  • Overhead transparencies and marker

Procedure / Strategy

  1. Read the book Rose Blanche aloud to the class. Be sure to show the illustrations.
  1. Page by page, discuss the words or phrases in the story that have both literal and symbolic meanings. Show how the illustrations enhance the power of these images. Write examples that students discover on an overhead transparency to be used later in creating poems.

The following are some suggestions of symbolic images from Rose Blanche:

"Winter was beginning."

"Branches float along and sometimes old, broken toys."

"The sky was gray."

"The clouds were gray. Everything was frozen."

"Weeks passed in the pale winter."

"Fog had erased the road."

Reprinted from Rose Blanche, by Roberto Innocenti, Creative Education Inc., Mankato, Minnesota, 1985.

  1. As you go over the images with the students, include some of the following ideas and questions:
    Point out the frequent images of dark and cold. 'Winter was beginning...sky was gray...everything frozen...I was cold." 

    Discuss the image of when Rose "walked into the forest.." Point out that this is often an image used to describe the beginning of the hero's journey.

Discuss the symbolism of spring at the end of the story. What do you think the author was trying to get across at the end of the story when he talked about spring singing? Let students share their thoughts and feelings about the ending of the story. A good follow-up book for this discussion might be Promise of a New Spring: The Holocaust and Renewal by Gerda Weissmann Klein. This would also be a good time to give some background on the resistance group, The White Rose and discuss how Innocenti used Sophie Scholl symbolically in his story. 

Review the four types of human behavior studied earlier (perpetrator, victim, bystander and rescuer). Which two could Rose Blanche represent? (victim and rescuer) What choices did Rose Blanche make in this story to cause her behavior to fit the two types of behavior?

  1. To help students start the thinking process, let them experience writing a poem using a pattern. Show the Parts of Speech Poem Pattern (see example) on the overhead projector. As students copy the poem, review the parts of speech required in the pattern.

    PARTS OF SPEECH POEM PATTERN

    NOUN
    VERB PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    CONJUNCTION PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    LIKE
    ADJECTIVE NOUN PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    ADJECTIVE NOUN PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    CONJUNCTION NOUN PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
    VERB (ING ENDINGS OFTEN USED HERE)
    ADVERB PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
  1. Spend time discussing the similes in the bottom section of the poem. With the class participating, create an example using the parts of speech pattern. Then students should write their own pattern poems using Rose Blanche or another key word from the book as the first word.

The following is a student example for modeling:

ROSE BLANCHE

ROSE BLANCHE
KILLED BY THE FROST
OF THE NIGHT
AND BY HER INNOCENCE
LIKE
A SMALL BIRD IN A BLIZZARD,
AN EARTHWORM IN A HENHOUSE,
OR A BLIND HAWK INSIDE HIS NEST
SEARCHING
DESPERATELY FOR A WAY OUT.

8th Grade Student
North Habersham Middle School

  1. After the pattern poem is written, review the images from the story, particularly those of cold and darkness, and have students write a free verse poem about Rose Blanche.

The following is a student example for modeling:

ROSE BLANCHE

AT FIRST, HER CHILDLIKE SEED DID SPROUT
THEN DID IT START TO GROW,
BUT AS THE BUD BEGAN TO SWELL
THE GROUND WAS TOUCHED WITH SNOW.
THE LITTLE ROSE SAT PALE AND THIN,
LAID COWARD 'NEATH THE TREES,
THE WHITE ICE TURNED HER PETALS BROWN
AND FROZE HER DAINTY LEAVES.
THE BLIZZARD HOWLED A MOURNFUL CRY,
THE ROSE MADE NOT A SOUND,
UNTIL HER LIFE WAS ALL BUT LOST,
BENEATH THE ICY GROUND.

8th Grade Student
North Habersham Middle School

Evaluation / Assessment

  • Students will be evaluated on participation in class activities.
  • Students will be evaluated on the correctness of following the pattern.
  • Students will be evaluated on created images, content, and theme in their poems.


 Return to Museum Fellowship Teaching Resources