Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans

 
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Terrible Things

Dana Humphrey
Fort Zumwalt North Middle School
O'Fallon, Missouri

 

 
 
Overview

These two lessons provide bookends (an introduction and conclusion) to a unit on the Holocaust. Based on an allegory of the Holocaust, they require students to investigate and make decisions concerning human behavior before and after they study the lessons of the Holocaust. Prior to the word Holocaust being mentioned, the first lesson asks students to give advice to others dealing with the issues of speaking up and taking action rather than just standing by and watching. After students have studied the Holocaust, the second lesson asks them to re-evaluate the advice they gave at the beginning of the unit by reflecting on the lessons of the Holocaust and applying them to stereotyping, prejudice, and racism in today’s society.

Time Required

This unit is made up of two lessons. A teacher should allot three 90-minute class periods for instruction.

Grade Level

Middle School or High School 

Curriculum Fit

Language Arts, English, Holocaust Studies

Terrible Things Part I

Goal

Students will increase their understanding of the concept of speaking up and taking action rather than just standing by and watching.

Objectives

  • Students will read and discuss the story Terrible Things
  • Students will write and create a 1-2 sentence poster giving advice on handling the "terrible things." 

Materials / Resources

  • Bunting, Eve. Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.
  • Moger. Susan. Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-depth Resource for Learning about the Holocaust through the Writings of Anne Frank by Susan Moger. New York: Scholastic Professional Books, 1998.
  • Colored 4 x 6 index cards
  • Brightly colored paper
  • Computers

Procedure / Strategy

  1. Prior to student arrival have the seats arranged in a semi-circle. 
  2. As students enter the room, have them choose a colored index card and take it to their seat with them. 

  3. Begin by telling students that you are going to read a story to them and would like for them to listen closely to the plot. Give only part of the title of the story: Terrible Things--do not say an allegory of the Holocaust. In addition, do not read the introduction to the story, just the story. 

  4. Read the story aloud showing the pictures at appropriate times. After the reading, give them a minute to reflect on the story. 

  5. Pass out copies of the story reproduced from the resource pages of Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank. Read the story again, having students follow along with their copies (student copies only have the title as Terrible Things and do not have the introduction either). This time ask them to focus on the questions that little rabbit asks.

  6. Lead the students in a discussion of the story using the following questions as a guide:

  • How did the animals in the woods get along before the Terrible Things came?
  • Who first notices the Terrible Things? How did he know they were there? 
  • How did the animals react to the Terrible Things when they first came for the creatures with feathers on their backs?
  • How did Big Rabbit respond to Little Rabbit's question: "Why did the Terrible Things want the birds?"
  • How did the animals explain the selections made by the Terrible Things? 
  • Why do you think the Terrible Things take away the animals one group at a time? 
  • Why does Big Rabbit disagree with Little Rabbit when Little Rabbit wants to move? 
  • How are the Terrible Things described? 
  • What verbs are used to describe their actions? 
  • Why do you think Terrible Things is capitalized? 
  • Look at the illustrations. Why do you think they are in black and white? Describe the images.
  • Would the images be better if they were in color? Why/why not?
  1. Ask students to assume the role of Little Rabbit. Think about what advice you will give to the other forest creatures when you go to tell them about the Terrible Things. Have students write this advice on their 4x6 index cards.

  2. Have them share their advice with a partner. Next, tell them that they need to narrow this advice down to one or two powerful sentences. To make this easier, instruct them to underline powerful words or phrases and to replace passive language with active language. Have pairs help each other. Once the goal is achieved, they should write their advice on the other side of the card. Teachers should closely monitor the advice to make sure students are clearly focused and giving sound advice.

  3. Students then proceed to the computers and using a large font, type their advice so it fills the entire page (they may use horizontal or vertical page layout). Their names should be in smaller type size at the end of the advice. Remind students that their posters should be error free.

  4. Students print out their advice on brightly colored paper and hang it on the side wall of the classroom. These words of advice will remain hanging during the entire unit. 

Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on the completeness and correctness of their advice posters in addition to their daily participation/involvement grade for the class. At the end of the lesson, the teacher will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson and make necessary additions/changes for future use.

Terrible Things Part II

Goal

Students will apply their understanding of the concept of speaking up and taking action rather than just standing by and watching the events of the Holocaust.

Objectives

  • Students will understand the literary term allegory and how it applies to the story Terrible Things
  • Students will compare the story Terrible Things to the Holocaust.
  • Students will evaluate their advice posters from Day 1 in relationship to the Holocaust.
  • Students will compare and contrast Terrible Things and the poem "First They Came for the Jews." 

Materials / Resources

  • Bunting, Eve. Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust. Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1989.
  • Moger. Susan. Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-depth Resource for Learning about the Holocaust through the Writings of Anne Frank by Susan Moger. New York: Scholastic Professional Books, 1998.
  • Copy of Eve Bunting's introductory paragraphs to Terrible Things on overhead transparency.
  • Definition of allegory on overhead transparency.
  • Student created classroom advice posters from Day 1 (still hanging on classroom walls).
  • Copies of Martin Niemöller's poem "First They Came for the Jews" for each student and an overhead transparency of the poem.
  • Graphic organizer for students.

Procedure / Strategy

  1. Remind students of the story that was read to them at the beginning of the unit, Terrible Things. Explain that you didn't give them the entire title of the book: Terrible Things, An Allegory of the Holocaust. Ask them if they know what an allegory is and/or ask them to make a prediction of the definition based on what they know about Terrible Things and the Holocaust.
  2. Show them the overhead transparency with the definition of allegory and as you read it to them, ask them to reflect on how Terrible Things is an allegory.

  3. Pass out individual copies of Terrible Things (reproduced from the resource pages of Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank) and read the story aloud.

  4. Ask students the following questions:

  • Do you think this story is an allegory of the Holocaust? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the author told the story of the Holocaust in this way?
  • What kind of excuses do the other animals offer to explain the fate of each group as it is taken away?
  • Why do you think the Terrible Things take away one group at a time?
  • What does the story imply about non-Jews' reactions to the fate of Jews and others in the Holocaust?
  1. Pass out copies of the graphic organizer. Have students pair up and complete the graphic organizer based on what they know about the story and the Holocaust.
  2. Pull the class back together and discuss the similarities found. The teacher completes the graphic organizer on the overhead as students give details. Students are encouraged to add to their personal graphic organizers any additional information that is presented.

  3. Project Eve Bunting's introduction to Terrible Things on the overhead and read it to the students. Give them a minute to reflect and to read it again, silently. Now ask them to find their advice poster from Day I and take it from the wall. On the back ask students to respond to their advice based on what they now know about the Holocaust. Is it good advice? Will it make a difference? What parts might you add or change now that you have more knowledge? How are you responsible for preventing Terrible Things from happening in your world?

  4. Pass out copies of Martin Niemolller's poem "First They Came for the Jews" for each student. Project the poem on the overhead and read it aloud.

  5. After students have time to reflect, ask:

  • How does the poem make you feel?
  • Why is there no one left?
  • How is the poem similar to Terrible Things?
  • How is it different?

Martin Niemöller
First they came for the Jews 
and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for the communists 
and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist. 
Then they came for the trade unionists 
and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist. 
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Evaluation / Assessment

In addition to their daily participation/involvement class grade, students will be evaluated on the completeness and thoughtfulness of their graphic organizers, their responses to their advice poster, and their learning log entry. At the end of the lesson, the teacher will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson and make necessary additions/changes for future use.

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