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Getting Stuck in the Telling: The Dichotomous Nature of Urgent Tales Analyzing and Crafting Accounts that Bear Witness

Author: Julie Mikolajewski


Penn Alexander School

Year: 2014

Seminar: Teaching the Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Grade Level: 5-8

Keywords: consumption approach, History, Holocaust, literacy, Literature, storytelling

School Subject(s): English, Language Arts, Literature

This unit is designed for middle school students studying Literacy, English, or Language Arts. Its purpose is to expose children to various accounts of survivor testimonies from the Holocaust (and other traumatic events) and to explore the various ways survivors of these events bear witness to their experiences of trauma and life thereafter. It is not the intent of the course of study to learn the historical and contextual backgrounds of the Holocaust, but rather it is a study of the narration, or attempts thereof, of stories of urgency, and the barriers to “bearing witness.” Through the study and discussion of the texts, students will become a part of the chain of witness to both these tales and tales of personal relevance. Various texts from multiple genres will be explored. Furthermore, students will be encouraged to produce works that are representative of their own identities and realities, giving them a chance to share their own personal stories of urgency, and firsthand deal with the difficulties of bearing witness.

Far too often autobiographical works of literature are studied using a “consumption approach” to reading. This approach has been one of those bothersome and unrelenting annoyances to me over the past few years, and has spurred personal inquiry into ways of engaging students to listen to stories carefully while hopefully simultaneously improving my pedagogy. The major intent of this unit therefore is to teach students to thoughtfully and empathetically listen to one another, while furthermore beginning to see themselves as a link in the chain of human history and storytelling

Download Unit: Mikolajewski-Julie-unit.pdf

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