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We All Have A Story to Tell…

Author: Nicole Flores


Weir Mitchell Elementary School

Year: 2014

Seminar: Teaching the Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Grade Level: 5

Keywords: fiction, Holocaust, journals, nonfiction, religion, religious beliefs, writing

School Subject(s): English, Literature, Writing

The color of one’s skin, religious beliefs or one’s social status has been, sadly, reason for mistreatment and murder throughout history. This type of mistreatment has resulted in testimonies-from the Holocaust to slavery and other genocides- that have expressed the pain of the survivors. These testimonies have allowed the world to experience-or attempt to- some of the inhumane acts that sadly have become a part of human nature. Testimonies also offer at least a partial release of the pain, fear, and confusion for the survivor.

As we know, trauma has many causes and can take any forms. The source of it may vary, but the end result on human existence, in some cases is the same. In today’s society, mass killings have taken the shape of street, drug and/or gang shootings. Classism, racism and discrimination have become an almost accepted part of institutional policies. Our present economic system has made has made survival a number one priority, pushing a child’s well-being and education, in some cases, lower on the list of importance.

Unfortunately, many of our students carry the residue of these burdens with them on a daily basis. There households are small microcosms of society as a whole and they are ill-equipped to handle the intensity of adult issues. In addition to the many jobs that educators already handle, the emotional needs of our students have to be addressed before any real, meaningful learning can take place.

Journaling is one way to address these issues. It has been shown to improve group dynamics, encourage emotional healing and it can be used as a problem solving tool (Zyromski, p. 3,4) . It can reduce anxiety (Zyromski, p. 12) and gives students the opportunity to evaluate themselves and their actions (Zyromski, p. 14). Incorporating journaling into the Common Core Curriculum is a very cost effective potential solution to an increasingly “expensive” problem.

The objectives for the unit will be as follows:

  • Students will read examples of journal writings (fiction and non-fiction).
  • Students will develop vocabulary from the examples of journal entries.
  • Students will analyze journal writings for commonalities in order to determine parameters for their own journal writings.
  • Students will review reading skills such as inferencing, summarizing, finding the main idea and citing evidence.
  • Students will learn interview skills and gather data.
  • Students will write personal narratives describing events in their lives.
  • Students will reflect on their own behaviors in order to improve them.

This unit is intended for an audience of fifth grade students in a low to mid-income urban Philadelphia neighborhood. Students cycle through 90 minutes of Reading, Math and Social Studies/Science/Writing.

Download Unit: Flores-Nicole-unit-1.pdf

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