Middle School (Grades 6 – 8)
Through Our Eyes contains a collection of excerpts from Jewish children’s diaries and Holocaust survivor testimonies. This book provides a chronological overview and highlights the perceptions of children from before the war through its aftermath. Through poetry, diaries and testimonies, Through Our Eyes reveals the thoughts and feelings of children and teenagers confronted by death and destruction. The book gives an insight into the world of the children who lived during the wartime period who were approximately the same age as the readers themselves.
At Congregation Kol Ami, we use this in our 6th grade class in conjunction with Return to Life, a kit focused on the time directly after the war ended. The Return to Life kit comes with posters, a teacher’s guide, and a 60 minute video. We use this because although Though Our Eyes has a small section on the period after the war, we found it insufficient for the purpose. Consider using the Return to Life unit to teach this essential part of the story and as a complement to Through Our Eyes.
Circles is a teaching unit designed for middle school students, focusing on topics that reflect Jewish observance during the Holocaust. The curriculum discusses Jewish religious traditions and how Jews struggled to maintain their customs during the Holocaust. The following topics are covered: Tu B’Shvat, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Brit Milah, Prayer, Shabbat, and Kaddish and Commemoration.
Circles is a particularly good unit for 7th graders, who are going through the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process. Each topic has a booklet with quotes and suggested discussions. Choose topics based on the interest and maturity level of your students.
Using Facts to Respond to Anti-Semitism is a teaching unit designed by the Anti-Defamation League for middle and high school students. When learning about the Holocaust, students often see anti-Semitism as a thing of the past, something that ended in the great conflagration of the Holocaust. We know, of course, that the hatred and intolerance of anti-Semitism remain powerful and significant realities today. Many of our students experience incidents in their secular schools.
This lesson introduces students to factual information that refutes commonly circulated anti-Semitic myths. Applying this newly acquired information to anti-Semitic case studies, students can begin to develop effective responses to anti-Semitic incidents. By generating ideas in a small group setting, students will also learn from each other and increase their skill set when responding to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
Introducing Depth by Using Curricula Designed for Younger Children
In each age group, it is worth considering re-using some of the curricula designed for younger students and addressing it at a higher level.
The Daughter We Had Always Wanted is a great book to read with middle schoolers, especially 7th and 8th graders, as it touches issues of Jewish identity. For these older students, there is additional depth in the story which can be addressed at this age.
To Tommy, for his Third Birthday in Theresienstadt, 22 January 1944 is another good option to repeat with middle schoolers. At this age you can discuss the other paintings that Tommy’s father made and what was going on in the ghetto that Tommy was not aware of. Along with other artists, Tommy’s father (Bedřich Fritta) was forced to make propaganda art for the Nazis. But in his free time, he drew pictures of what was really happening in the ghetto. The difference is striking. A good source for information about Fritta’s other artwork is the Jewish Museum in Berlin’s exhibit of them. Yad Vashem also has resources for teaching the Holocaust through art, music, poetry, and literature.