Fishtank Unit Highlight Encountering Evil: Night

January 25, 2023
Rachel Fuhrman

The International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, recognized on January 27th, commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. As this day approaches, it felt particularly important to both bring attention to this unit within the Fishtank ELA curriculum and share my personal connection.

 

On a Personal Note

Before diving into what students will explore in Fishtank ELA’s 8th grade Encountering Evil: Night unit, I want to take a step back and share why the existence of this unit within Fishtank’s curriculum means so much to me. 

When I was in school, I never read Night or The Diary of Anne Frank, the two texts that center this unit. I knew those books existed, but I never felt compelled to seek out the stories of Holocaust survival in texts. Instead, I could look to my own family or my own primarily Jewish community. I grew up surrounded by people that had themselves lived through the Holocaust or were directly descended from survivors. 

I never really thought about the ways in which I learned about the Holocaust. I genuinely don’t remember a specific time that someone sat me down and explained it to me. The history of the Holocaust was just part of growing up and appeared to me to be something that everyone, everywhere knew. Less than 2.5% of the United States is Jewish. Growing up, I would’ve thought it was closer to 25%. 

I quickly became aware of how singular my upbringing, surrounded by these stories of Jewish people’s tragedies and triumphs, really was when I began my first year teaching in Louisiana. I was the only Jewish person in my school building. My students had no idea what it meant for me to be Jewish, had never heard of the Holocaust, had no idea how hard my grandparents and great-grandparents had fought to survive. 

I felt an immediate and immense sense of responsibility to teach them about this history. But, with all the time I spent surrounded by Judaism and the stories of Jewish people growing up, I really wasn’t sure how to take such a seemingly huge topic, the tragedy of more than 6 million people, and make it accessible to students that had just barely been exposed to a Jewish person for the first time. 

It should not fall only on Jewish teachers to bring this history into classrooms. As the time since the Holocaust grows, and the survivors are no longer able to share their stories, it becomes increasingly critical that schools share the stories of those that no longer can. 

 

Diving into the Unit–Encountering Evil: Night

Now that we’ve covered why this unit is important, we can actually dig into what knowledge and skills students will build as they address the unit’s Essential Questions

Essential Questions 

  • Are human beings really good at heart?
  • How do human beings respond when subjected to unthinkable horror?
  • Why is it important to tell and listen to stories about the Holocaust?

This unit centers around the book Night by Elie Wiesel and the play The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. You also have access to multiple supporting materials to help your students understand the context in which these texts exist. In preparing to teach this unit, you have access to the Unit Launch (with Fishtank Plus) which prompts you to assess the various layers of complexity within each text and supporting resources, and reflect on how you will support students in exploring the identities and experiences of others. 

Over the course of 24 lessons, students build their knowledge of the context in which the Holocaust occurred, some of the many atrocities committed by the Nazis, and begin to develop knowledge about human nature at large. The unit guides students towards mastery of three overarching Enduring Understandings.

Enduring Understandings

  • People are capable of tremendous violence and evil; to be indifferent to the suffering of others is a kind of violence.
  • People can show remarkable generosity and kindness towards one another, even when it puts them at risk.
  • The Holocaust is one of the darkest chapters in human history. Fully understanding what happened during that time–through testimonies of those who lived through it–is a powerful way to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

Through the texts, class discussions, and writing assignments within the unit, students build their capacity for empathy, their knowledge of an immense tragedy that still impacts many today, and set the stage for future learning about other historic abuses of power and repression

A unit like this reminds me of the power teachers have to keep history alive, help students understand the vast world around them, and ensure that the responsibility of sharing these stories of survival does not only fall on the shoulder of Jewish teachers.

 

Explore the full unit and get ready to engage students in learning about this critical history. Upgrade to Fishtank Plus to unlock Enhanced Lesson Plans, comprehensive intellectual prep support with a Unit Launch, and additional Teacher Tools to make the most of your time with students.

 

 

Rachel Fuhrman is the Curriculum Marketing Manager at Fishtank Learning. Before joining Fishtank Learning, Rachel spent 5 years as a Middle School Special Education Teacher in New Orleans, LA and Harlem, NY. Outside of the classroom, she has been a frequent contributor to multiple education blogs and focuses primarily on student engagement and instructional practice topics. Rachel earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and her Master of Science in Educational Studies from The Johns Hopkins University.