Lesson Plans - Middle School

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.
— Franklin Roosevelt

The purpose of this lesson is to help the classroom community develop a safe, productive
environment to support the learning and sharing of ideas that will take place throughout
the unit. Prior to exploring the historical case study of this unit—the collapse of democracy
in Germany and the steps leading up to the Holocaust—it is important that students
and teachers spend some time reviewing class norms. Throughout this unit, students will
be talking about how sensitive topics, such as prejudice and discrimination, have
impacted historical events and students’ own lives. Other teachers have found
that establishing and nurturing classroom norms of respect and openmindness is one way
to help students have productive, safe conversations about these concepts.

The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on this guiding question:
•What do we need to happen in this class to make it a place where we feel comfortable
sharing our ideas and asking questions?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Expressing ideas in writing, especially in a journal
•Developing new vocabulary
•Working with others to reach consensus
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Facing History and Ourselves
• Expectations/norms/rules

Letter to students
Dear students,
Welcome to the unit Decision-Making in Times of Injustice: A Unit to Supplement Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. You are about to join a community of thousands of students
from around the world who have explored the same questions you are about to explore—questions such
as: Who am I? What shapes my identity? Why do people form groups? What does it mean to belong?
What happens when people are excluded from membership?

After taking part in a unit similar to the one you are about to study, one student said, “I’ve had 13 math
classes, 20 English classes, 6 or 7 science classes, art, P.E., Spanish . . . but in all the time I’ve been in
school, I’ve had only class about being more human.” In the next few weeks, you will be learning a lot
about the choices made by people living in Germany before and during the Holocaust, a tragic event in
which millions of children, women, and men were murdered. At the same time, you will also be learning
about yourselves and the world around you. That is why we call this unit Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior. Another former Facing History student explains, “When I took the
Facing History course back in 8th grade, it helped me understand that history was a part of me and that
I was a part of history. If I understood why people made the choices they did, I could better understand
how I make choices and hopefully make the right ones.”

This unit may be different than others you have experienced. In this unit, you will be asked to share
your own ideas and questions—in discussions and through writing in a journal. You will be asked to listen
carefully to the voices of others—of people in your classroom community as well as the voices of
people in the history you are studying. In this unit, you may hear things that spark powerful emotions,
such as anger or sadness. You will be asked to use both your head and your heart to make sense of the
choices people have made in the past, and the choices people continue to make today.

At Facing History, we like to think of a unit as a journey. When taking this journey, you need to bring
your journals, curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to share. As you embark on this journey with
the students and teacher in your classroom, it is important for you to support each other along the way
so that everyone can do his/her best learning. We wish you a meaningful journey where you learn about
the past and the present, about yourself and about others. You may even find that you have changed as a
result of this experience. Actor Matt Damon, a student of Facing History just like you, said, “I owe so
much to this curriculum. So much of who I am comes out of this experience and this particular time in
my life.”

Thank you for participating in this journey with us,
Margot Stern Strom, Executive Director and Founder, Facing History and Ourselves
Rachel Shankman, Director, Memphis Office of Facing History and Ourselves

Lesson plans attached below

Lorrie Applebey,
Feb 27, 2012, 9:41 AM
Lorrie Applebey,
Feb 27, 2012, 9:40 AM
Lorrie Applebey,
Feb 19, 2012, 10:30 AM