Jul 12 2010

Recorded History: Increase Digital Literacy and Cultural Sensitivity with This Lesson Plan

Students use digital technologies to personalize the stories of lesser-known Holocaust victims.

Students use digital technologies to personalize the stories of lesser-known Holocaust victims.

Most students know that millions of Jews were persecuted during World War II, but they may be unaware that other groups – those perceived to be political, religious or cultural threats to the Nazi regime – also were targeted.

Lesson Description: To augment the study of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's book Night, this lesson asks students to research lesser-known victims of oppression during World War II and to present their findings in a digital format.

Students are divided into teams to research one of five less familiar targeted demographics: ethnic Poles, gays and lesbians, the physically disabled, Gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses. Using print and online resources, team members write a script covering basic information about their chosen group and why its members were persecuted. Each student then creates a “character profile” of an individual from the targeted group – including information about that person's life before, during and after the Holocaust – to use in writing a detailed letter from the victim's perspective.

Digital voice recorders and facial animation software bring their words to life. Team scripts and individual letters are recorded and paired with students' hand drawings, resulting in a presentation in which an animated character tells the personal story of a Holocaust victim while teaching viewers about the minority group to which he or she belonged.

Subject Area: This lesson was created for a 10th-grade interdisciplinary unit on the Holocaust. The course is part of a Digital Media Studies program at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis that aims to increase digital literacy in urban classrooms.

Curriculum Standards: This lesson meets several academic standards established by the Minnesota Department of Education:

  • Language Arts–Writing (Elements of Composition): The student will engage in a writing process with attention to audience, organization, focus, quality of ideas and purpose.
  • Language Arts–Research: The student will locate and use information in reference materials.
  • History and Social Studies–World History (Global Conflict, 1914–1945): The student will demonstrate knowledge of the worldwide impact of World War II.


Grading Rubric: Students are evaluated on the overall quality of their:

  • group-researched scripts;
  • individual “character profile” letters;
  • audio recordings;
  • drawings (creativity and effort);
  • final presentation;
  • end-of-project reflection.

Teaching Tips

  • Assign this project toward the end of a unit on the Holocaust. Students must be able to research and analyze various cultural groups with sensitivity.
  • Keep in mind that students may be facing discrimination in their own lives. It might be best to schedule a unit on this type of serious subject matter toward the end of the school year, when a safe and respectful classroom climate already has been established.
  • Be flexible in allowing students to tailor the assignment to their interests. They may wish to research a victimized group not identified in the lesson plan, for example. Welcome this creativity.
<p>Kenneth Garrett/Getty Images</p>