What are teachers saying about Echoes and Reflections?
Explore first-hand accounts from classroom teachers in these topic areas:
- Teaching the Holocaust through Literature
- Integrating Primary Source Documents
- Impact on Students
- Integrating Visual History Testimony
We are always excited to hear how Echoes and Reflections is being used in classrooms around the country. Send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
Teaching the Holocaust through Literature
During my first year of reading Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night with my tenth graders, I tried to supplement with a variety of different sources from my own reading and study. I struggled to provide clear, cohesive connections between the literature and informational texts and resources, and with asking my students the kinds of questions that would push them to think critically about the Holocaust.
Echoes and Reflections Lesson 6: Jewish Resistance, provides excellent supplements for reading Night that further my students’ understanding of Jewish resistance efforts. I now use a variety of resources from many Echoes lessons and often the entire lessons themselves to inform our reading of Night. Using Echoes and Reflections in my classroom has increased my students’ knowledge of the Holocaust and helped them strengthen their literacy and critical thinking skills. Perhaps most importantly, Echoes and Reflections has inspired my students to be more empathetic, active, classroom and community participants.
Wendy E. Lockard on Literature and Context
My students are always extremely interested in our annual Holocaust Literature unit where students conduct research projects that connect with contemporary social issues. In grades 6-8 our unit includes: Destined to Live by Ruth Gruener, The Girl Who Survived by Bronia Brandman, Survivors: True Stories of Children of the Holocaust by Allan Zullo, and Daniels’ Story by Carol Matas.
In each of my classes, we read the allegory “Terrible Things” by Eva Bunting as a springboard for early discussion, followed by an age appropriate historical overview of the Holocaust. I supplement components about the Lodz Ghetto from Echoes and Reflections Lesson 4 and, with my older students, explore questions about collaborators and ask difficult questions about complacency, perpetrators, and persecution of the Jewish communities in Europe.
I use Parts 1 and 3 of Lesson 9 and Parts 1 and 2 of Lesson 2 with seventh graders, and they share their disbelief when examining Nazi Propaganda documents. My students connect the history of antisemitism to their own experience and faith, and when we read Matas’ book, I utilize Part 1 of Lesson 10 to encourage students to think critically about the plight and tragedy of children during the Holocaust.
I also utilize Lesson 6 and guide my students in a heavy discussion about resistance. Culminating activities for my eighth graders include a project about the “Righteous Among the Nations” from Lesson 7. We explore IWitness for clips of testimony and students select two that the use to create a slide show. The Echoes and Reflections Teacher’s Resource Guide offers a wealth of information to expand my Holocaust unit. It has energized my teaching and improved student performance.
Integrating Primary Source Documents
“Through Echoes and Reflections, I start at the beginning. I use Lesson 1: Studying the Holocaust to introduce students to the idea of manmade vs. natural catastrophes and we progress to the students’ understanding of the word “genocide“. We study about how antisemitism was prevalent throughout the world prior and during World War II and how a simple strike of a match proliferated into overwhelming destruction and attacks on identity. I also use resources from Lesson 2: Antisemitism to talk through the idea of propaganda with students. I include posters, The Poisonous Mushroom, Nazi ideology, and we also make connections to contemporary events including talking about the KKK.
I teach about the people of Billings, Montana as an example of standing up against hate. As a class, we read Elie Wiesel’s Night. I introduce the students to Itka Zygmuntowicz and her poem “Clipped Wings, and we view testimony from Ellis Lewin, in which he describes the selection process at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Kurt Messerschmidt, in which he describes the aftermath of Kristallnacht. I find that integrating primary sources enhances my students’ ability to grasp this complex material.”
Alan Bush on ‘What Works?’
“My students work through my ten modified Echoes and Reflections lessons. I choose and copy readings, photos, poems and testimony that I present with corresponding questions for students to answer as they watch.
What works? The Pyramid of Hate from Lesson 3, which they use in their genocide reports and apply throughout the Echoes and Reflections lessons. The Pyramid of Hate becomes their foundation for analysis of the Holocaust, of genocides, and of today’s society. What else? Poems. My students pour their hearts out. They do their best to personify victims or survivors in poetry. Reading their work surprises and pleases me.
Controversy also works. My refusal to accept “like lambs to the slaughter” provokes spirited discussions. As we proceed though resistance to survival, opinions both firm and alter. My extensive 17 multipart question test (take home, one week) compels students to revisit Echoes and Reflections, to analyze and explain both their readings and testimonies. Rubriced and efficiently graded, most write 7-9 pages.”
Leah Werther on “Notice and Focus”
“With the Common Core Standards in effect, a tool such as Echoes and Reflections helps us meet those standards. I begin my Holocaust unit showing my students pictures of Kristallnacht. I project one of the pictures from Lesson 1: Studying the Holocaust and have students use “Notice and Focus” techniques to analyze the image.
With the Kristallnacht image, students write down what they see rather than starting with trying to interpret the picture. When students slow down to “Notice and Focus,” they have a chance to see things they might not deem significant beforehand. This also works well with written text. The three basic steps are: (1) Repeatedly ask yourself, “What do I notice?” (Cite actual details, and generate an extended and unorganized list), (2) Rank the three details that seem most interesting, significant, revealing, or strange, and (3) Say (or write down) why you find these three details most interesting. When I combine students observations from the image to a close reading of a primary document such as “Nazi Germany and Anti-Jewish Policy,” my students begin to understand the subject in deeper, more meaningful ways.”
Tyrone Shaw on the Modular Guide
“I use Echoes and Reflections during my six-week unit on the Holocaust and genocide because of its accessible primary source documents, which have proven themselves invaluable to the learning experience in my classroom. The organization of the Teacher’s Resource Guide into different topics offers a unique way to present this information and help student to access and process what they are learning. The primary source documents combined with visual history testimony are an easy and intellectually stimulating way to engage students with this complex topic, understand it, and make it applicable to their lives today.
My students are always surprised and intrigued when we look at Lesson 10: The Children. The Teacher’s Resource Guide really speaks for itself, but the staff behind the material is also one of the strong points of the program. Echoes and Reflections professional development programs are informative and provide additional tools and strategies for using the material in the classroom.”
Impact on Students
In the classroom, we examine people’s individual stories and understand that their perception of what is happening becomes their reality. A lot of times I get comments from students like, ‘That’s not right because I don’t think that way’. To help broaden their perspectives, I send them to the news to find instances of where similar things are happening in today’s world, and encourage them to look outside of themselves, away from their own mirror.
They respond really interestingly. Some of them get it, and some of them think something like the Holocaust could never happen here. Then we talk about what they have seen and what we can do to affect change in our community, our country, and our world. We talk through difficult questions like, how can you live your life in such a way where you stand up for what you think is right and just? In what ways does your behavior reflect who you are and what you think about the world? Do you have stereotypes in your own mind? Then we look at our own context in our small town and talk about immigrant populations, highlight the rights of workers, and challenges facing nontraditional families. We examine things that my students encounter and together we think through what we can do. That has led us to support and take action towards a number of initiatives that recently included supporting the United Nations Rights of Children.
Robert Schiller on Survivor Stories
I began using Echoes and Reflections in my theology classes and have since developed a Holocaust curriculum for senior students guided by the resources available in the Teacher’s Resource Guide and on the website. There is such a high level of student interest in this topic.
When teaching, I follow the order of the Echoes and Reflections guide, and spend about two weeks on each lesson. It is my experience that the students find all of the lessons to be of great interest and value. They are often particularly interested in survivor stories, which I intersperse with lecture and group activities. Through reading and rich discussion, the students soon realize that these survivors were not just victims, but people who had a life before and after the Holocaust.
Another area of interest is the section on propaganda, which gives students a deeper understanding of how people can be taught to fear, hate, and/or be indifferent.
Integrating Visual History Testimony
Visual history testimony plays an essential role in my instruction about the Holocaust. Echoes and Reflections is divided into lessons that can stand on their own, which gives me the ability to layer in specific components of the program as they arise in my curricula. The IWitness video clips suggested in each of the lessons corroborate the two-dimensional facts presented in textbooks. Because I strive to teach history as a human experience, this integration of visual testimony allows students to connect personally and facilitates a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the Holocaust. Visual history testimony taps in to the affective domain and can impact the development of emotions and attitudes. Using it effectively can be a transformative experience for students. The IWitness visual history testimonies alter their perception of and reaction to the human indignities that they encounter in their own world, which has the power to ripple across space and time.
Jennifer Goss on the Individual and Kristallnacht
The flexibility of the Echoes & Reflections Teacher Resource Guide is its best feature. I pick and choose a variety of materials within the guide to work into various components of both my Holocaust and Genocide Studies elective course as well as my course on Virginia & US History. One of my favorite pieces is Kurt Messerschmit’s testimony from Lesson 1: Studying the Holocaust about his experience during the Kristallnacht pogrom. I use it when teaching about anti-Jewish measures in pre-war Nazi Germany. It is a piece that stimulates rich discussion in the classroom and it is even more powerful when paired with the primary source documents within that lesson.