Sixth-grade Holocaust lesson recorded
Camera crew took video for teacher resource website
When Grafton Middle School teacher Jill David started her lesson about the Holocaust for her sixth-grade English class Thursday afternoon, she had a few additional visitors.
A camera crew was there to record her lesson for distribution on the Holocaust Teacher Resource Center website.
David’s class will be the first of its kind on the website, which hosts resources, including lesson plans, essays, book reviews and interviews with survivors.
“For me to be able to do this now — finally — is just so exciting,” said Mark Nataupsky, president of Newport News-based Holocaust Education Foundation, Inc. “I can’t put it into words.”
He’s been working to add recorded lessons since he started planning the website in 1995.
As for David, she’s been teaching about the Holocaust for 15 years. In 2014, she was awarded the Ruthi Sherman Kroskin Educator Award for excellence in Holocaust education sponsored by the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
David was the first teacher that the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula, Inc. recommended to present the lesson, Nataupsky said.
He said many of her students have won awards for the center’s Holocaust writing competition.
“Obviously I think it’s important for the Holocaust to be taught and go through the generations so the kids know the story,” David said.
This was her first time teaching her lesson to sixth-graders. In previous years, her Holocaust lessons were for her seventh- and eighth- grade students.
One of the biggest challenges of teaching the younger students is their maturity, she said.
But she said the difference in maturity from September to January for sixth-grade students is “huge.”
Everything from their attention span to their ability to verbalize what they see and think improves, David said. So that’s why she’s waited until now to teach the lesson.
While she was aware of Nataupsky’s website, she said she gathered all of her own resources and created her own lesson plans for the class. Most of her materials came from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
As the class started, David asked all of the students to write down the information they already knew about the Holocaust, but she assured them that it was OK if they didn’t know anything coming into the lesson.
Looking around at their papers, some of the students were able to list five or six things they knew prior to the class, while other students wrote that they weren’t sure or didn’t know anything.
One student, Jocelyn Douglas, said she knew about the Holocaust before the lesson, but she didn’t realize how many people survived. She initially thought that almost everyone died.
Douglas said the picture that accompanied the poem “To the Little Polish Boy Standing with His Arms Up” by Peter Fischl, really “got me thinking.”
“I know the lessons about the Holocaust teach the kids to be kind to each other and teach them about respect and everyone being equal,” David said.
And every year she says students come back to talk to her about what the lesson meant to them.
Nataupsky wants to make accurate and quality information available to anyone who wants to learn. David’s recorded lesson and all of the other resources available on his website are free.
“I’m hoping people will find the lesson meaningful and helpful,” Nataupsky said. “I want it to show teachers a very good way that they can teach sixth-grade classes about the Holocaust.” Jessica Nolte, 757-247-4513, [email protected]lypress.com, @jessicamnolte
Grafton Middle School sixth-graders work during a class on the Holocaust taught by Jill David.