Monday, February 10, 2020

Lesson on Nazis: For Upper-Intermediate or Advanced Students

(TESOL Worksheets--Reading, Topic Lesson)

Google Drive Folder HERE
History of the Nazi Party Reading and Questions: docs, pub
Excerpts from the Diary of Anne Frank: docs, pub
Video clip from Youtube--LINK HERE
Excerpt from Night by Elie Wiesel: docs, pub
Nazis in the News Folder HERE
--Unite the Right rally (source here): docs, pub
--Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (source here): docs, pub
--Vegas Man to Plead Guilty in Plot to Bomb Synagogue, Bar
--Durham neo-Nazi teenager detained for terror attack plan

I've got mixed feelings about this lesson.  Part of me thinks the whole idea was a mistake.  At any rate, it was a rushed job.  (Like most of my lessons, this was done on a deadline as I scrambled to get everything ready during the afternoon break between classes.)  If I decide this is a lesson worth re-doing, I should probably go back and try to edit these documents to try to make them read smoother.  But for now, I'm just going to post what I have at the moment, along with the explanation below of what I was trying to do
Anyone who has taught English in Asia knows that Nazi imagery and symbols often appear, and are particularly common among the young people.  It's viewed as something cool and subversive by young people who don't understand the history behind it.  It's a point I've mentioned on this blog several times before (HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).  
See also the CNN article: 'Nazi-chic': Why dressing up in Nazi uniforms isn't as controversial in Asia, which does an excellent job of describing the phenomenon, and the reasons behind it.
"For East Asian countries, World War II was not about the Nazis or Hitler but rather the Imperial Japanese forces. Comparatively little time is spent in Asian countries studying World War II Germany than in Europe or North America."
Brennan said Nazi outfits and regalia often have a more punk or anti-establishment meaning in Asia, rather than a political or historical one.
"'Nazi chic', as it has become known, is an expression of subversion and its wearers in Asia are largely ignorant of its historical underpinnings," he said.
Anyway, all that is to say that in all of the Asian countries I've taught in, I've become very used to my teenage students wearing Nazi symbols or drawing Nazi symbols in their notebooks.
What to do about it, however, is another issue. I don't know what the best thing to do is.  Sometimes, depending on my mood, I want to make a big deal out of it, and sometimes I just want to ignore it.
The other day, a student drew a big swastika on the back of his test, and then handed the test to me so that the swastika was face up.  He grinned as he watched to see what I was going to do about it.
I was in a certain mood, so I said to myself, "Right, we were going to play games after the test, but now we're going to do a lesson on Anne Frank instead."
There was a 15 minute break following the test, in which I ran up to the staffroom and scrambled to find materials.  There's a lot of pre-made ESL lessons already on the web these days, and I was sure I could find one about Anne Frank.  I found "Who Was Anne Frank?" worksheet and video lesson (LINK HERE) and "The Lesson on Anne Frank" (LINK HERE).  I rushed to print out photocopies, and ran down to the classroom armed with the worksheets.
Despite being labelled as ESL lessons, as it turned out, neither worksheet was suitable for my students.  (Always the danger of rushing to print something out before checking it carefully).  Both were way too difficult for ESL students, the video lesson especially, even for the upper-intermediate level students I had.  And neither gave any sort of context, so my students didn't really understand what they were reading or listening about.  Realizing that my materials were inappropriate, I searched Youtube for "Holocaust Documentary for Kids".  This video here  came up, but it was also entirely inappropriate for ESL students.
My students, however, were getting curious, and beginning to ask questions about the topic.  What were those pictures of dead bodies?  What was going on?  
I tried to explain about the Jews and holocaust, but this just generated more questions.  What was a "Jew"?  Why did the Nazis hate them so much?
Gradually, I realized, they knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about the whole period. They had never heard of the holocaust before, or the concentration camps, or Jews, or any of it.  It was just as the CNN article had said.  They viewed the Nazi symbol as something punk and subversive, but didn't know any of the history behind it.

So, for the subsequent lesson, I tried to devise a lesson that would explain why Nazis are bad for teenagers who had absolutely no background knowledge of European history, in language that would be accessible for an upper-intermediate ESL student.  Not finding anything suitable online, I decided to make it myself.  I had 3 hours to put the whole thing together during lunch break the following day.  I could have used a whole week, so that's why the thing is still rough around the edges.  

 The lesson starts with the reading on Nazis HERE.  (Something I wrote myself).  Students read by themselves for 15 minutes and answer the questions at the back.  Then they discuss with a partner.  Then open class feedback as a whole class.  
Then, we read excerpts from the Diary of Anne Frank.  My worksheet is here.  I took the excerpts from here and here.  For the Anne Frank diary, there were no reading comprehension questions.  I just handed it out to the students, and then I read it aloud with them, and we stopped to discuss this or that  along the way (highlighting both interesting idioms and vocabulary words, but also talking about the content).  It was very teacher centered (not good practice, I know), but I was able to get the students engaged in it by talking about the diary beforehand, and getting them interested in reading the authentic voice of a real girl from the past.
After reading Anne Frank's description of the clearing of the ghettos, we watched a Youtube clip of the ghetto liquidation scene from Schindler's List.  (Best I could find online was this clip HERE, but I believe the full movie has a longer and more dramatic scene, if anyone has access to it).

Then we transitioned into a description of the death camps from an excerpt of Night by Elie Wiesel.  My worksheet is here.  It's based on this document here.  The imagery in it is so vivid that it's mostly accessible to high level ESL students, but I had a go at re-writing parts of it anyway--trying to clear up any points of confusion, tried to make explicit what was only hinted at in the original, and tried to delete anything that relied on culture knowledge about the Jews.   Or at least I tried.  It was a rushed job, and I could have done better with more time.
 I have mixed feelings about re-writing Elie Wiesel.  (It may have been better to just leave the excerpt as it was.) 
I handled this the same as Anne Frank's diary--i.e. no comprehension questions, we just read through it together and discussed it as we read it.  I was able to get students engaged by giving them some background before we started reading.  It was all very teacher centered, but the reading was vivid enough that the students were engaged with it.

Then, in an effort to emphasize to students that the Nazis are a problem even today (and thus the use of Nazi imagery should be avoided), I gave them out copies of articles about Nazis or neo-Nazis in the news recently. Students were divided into 4 groups.  Each group got a different news story which they had to read about, and then present to the rest of the class.
My folder of recent news stories about Nazis is HERE.  At the time I did this lesson, all of these stories were from within the past couple years, and 2 of the stories were from within the past month, and 1 story was from that very day.  But obviously this part of the lesson will need to be updated if the lesson is every repeated.
The news stories are unsimplified authentic texts, so students required some support.  I went around to each group and did some micro-teaching before they presented.

So, yeah, that's the lesson.  If I ever decide to do this again, I'll go back and try to improve the material.  But for now, this is what I've got.
I'm posting below the introductory reading text that I wrote.  All of the other material is available at the links above.

History of the Nazi Party
The word “Nazi” refers to a political party that controlled Germany from 1933 to 1945.  It was associated with the fascist ideology.  Fascism supports a strong central government and a strong police force.
Nazism in particular is associated with racist ideology. 
“Race” is a category of dividing people into different groups based on what they look like.  Historically, the most common way to do this has been by skin color.  For example: white people, brown people, black people.
“Racism” is the idea that some races are good, and other races are bad.  For example--the idea that white people are good, and black people are bad.
The Nazis believed in what they called “The Aryan Master Race”.  This was the belief that the white people who lived in Northern Europe were the best people, and the other races were bad.
The Nazis are famous for their concentration camps.  A concentration camp is a prison in which a large group of people are kept in very bad conditions.  There were many people that the Nazis did not like, so the Nazis put lots of different kinds of people in the concentration camps: homosexuals, communists, Gypsies, swing kids (kids who listened to swing music), and anyone who spoke out against the government.  However, the people who suffered most under the Nazis were the Jews.

The Nazis and the Jews
Jews are the descendants of the people who lived in Israel 2,000 years ago.  They are associated with the Jewish religion, but anyone who is born into a Jewish family is considered a Jew whether they are religious or not.  (For example, Karl Marx was Jewish, even though he did not believe in God.)
The Romans destroyed the ancient country of Israel 2,000 years ago, and ever since then, Jews have had no home country, but they have lived in Europe. 
For many centuries, the Jews were able to live peacefully in Europe, although there was trouble from time to time.  Even though Jews looked the same as white Europeans, Europeans were often suspicious of Jews because they had different customs and religion.  Rumors and superstitions began to spread about Jews.  Europeans sometimes said that Jews were dirty, or that they carried spread diseases with them, or that they were responsible for criminal activities.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they decided that the Jews were the enemies of the German people.  Immediately, life became hard for many Jewish people.  They were not allowed to go to good schools, or get good jobs.  They faced a lot of violence and bullying in the street.  Many Jews tried to leave Germany, but it was difficult.  First of all they needed money to move, and secondly a lot of other countries wouldn’t accept Jewish immigrants at that time.
During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied many other countries in Europe.  Now it wasn’t just German Jews that were in trouble, it was Jews in most of Europe.
In all of the countries they controlled, the Nazis began hunting all of the Jews they could find, and sending them to concentration camps. 
But what to do with all of the Jews once they had them captured?  Eventually the Nazis decided that the only solution was to kill all of the Jews.  The Nazis called this “The final solution to the Jewish problem.”
The Jews tried to hide, but the Nazis went from house to house looking for the Jews.  Once they found the Jews, they took them away to the death camp.
One Jewish girl who lived at this time was Anne Frank.  Her family had to hide in the ceiling of a house.  Anne Frank kept a diary for 2 years describing what it was like to hide from the Nazis.  Unfortunately, the Nazis eventually found Anne Frank and her family, and they were taken to the death camps.  Anne Frank died in the death camps.  But her diary was found later, and is still famous today.
The Jews were taken to death camps, such as Auschwitz.  Here they were separated.  The Nazis kept alive 20% of the Jews who they thought could be used to do work--usually young strong men between 18 and 40.  Everyone else was killed.
The Jews were killed in many different ways.  At first, they were shot with guns, but this took a lot of time and money.  To kill so many people is not easy.  Imagine trying to kill 6 million people.  It’s almost impossible even to count to a million.  At one number per second — with no breaks, at all, for any reason — it would take 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds just to count from one to 1,000,000. Now imagine trying to shoot 6 million people.  How much time would it take?  How many hours would it take?  How many soldiers would you need?
So the Nazis decided to use poison gas to kill the Jews faster. 
In order to control the Jews, and prevent panic, the Nazis usually told the Jews they were going into the showers.  The Jews were made to take off their clothes, and were put into a big chamber, and then the door was closed, and the poison gas came out.  After this, the dead naked bodies were taken out.  There were piles and piles of dead bodies.  Where could they put them all?  At first they tried to dig huge holes to put all the bodies, but it was a lot of work and there were too many bodies.  So it was decided to burn the dead bodies in huge fires.  Every day in the concentration camp, smoke would go up from the chimney as the bodies of dead women, children and babies were being burned.
In total, 6 million Jews were killed in this way.  We call this event “the holocaust”.
Nothing like this had ever happened before in history.  Of course, there had been many massacres before in history, and many people had been killed before by wars and bombs.  But there was never such a big system designed for killing people.  Nazi police (called SS) went from house to house to find Jews.  Jews had to be taken to camps in trains.  (Imagine how many trains you would need to transport 6 million people.)  So many people were necessary to guard the Jews, and transport the Jews, and kill the Jews, and burn the bodies.  It was a whole complex organization.
After the War
After the war, the allied armies found the Nazi death camps.  People couldn’t believe that this had happened.  How could people possibly be this evil?  How could this have happened in modern times?  How could this have happened in a civilized modern European country?
Some people survived the holocaust.  They either escaped the death camps, or were freed by allied armies at the end of the war.  Some of them wrote about what had happened to them at the Nazi death camp.  A famous book is “Night” by Elie Wiesel.  Elie Wiesel’s family was brought to the Nazi death camps when he was 15.  His mother, sister, and father were all killed in the death camp, but Elie Wiesel survived, and wrote about it.
Anne Frank’s diary was found, and published.  Many people read it.

Nazis Today
Surprising as it may seem, there are some people today who admire the Nazis, and want to bring back the Nazi ideology.  They are sometimes called “Neo-Nazis” in order to distinguish them from the historical Nazi government.   (“Neo” means new).
These groups are for an ideology called “white supremacy”, which means they want white people to be in control of everything.  They are against black or brown people, and they are against Jews.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups in Europe and the United States.  They are proud of the Nazi symbols, and they draw or display the Nazi symbols in public places.  These groups are associated with violent attacks on immigrants, black people, and Jewish people.

What is racism?

Who did the Nazis put into concentration camps/

Who are the Jewish people?  Where did they live?

Who was Anne Frank?  Why is she famous today?

Why did the Nazis decide to use poison gas to kill the Jews?

What is the holocaust?  Why is it unique in history?

Who was Elie Wiesel?  Why is he famous?

Do we have any Nazis left today?

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