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Discovering the Holocaust through Primary Sources
Content Topic:
Holocaust, Anne Frank
As part of the tenth grade curriculum, students are studying the Holocaust. The History teacher is presenting a unit covering the historical aspects of WWII and the Holocaust. During the same time frame, the English Language Arts teacher will present a reading unit on The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. The TL will collaborate with the ELA teacher to present a unit exploring primary sources. The information skills to be focused on during this unit are recognizing primary sources, locating primary resources on the Internet, and evaluating primary sources for authenticity and information value. Students will use the Internet to locate primary sources related to the Holocaust. Through discovering, evaluating, and sharing these primary source “stories” or “messages,” students will come to understand the value of primary sources as part of our collective historical record.
Collaboration Potential:
ELA Teacher
Total Estimated Time:
45 minutes
Suggested Number Of Sessions:

Computer, Internet, “Primary Source Evaluation Checklist,” “New Understanding and Reflection” Worksheet, Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

ALA’s Reference and User Services Association has an informative section on “Using Primary Sources on the Web


Instruction / Activities:

Direct Instruction

·         During a class visit to the Library Media Center, the TL introduces a discussion about the book the ELA class is currently reading (Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank).  Students are asked to imagine that they are reading the “original” diary – straight from the Annex, where it was found.

·         Students share and contrast Diary of a Young Girl with what they learned about Anne Frank and/or the Holocaust through other sources (History lessons/lectures, textbooks, outside readings, performances, etc). 

·         The TL and ELA teacher encourage discussion over the differences between The Diary of a Young Girl and other resources that seek to teach us about the Holocaust. The TL and ELA teacher will record students’ thoughts about what makes “a diary” different from other resources.

·         From there, the TL introduces the primary sources topic, expanding on, and further highlighting the difference between primary sources and secondary sources.

·         Students are then given the scope of the Holocaust primary sources project they will be completing (SM1_discoveringtheholocaust).


Modeling and Guided Practice 

·         Students are asked to brainstorm examples of materials that are considered primary sources, as well as types of materials that are considered secondary sources. 


Direct Instruction

·         Building upon the ideas presented by the class, the TL introduces further information about primary sources.

·         Using a computer, the Internet, and a projection screen, the TL presents instructional information about primary sources.  The ALA’s Reference and User Services Association has an informative section on “Using Primary Sources on the Web” that the TL will use to guide the lesson (students will follow along as TL navigates through this site with the students).

·         In addition to learning what primary sources are, students will be instructed on how to find them on the Web, how to evaluate primary source Web sites, and how to cite primary source materials.

·         After going over materials presented on the RUSA site, the TL will access one of the (RUSA) recommended sites for finding primary sources on the Web.  The TL will use this site to find a primary source on the topic of the Holocaust. 

Modeling and Guided Practice 

·         Students will be given a copy of the “Primary Source Evaluation Checklist,” and the class will evaluate the primary source together, with the TL modeling the site navigation necessary to locate the necessary information. 

·         Students will fill out the checklist collectively, as the needed information is located.

·         Students will work together to properly cite the example primary source for the purposes of the checklist.


Sharing and Reflecting

·         TL with then initiate a class discussion. “New Understanding and Reflection” worksheets will serve as a guide to discuss what information/understanding students’ have gleaned from the featured primary source.  Students can fill out this worksheet as the class discusses the example primary source.


Direct Instruction

·         Students are now introduced to the details of their primary source assignment.  They are given three (3) copies of the “Primary Source Evaluation” checklist and one (1) copy of the “New Understanding and Reflection” worksheet. 

·         Students are required to locate three primary sources that deal with the topic of the Holocaust. Chosen primary sources can be from any point of view, as long as they relate to the topic at hand (examples: diary entry from a concentration camp survivor, a letter from a SS Officer who served as a prison guard at Dachau, photo of a transport train, etc.).  At least one of the sources must be in a non-written format.  From these three selected primary sources, students will choose one primary source about which they will complete the “New Understanding and Reflection” worksheet (SM2_discoveringtheholocaust).  Using this worksheet as a guide, they will later share this chosen primary source with the class. 


Independent Practice

·         Students will be given time during their ELA class periods to work on this assignment – the ELA teacher will release students to the Library Media Center in small groups throughout the multiple-week time frame for this lesson and the TL will be available to support learning needs.


Sharing and Reflecting

·         The lesson will conclude with individual student presentations of one of their selected primary sources to the ELA class using technology.

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Presented By: Nicole Chase-Iverson
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