Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Saturday, 18 May 2013

ESL-Students Learning about the Holocaust in English

As seasoned ELT Practitioners,  we try to find ways in our curriculum that go some way to helping students engage more in the process of learning. So, apart from language, the integral part of our syllabus in semester one, we move into more literature-based modules and units during semester two; however, never losing sight of the importance grammar and language plays in the mind of Turkish students.  That leads us to our final novel of the year, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which, if you haven't read it/ taught it yet, we urge you to do so.  Not only is it an engaging read for ALL of the students, it affords you the opportunity to inform Turkish students of the horrors of the Holocaust, and in particular, the Death Camp at Auschwitz.
We begin the module by providing a lot of background knowledge to the students on how Germany was after WWI, and how Hitler was able to rise the nation up in a very short space of time.  This type of visual scaffolding on World History to young teenagers not only interests and engages them, but it also provides breaking-ground for them as they learn what happened historically in a second language.

The PDF version of the class-powerpoint is available when you click this link...

The scaffolding provides the students with great background knowledge as they begin the book.  Since the primary focus is close reading and textual analysis as the true "understanding" of the novel, we of course do not want to only concentrate on the ppps, and we have split the "world history" aspect into three parts.  As the narrative unfolds we find the young protagonist, the son of the Auschwitz commander, questioning the war, Hitler himself, and of course, Auschwitz.  At this point the students really start to see the horrors of what the Holocaust was.  That is when we show the second powerpoint, which is dedicated to the atrocities of the Holocaust.  We carefully warned the students that many of the images they were about to see would be very upsetting.  That done, we showed them the material.  The students were visibly shocked and at the end of the presentation and through discussion, my colleague and I both felt a genuine connect from the students.  Their inquiry and willingness to ask deeper-rooted questions told us how much this type of approach was having a lasting effect.

The PDF version of the class-powerpoint is available when you click this link...

With much of the book now giving insights to the racism and anti-Semitic views held by the Nazis, we felt it necessary to further inform the students how the victims were rounded up and herded into Death Trains.  The sheer magnitude of numbers and deaths by the horrific nature of the transportation further engaged the students.  We arranged the tables in class to show students how small the train carriages were that had over 100 people crammed into them with little air, food, water or sanitation.  This section of the book and lessons had perhaps the most effect on getting the students to realize the horror of the situation.  By putting it into size and perspective gave them more insight to what those poor people had to endure before they died or reached Auschwitz.

In order to let students get more reading practice we also included a few articles.  This we believe also gives more perspective to the students as they see it is not a work of fiction.  Indeed, nowadays, authorities are still finding Nazi war criminals, and it brings the reality right up to date and into the students time-frame.

As the final exam was approaching, we had already decided to include a small section on World History, and I felt it necessary to help them revise for it.  Not wishing to have students memorize details and events per se, I thought it a good idea to prepare a short reading text based on the questions they would see in the exam.  However, I wanted to include their close-reading skills in the revision lesson.  So, I wrote the article and embedded the information.  I informed the students that although the information contained within was historically accurate, it was from my creative hand.                    

The document would theoretically provide several key learning points:
  • revision of history utilizing a different genre
  • close-reading away from the novel
  • further gleaned information 
  • analysis of embedded textual information
  • connectivity of content to exam

The final part of world history scaffolding paradigm showed the students how Hitler's reign came to an end with an astounding extract from the film, The Bunker (below).

In addition to the video several slides were also prepared and can be seen in the linked pdf below:
WORLD HISTORY: scaffolding part FIVE

Below are two astounding videos that are worthy of inclusion in your Holocaust module.  The first is from a special report made by Oprah Winfrey who met and visited Auschwitz with one of its survivors.  The man, now a highly respected professor, shows an insight we could only ever have nightmares about.  It is incredible!

The second is a wonderful story designed to show the power of symbolism used to give an insight to racism, fascism, betrayal, oppression, regret, guilt and ultimately, the beauty of genuine humanity and reflection when even the worst of man can realize the mistakes they have made.  In the case of the millions lost, of course too late, but the message in the short film gives us all hope.

A beautiful short film that will touch your students' hearts..

We hope that this post hasn't depressed anyone too much.  We were, at the beginning of the unit, rather apprehensive using this with 15 year olds, but what we did was try to keep the extremely offensive images and information out of the units taught at school, but encouraged anyone who wished to discover for themselves and who wanted to talk about it later.  This students-autonomous inquiry did occur with several  of the students reporting back how they had looked for themselves at home.  One student even felt it necessary to share his two video findings on our Edmodo page. If we can get our students to share materials in this way, we must definitely encourage it.  We would hope to see this type of engagement next year.

One very pleasing note comes today after having graded the students' final exam for the year.  The short reading section on World History has returned every student with near full points.  It leads us to believe that the scaffolding in general, and in particular, the reading texts done this week have made an impact on the students.  We will continue to do such revision-tactics for future exams.

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