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At the end of this Holocaust 4th grade lesson plan, students will understand what the Holocaust was, be familiar with stories of heroism from the Holocaust, and have applied lessons from these stories to their own lives.
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For this lesson plan, you will need a copy of the book "A Place to Hide: True Stories of Holocaust Rescues," by Jayne Pettit. These books are available at a low price, especially used, so it is preferable that you obtain enough for each student in your class. Alternatively, you can use other, fictional books about heroes in the Holocaust such as "Number the Stars," by Lois Lowry.
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Draw a KWL chart on the board, and divide it into three rows. Each of the following phrases should be in one row: "the Holocaust," "Hitler," and "the Nazis." Instruct students to fill out the K column of the chart with information they know about each of the three phrases and the W column with information they want to know about them. Leave the L column blank. Discuss the information they have in their charts and correct any misconceptions. Then give them a brief background on the Holocaust, focusing on the persecution of the Jews beforehand and the danger the Jews were in, briefly mentioning the horrible conditions in the concentration camps, and explaining how the camps were liberated by the Russians and Americans at the end of World War II.
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Read several chapters from the book "A Place to Hide: True Stories of Holocaust Rescues." Included in this book are stories about Miep saving Anne Frank, Oscar Schindler saving hundreds of Jews, and other less-known acts of heroism. If you have enough books for the whole class, you can read one story aloud and then assign the rest for students to read independently.
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On the board, write the discussion question, "Why did the people in this book risk their lives?" Encourage students to think about what may have gone through the minds of the people in the book when they committed their acts of heroism. Then ask students to discuss why other people (possibly mentioned in the stories) may not have done the same thing. What would their rationale have been?
Write a second discussion question on the board: "How can I be like the people in this book?" Emphasize that students can learn from the selflessness of the characters they have discussed. Although they are not in life and death situations, they are able to make choices - such as protecting a friend from a bully, standing up for a younger sibling, or taking an unpopular stand in a class discussion - that mirrors the heroism they have read about.
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To make sure that students have understood the background of this Holocaust 4th grade lesson plan, have students fill out the L column on their KWL chart with information they have learned about the three phrases on the chart. Then ask students to write a paragraph discussing one change they can make in their own lives to be more like the characters they have read about.