Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Beginning of Night


Today we started our reading and study of Elie Wiesel's classic memoir Night. We did not read too much (about nine pages) because there was so much to talk about. The beginning of this memoir is steeped in references to Jewish texts and religious practices. These terms are fairly unfamiliar to you, so we spent a lot of time talking about them.

At the beginning of every class, we'll start with a fact about the Holocaust or Wiesel's life. This is a good way to have some extra information and to think about the time period in a broader sense. One of you asked if you could suggest facts. My answer to this is ABSOLUTELY! Please do. We can always have more than one fact per day if need be, so feel free to suggest as many as you find.

Here is our fact of the day:
The term "Holocaust," originally from the Greek word "holokauston" which means "sacrifice by fire," refers to the Nazi's persecution and planned slaughter of the Jewish people. The Hebrew word "Shoah," which means "devastation, ruin, or waste," is also used for this genocide.

We talked about the interesting relationship between the original meaning of the Greek work and the cremation method used by the Nazis to dispose of millions of corpses.

After reading, you all went back through the first part of chapter and chose 8-10 words that you thought were essential words in describing this section of reading. Then, I asked you to choose your top 2 or 3 words and write them on the board. I asked you to go to the board one by one so that you could check words that had already been listed. Here is your list of words:

Divinity
Gestapo
Emigration
Synagogues
Transylvania
Fascist
Anti-Semitic
Suffering
God
Exterminate
Jews
Sympathetic
Death
Escape

After you all placed your words on the board, we started to narrow these words down to the absolute most important words. The bell rang before we could finish, but we have votes for the following words:

Gestapo= 2 votes
Synagogues= 1 vote
Suffering= 2 votes
God= 1 vote
Exterminate= 1 vote
Jews= 1 vote
Death= 1 vote

Why are we doing this? In the past, I've selected the in-context vocabulary that we've studied for you. Night is a tough book to read. I want your summaries, your reacts, your vocabulary choices to be more personalized and less teacher-directed. So, your word wall is literally your word wall for this unit. You're going to develop and add to this wall every time we read. So far, you have all selected powerful words. Keep up this close reading!

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