How many even know where Germany is or Europe for that matter?
Before I even introduced the book to my students, I asked them to locate Germany and Europe on our world map. My expert map student was raising his hand, almost leaping out of his chair and making those familiar "Ooo, ooooo" sounds, we teachers know well. He pointed to Germany and the surrounding countries as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Isn't it great to have an expert in class to help introduce lessons? :)
Then, I asked them to raise their hands if they knew one fact about WWII. One boy said his great grandfather fought during WWII. A girl raised her hand and said that WWII was a big war. Those were the only students who volunteered answers. I was shocked, to say the least.
It was then I decided to write up a packet of student worksheets for Number the Stars that would include an informational piece about World War II. It was a good way to introduce WWII and even though it wouldn't be a detailed history of the War, it would give my students a "taste" of events and the causes of the War.
I always try to integrate social studies with my ELA classes so this was perfect!
Lois Lowry's book, Number the Stars, has students walk in Annmarie's and Ellen's shoes as the story unfolds. The setting is Copenhagen, Denmark in 1943, the third year of the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Annmarie and Ellen, who is Jewish, are best friends. The story is how Annmarie's family take Ellen into their home to protect her from the Nazis. The story is filled with facts presented in a way students will relate to themes like friendship, trust, honesty, conflict, and hope.
It's no wonder this historical fiction book won the Newbery Award, in 1990, as the most distinguished contribution to children's literature and remains popular to this day.
This is my 69 page packet to accompany the book. It has detailed instructions for pre-readinng, reading and post reading activities. Also included is the nonfiction, informational article to provide students with a better understanding of World War II.
To read the full description of the book, click on the map. There is also a free preview of the packet of my ready to print student worksheets that can be downloaded.
After speaking with many of my former students' parents, over time, it's apparent that students aren't receiving a good base of American history throughout their school years. I noticed the changes in textbooks when I was on the social studies curriculum committee for a number of years. The information in textbooks seemed watered down and lacking in good solid information about our history. I began wondering who was writing the text for the publishers and who makes the decisions about what's included in their textbooks. That remains a mystery, but one we educators should be asking. I hope you are.