We must allow for space and time in our classrooms and around the dinner table for conversations about dismantling racism, hatred, anti-semitism, violence, and xenophobia.
Social justice and standing up for what is right is a year long theme throughout my 8th grade English Language Arts curriculum. In my own classroom, crafting hyperdocs has allowed opportunities for deep conversations to address student questions about racism, anti semitism, xenophobia, and hatred. Throughout the school year my students read choice novels based on topics of social justice, dystopia, identity, WW2 and the Holocaust that coincide with our year long investigation what it means to stand up for what is right.
Hyperdocs are digital documents—such as a Google Doc—where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within the document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit—videos, slideshows, images, and activities—for the student to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning; there is less lecturing at the front of the class.
Hyperdocs, which allow students to work at their own pace. offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the Hyperdoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding as they complete engaging activities. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number of activities on the Hyperdoc or require students to complete them all.
In New York State, the Holocaust and World War II are part of the eighth grade social studies curriculum. English and social studies lend themselves well for collaborating when addressing topics with enduring issues like human rights, injustice, and inequality.
Essential Question: What lessons from Japanese Internment, the Holocaust, and WW2 can we learn in order to stop the hate and violence that is dominating our current cultural climate?
There are many wonderful historical novels, poetry, and nonfiction texts written about these issues that teachers might already be using in their curriculum. In social studies classes primary documents, photographs, films, and documentaries are used to teach history today. Students can read and explore diverse types of texts for a deeper understanding of the history and impact of World War II and the Holocaust on the world. Book choices include titles include but are not limited to: Farewell to Manzanar, The Diary of Anne Frank, Refugee, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, Irena’s Children, and Librarian of Auschwitz. Utilizing diverse texts in conjunction with hyperdocs promotes critical thinking, understanding, and empathy. If we want our students to become critical citizens who participate in civic and digital life in positive ways, learning must be driven by inquiry rather than rote memorization of facts. Allowing students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate historical text that are primary and secondary sources in multi-genres formats allows students to see the depth of history through personal accounts.
In order to build an accurate image in students minds Anne Frank and her family’s secret annex students took a virtual tour of the annex in Amsterdam and then shared their thoughts and reactions on a Flipgrid. Each week, the hyperdoc included at least one virtual trips to a Holocaust museum or memorial like Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaut Museum in Washington, DC. With each digital field trip there are opportunities to reflect and draw connections. Students read letters from people sent away to Concentration Camps and listened to survivor’s stories. These virtual experiences built empathy and understanding that history is living and breathing. Throughout their exploration, reading, and reflection. Students act as researchers and writers using higher order thinking and comprehension skills, while at the same time meeting 21st century skills as digital citizens and creators. Students utilize technology for research, reading, and writing to present their understanding and learning of WWII and the Holocaust.
Due to the current violence against Asian and Island Pacific People with COVID, I am using Japanese Internment and the racial profiling during WWII as the starting point the unit. I want students to recognize racial profiling relies on harmful stereotypes that are rooted in racism and discrimination.
During World War II, Japanese Americans were profiled based on their ethnicity. The U.S. government suspected that they might be disloyal to America and working for the Japanese government, even though there was no real evidence of espionage or sabotage. As a result of these suspicions, Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced into incarceration camps for years.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice and The New York Times Learning Network have a collection of lessons and resources for educators to use with students. One key point with both these resources is that “informed and engaged citizens of a democratic society should know that a time of crisis requires solidarity, humanity, and hope, not hysteria or hatred.”
The hyperdoc I have created for this unit is still a work in progress but you can view the entire hyperdoc and digital notebook HERE
Writing and discussion help to deepen students’ understanding of what they read, see, and hear. There’s a synergy between two vital practices: writing about text helps students understand what they read as knowledge constructors and discussion helps them develop their ideas to be creative communicators. By middle and high school the conversations and group work should go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” to provide opportunities for students to present information in small groups and large audiences, in socratic seminars, and through student-led discussions. Screen-casts, podcasts, and video projects are all great venues that allow students to utilize speaking and listening skills. Students can utilize technology to podcast or video their presentations to practice speaking and build their communication skills.
The learning experiences we provide should show students the world, not just tell them about it. Our curriculum needs interactive learning experiences with playlists and Hyperdocs that include reading, writing, reflections, role plays, simulations, debates, formal speeches, and demonstrations. Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society a better place, and to express their ideas powerfully. We must show our students that our content area is about real world problems, issues, and possible solutions.