The following blog post was written for and first appeared on teachbetter.com blog on May 2, 2023.
The month of May is designated as Jewish American Heritage Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. During this month we honor “the generations of Jewish Americans and Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched American history and are instrumental in its success.”
The month of May in my eighth grade classroom is when we are studying WW2, the Holocaust, and Japanese Internment. In both English and social studies students are reading historical fiction, memoirs, and nonfiction texts of their choice about these topics. In history students are studying the dates and facts, reading primary sources, and understanding the ramifications of the war on a global level. The aim in this cross curricular unit is for students to develop an understanding of the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in any society. Additionally, students develop an awareness of the value of pluralism and encourage acceptance of diversity in a pluralistic society. One key facet is to not just learn about the victims but also honor the Jewish and Asian American heroes who showed perseverance and were instrumental during this time.
Students learn about Japanese Internment as well as the 442nd regimental combat team, a segregated Japanese American unit who are the most decorated unit in US History for their bravery and heroism. Students read the graphic novel They Called Us Enemy by George Takei and gain a child’s perspective of Executive Order 9066 and living in an Internment Camp in Takei’s memoir. Some students select to read Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free, a Printz Honor Winner young adult historical fiction text that was based on the author’s grandparents stories of being incarcerated during WW2.
I have put together two different hyperdocs, a digital document such as a Google Doc where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub for students to learn more.. Within the hyperdocs students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources to work on at their own pace and learn about the diverse groups of soldiers who made up America’s military and a second hyperdoc that examines Japanese Internment and the ramifications for today. You can make a copy of these two hyperdocs when you click on the images below.
Similarly, in studying the Holocaust students read stories of survivors and even have the opportunity to Zoom with a survivor to hear her story. You can connect with a speaker through the Jewish Heritage Museum’s Speakers Bureau in New York City. Additionally, students look at art work and read poetry from the victims and survivors of the Holocaust to understand the horrors of this period in history. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam offers a virtual tour online of the Secret Annex where Anne and her family hid for more than two years during WW2 where she wrote her diary.
Educational materials have been curated by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration with primary sources about the Chinese Exclusion Act, Annexation of Hawaii, and Japanese Americans during WW2. The National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has links and resources for teaching about the generations of Jewish Americans who have contributed to American history, culture and society.
For our culminating project for WW2 students create their own multi genre text on a specific topic and theme about World War II. This summative assessment and multi genre project incorporates five different texts (fiction and nonfiction) grounded in specific historical documents to highlight a common theme prevalent in WWII. Allowing students to be researchers and writers enables students to use higher order thinking and comprehension skills while at the same time tap into 21st Century skills as digital citizens and creators. Students will utilize technology for research and writing to produce a blog that presents their understanding and learning of this inquiry unit on WWII and the Holocaust.
This May consider ways to share stories, expose stereotypes and myths about Jewish and Asian Americans and celebrate their rich culture and diversity.
Be sure to share in the comments ways that you are helping to celebrate Jewish Pacific Heritage Month in your classroom.