Elie Wiesel's Night Pre-Reading Activities

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Elie Wiesel's Night can be a challenging book to read. However, with these pre-reading activities, you can get your class prepared to learn and think critically about the difficult topics addressed in this novel.

What Is Night?

Night is a novel written by Elie Wiesel in 1960. It follows the story of Wiesel and his father as they try to survive in two concentration camps, first Auschwitz and then Buchenwald. It is a challenging book to read, but can be a good resource to use to teach young students about the Holocaust. Since the main character of the story is young, your students will be able to relate to the story.

The cover of Night by Elie Wiesel

However, you need to prepare your students before they begin reading this novel. A few pre-reading activities will give your students the background knowledge necessary to understand the context of the novel and be ready to think critically and understand a challenging story. This lesson will detail several examples of these activities that you can use in your classroom.

KWL Charts

A KWL chart is a widely used tool in the classroom. KWL, which stands for 'know, want to know, and learned,' is a method of gathering information about student understanding before teaching them about a new topic. Since Night takes place during a widely studied and well-known period of history, it will be useful to know what students have already learned and what they want to learn more about.

An example of a KWL chart.

To engage students in this activity, first tell them that they are going to start reading a book that takes place during the Holocaust. You can have a short discussion of the Holocaust or go right into completing the chart. Students should complete the first two columns of the chart - 'know and want to know' - with information they already learned about the Holocaust and what kinds of things they'd like to learn more about.

Then, as you do more activities and begin reading the book, students can fill in the third column - 'what I learned' - with new pieces of information they gained about this time period. This activity serves as both a great introduction to the book and a way to get students engaged and focused on learning about the author's experiences.

Children of the Holocaust

This next activity is not so much a single activity as a collection of things you can do to engage your students. Since Night follows the story of a child during the Holocaust, a good pre-reading activity would be to expose your students to other stories of children in the Holocaust. There are a variety of texts and videos you can find online to help introduce your students to these stories.

You may also want to make this a short-term project in which students have to research stories of children in the Holocaust and present the information to the class. Students should be encouraged to check in their school library, community library, and online for sources of this information so they can share the stories with the rest of the class. Having this important context for the novel will help students better understand some of the more challenging sections of Night.

Follow up these videos, stories, and presentations with discussions about the Holocaust and World War II. Night is a novel that can only appreciated once the context of the time period is understood. Your students need to have plenty of background information to call on when working through the novel.

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