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Night Pre-Reading Activities

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Before teaching Elie Wiesel's book 'Night,' check out the pre-reading activities in this lesson. By accessing prior knowledge, building background context, and helping students make personal connections, you will set your class up for success.

Pre-Reading Strategies

Good pre-reading strategies purposefully help students emulate the strong habits of skilled readers. Those readers make personal connections to what they are reading. They think about what they already know about a subject. They make predictions and evaluate those predictions. The activities in this lesson will enable readers, no matter what their level of reading skill, to approach Night like an expert reader would.

Building Background

Most students have at least some familiarity with the Holocaust, but there may be some misconceptions and misinformation around the time period of World War II. One way to build background knowledge is through the use of expert folders.

To use expert folders start by collecting articles and reference materials related to the Holocaust. Make copies of these and feel free to cut out any material that is not fully relevant. Put all the texts inside a folder, or go digital by saving everything to a shared online folder. Audio or video information may also be used, such as interviews with Holocaust survivors. Include links to these resources in the folder or use printed QR codes to direct students to the source material.

Begin the activity by giving groups of four to five students an expert folder and a sheet of chart paper. Students will divide the texts, and as they read them they will note information they feel is important on the chart paper. Direct students to draw a frame around the border to create a space for writing questions they want to answer. Every student will take notes on parts of the folder, rather than each student having to read all of the items. After they have finished, give the groups time to explain their notes to each other. Then the groups should also share their findings with the rest of the class. Another option when setting up this activity is to divide the background material further by giving each group a different theme, such as prison camps or conditions in forced-labor factories.

Making Literary Connections

If the students do not have Holocaust literature in their backgrounds, introduce them to enough to enable them to make connections to Night as they read. An easy way to do this is with poetry. Choose a few representative pieces from the many published examples and lead the class in a close reading of these. Children's poems that were written in the prison camps could also be used. These powerful written expressions from children make this terrible time in history real to students today and give them the literary connections to better understand Night.

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