The Holocaust: Build Background Knowledge | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G8:M3:U1

The Holocaust: Build Background Knowledge

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In this module, students explore the topic of Voices of the Holocaust. In Lesson 1 of Unit 1, students discover this topic by examining multiple artifacts and encountering the guiding questions of the module and the culminating performance task. As the unit continues, students read an informational text providing an overview of the Holocaust to build their background knowledge on the scope and gravity of the Holocaust. They will be introduced to their anchor text, Maus I, a graphic novel and closely read the first chapter to understand how dialogue and tone reveal aspects of characters. As students continue to read the text, they will track character, plot, and emerging themes. This work prepares students for the Mid-Unit 1 Assessment.

In the second half of Unit 1, students continue to read Maus I and track plot and emerging themes. This work prepares students for the end of unit assessment. At the end of Unit 1, students write a summary of the entire anchor text, Maus I, including a statement of a major theme developed throughout the text.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. You will find the Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: The Holocaust: Build Background Knowledge
  • Task: 
    • Answer selected and constructed response questions about language, dialogue, tone, and character.
    • Write a summary of an entire text, including a theme statement.
  • Targets: RL.8.1, RL.8.2, RL.8.3, RL.8.4, RL.8.10, W.8.9a, W.8.10, L.8.1b, L.8.3a
  • Texts: Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman, "The Holocaust: An Introductory History" by the Jewish Virtual Library


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students focus on the working to become ethical people habits of character as they build empathy and compassion for the individuals and groups who experienced terrible oppression during the Holocaust. This is an incredibly emotional text that may evoke strong responses, and students will need to practice respect for the emotions of both others and themselves. Students build empathy and compassion as they show respect and care for students who may feel connected to or impacted by issues presented within the text. Students practice respect and empathy when they discuss this complex topic with their peers.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Maus I
by Art Spiegelman
one per student
ISBN: 9780394747231

Preparation and Materials

Prepare the Module Guiding Questions anchor chart and Performance Task anchor chart (see Module Overview).

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of Maus I, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Track Gist, Plot, Character, and Emerging Theme anchor chart
  • Criteria for an Effective Whole-Book Literary Summary anchor chart

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