The Holocaust: Voices of Upstanders | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 3, students read informational accounts of upstanders during the Holocaust in order to learn more about how and why many people took action against Hitler and the Nazis during the Holocaust. Students write reflections about how these individuals took action and what makes them upstanders. Students also participate in mini lessons on and practice with how to use punctuation such as commas, ellipses, and dashes. This work prepares students for their mid-unit assessment, in which they will be presented with a reflection paragraph and will answer selected and constructed response questions about the use of punctuation and verb voice and mood.

In the second half of Unit 3, students will create a graphic panel to present one of the summaries they wrote and will observe one another's work in order to scaffold towards their performance task. Students will discuss common traits of upstanders that they saw across the texts they read and will analyze a model narrative of a fictional interview with an imaginary upstander in order to be able to write their own. Students will plan a narrative of their own by creating a profile of a fictional upstander, creating interview questions and answers, and planning an "explode the moment" with sensory details and figurative language to slow down the pacing of a key moment of the narrative. This will prepare students for their end of unit assessment, in which they will draft their narrative.

To prepare for their performance task, students will peer review one another's narrative and provide feedback; they will then analyze a model performance task that includes a graphic panel to visually represent elements of the narrative and a reflection on the narrative and panel. Students will then plan their own panel and reflection, draft these elements, and prepare to present. For their performance task, students will present their graphic panel to an audience and will answer questions about their work in order to share their learning and honor the memory of those who lived, died, and took action during the Holocaust.

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: Voices of Upstanders
  • Task: 
    • Edit paragraphs for punctuation and verb voice and mood.
    • Write a narrative depicting a fictional interview with an imaginary upstander during the Holocaust.
    • Create and present a graphic panel representing a scene from their narrative and answer questions about their work.
  • Targets: W.8.3, W.8.4, W.8.6, W.8.10, L.8.1, L.8.1b, L.8.1c, L.8.1d, L.8.2, L.8.2a, L.8.2b
  • Texts: "Johtje Vos, 97; Sheltered Jews in Her Home in WWII Holland, Saving 36" by Jocelyn Y. Stewart, "The Forgotten Swiss Diplomat Who Rescued Thousands from Holocaust" by BBC News 4, "Marek Edelman Obituary" by Lawrence Joffe, "1994, Miep Gies" by the Wallenberg Committee


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 continue to focus on working to become ethical people as they build empathy and compassion for the individuals and groups who took action and stood up for what was right during the Holocaust. These are incredibly emotional texts that may evoke strong responses, and students will need to practice respect for the emotions of both others and themselves. Students will 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 will practice respect and empathy when they discuss this complex topic with their peers. Students will also practice working to become effective learners as they persevere through the planning and drafting of their narratives, graphic panels, and reflections and collaborate to get and give feedback. Students will work to contribute to a better world by sharing their work with an audience as they reflect upon and remember the Holocaust.


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 vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of the nonfiction texts about upstanders, 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:

  • Criteria for an Effective Text Reflection anchor chart
  • Punctuation anchor chart

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