The Weekly Text, April 1, 2016

Some years ago, I began working to build a unit that guided struggling learners through the process of writing a synthetic research paper. I knew it would have to be highly structured into a scaffold form, and would need to guide students through the process of postulating an argument, researching and reading, evaluating evidence, outlining, and citing sources in Modern Language Association style. Since our sophomore research paper topic at the time was the Holocaust, I designed my highly structured research paper unit around that dismal period of European history.

I’ve actually floated a book proposal to a small educational publisher for this unit; they passed, which persuaded me the unit requires more work before it’s publishable. Since then,  I’ve worked on refining this sprawling unit.

Do you know Alain Renais’ documentary on the Holocaust, Night and Fog? I first saw it as a student at Ray F. Sennett Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin, and it shocked me; indeed, it was one of those educational “before and after” (like reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown) moments for me. Early on in planning this unit, I knew this film–which packs an amazing amount of information (and a number of shocking images) into its 32 minute running time–would serve as the opening lesson.

Here then is a complete lesson to attend a viewing of Night and Fog. As always, I hope you find this useful, and I would be grateful if you would comment as to how and why you used it.

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