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Lesson Plan: The Art of the Allegory
What is a Allegory?
An allegory is a story in which people, things and happenings are transformed into the symbolic. It is a means of teaching certain lessons, like tragic, historical, or moral ones, to our younger student body.
This genre is an important one because certain horrific events in history need to be simplified into servings that are understandable to children without the fear of damaging "their" tender psyches.
During WWII, in Europe, there were many people who looked away when terrible things happened. The Nazis were responsible for killing millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust (Bunting, 1980).
A great poem scripted by Pastor Martin Neimoller aptly summarizes the profiling and taking of some of the groups targeted by the Nazis.
First they came for the socialists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there wasn't anyone left to speak out for me.
Why Should this be Taught?
How we domesticate our young constituents is important. Our young will enter society one day and they need the tools, a moral compass if you will, in order to navigate the planet. As a society, we want to proliferate positive forces that will impact the humanitarian chip in our younger generations, hopefully creating a legacy that will grant a return on this investment.
As educators, we accomplish this goal by offering students the best literature choices possible. Books are a great way to help children understand complex issues. Books are great equalizers as well. Children get to see cultures represented, ideas brought to light, concepts explained, eras played out and so much more--all embodied in a tale that they can identify with.
The Holocaust, like many important historical genocides and tragedies (slavery, Rwanda, etc.) has a place in literature and can be taught through the genre of the allegory. Our job as educators is multifaceted because we are not only responsible for imparting academics, but we are also teachers of appropriate socialization (in theory and as a life model). Therefore, the implementation of quality children's literature in the classroom is key to the achievement and success of the whole child.
Introducing, Eve Bunting's, Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust
Eve Bunting is an Irish author who has penned over 250 books. Her subject matter is diverse across fiction, science fiction, historical fiction and non- fiction genres. The bulk of her work is in the children's and young adult category.
For this hub, Terrible Things will be reviewed and linked to a literacy strategy that will enable elementary students to understand the following concepts:
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust
Bunting is brilliant in her conceptualization of the the profiling of races and groups all seen through the eyes of the creatures in the woods. The terrible things that come to take away each and every group [creature] are depicted as gray cloud-like masses with ominous nondescript features. These frightening masses consume the sky with darkness and overtake their helpless victims, one by one while the others look away until none were left.
Children exposed to the text and pictorials are instantly taken in by this story and valuable message---"they get it." And the message clearly speaks to the importance of helping others, being a united front by not becoming a bystander. We are all in this together. Bullies only gain power if others look away.
We want children to get this message. It is critical because this is a history lesson and a moral life lesson. From an academic standpoint, students are part of a spiral curriculum and will revisit concepts as they journey through school. This story provides a sustainable foundation for the future study of the Holocaust.
As for a moral life lesson, children must play nice in the schoolhouse (microcosm) and in the world (macrocosm). We must further the discussion and lessons on interdependence in every arena.
An Important Literacy Strategy, Sketch to Stretch
Sketch to Stretch is a very effective literacy tool (Thomkins, 2009). Students listen to a story or read the story in pairs or on their own and respond to the story in a whole class grand conversation.
Themes are discussed as well as symbolism. The example used here on this hub is, Eve Bunting's, Terrible Things: An Allegory on the Holocaust.This story provides a rich exemplar for this lesson.
Students are placed into small cooperative groups and are directed to sketch drawings that reflect what the story means to them. They are to understand the following concepts:
1. Artistic ability is not important.
2. Interpretation is important.
3. Sketches should incorporate the meaning of the text according to them. There are no right or wrong answers.
Students are then asked to share their sketches with their group. Each member tries to figure out what is being conveyed in each member's picture (sketch). One member is democratically selected to share their sketch with the class.
The last step is for teachers to encourage students to add and/or revise their sketches based on what they learned as a result of this sharing. The group and whole class sharing enables the students to stretch and understand more via collaboration.