ALEX Lesson Plan


The Holocaust: How Could This Happen?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Rhonda Courson
System: Sylacauga City
School: Nichols-Lawson Middle School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 33066


The Holocaust: How Could This Happen?


This lesson introduces students to the discrimination, exploitation, isolation, and execution of the Jews during the Holocaust. 

This is a College- and Career-Ready Standards showcase lesson plan.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
ELA2015 (8)
19. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the Grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently. [RI.8.10]
ELA2015 (8)
39. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on Grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. [L.8.4]
a. Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase. [L.8.4a]
b. Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., precede, recede, secede). [L.8.4b]
c. Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech. [L.8.4c]
d. Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary). [L.8.4d]

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will apply their understanding of terms used to describe the Holocaust to their own lives as middle schoolers.  

Students will analyze the difference in similar terms used to describe the steps of the Holocaust.

Students will examine and categorize the steps Hitler used to accomplish the annihilation of the Jews. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Handout: "The Holocaust: How Could This Happen?"

Bellringer: In paper form or to be shown via a projector

A copy of the "Definitions" page

Technology Resources Needed:

A teacher computer

A projector

Access to the Internet

A document camera and/or an interactive whiteboard


The teacher needs to:

  • photocopy enough copies of the handout titled "The Holocaust: How Could This Happen?" for every student to have one
  • either photocopy the bellringer (enough for two people to share one copy) or print one copy to show via the document camera
  • familiarize yourself with the definitions
  • preview the video to make sure the link is working correctly
  • preview the PowerPoint 


No needed background knowledge; this is the introductory lesson.


This lesson is designed to introduce The Holocaust to students before reading The Diary of Anne Frank.

Before: The teacher will direct students to work in pairs in order to complete the Bellringer (attached). This is designed to serve as a this-is-what-I-already-know exercise. The teacher should not teach the terms before the students attempt the exercise. Allow students to discuss aloud as they try to decide which word matches which example. The teacher should walk around the room and listen to the conversations, but not acknowledge answers as being correct or incorrect. After a sufficient amount of time has passed, the teacher should use the document camera or an interactive whiteboard to go over the answers to each example with the students (answers attached). At the same time, the teacher will go over the correct definitions of the terms with the students (definitions attached). This will serve as the first "direct teaching" part of the lesson. 

During: The teacher will show the following PowerPoint from AuthorStream that introduces Anne Frank and the Holocaust to the students.

While viewing the PowerPoint, the teacher should stop after each section and allow students to reflect with their neighbors about what they are learning. If the teacher wanted to, she could have the students do an index card-sized brief connection or reflection of what they've learned. I chose to just have them talk since they wrote for the Bellringer and will for the "After" section as well.  

After going over the PowerPoint, the teacher can click on the following links or go directly to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the Internet, where he/she will find the following information.

1.  An animated map of World War II and the Holocaust. Show the students this video and allow time for student discussion. Clarify any questions they may have about what they learned.

2. Timeline of Horror  - The teacher can choose any of the links on this page to show the students, depending on how indepth the teacher wants to take the lesson. I show "Nazi Propaganda and Censorship," "Life in the Ghettos," and "Auschwitz." After showing each part, allow for class discussion and check for understanding. 

After: Distribute the handout entitled "The Holocaust: How Could This Happen?" (see attachment). Students should fill out this handout individually as a means of refining their own understanding of today's lesson. 

After an appropriate period of time, the teacher could allow the students to compare answers. Then, he/she would go over the answers with the class (see attachment). However, there are many correct answers to these questions, not just the ones listed.

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Assessment Strategies

All assessments are formative:

Before: Bellringer

During: Discussion

After: Handout "Holocaust: How Could This Happen?"


This lesson is easily adaptable and able to provide enrichment information to students who are already familiar with these terms and/or who already know a great deal about the Holocaust. The teacher could send the students to the Holocaust Memorial Museum website where they would certainly learn new information. The teacher might require the students to make a PowerPoint or write a summary of what they've learned. 


The two written formative assessments are the only parts that might cause problems for students who struggle in school. The Bellringer is completed as pair work and then discussed with the whole class. So, the student should benefit from this scaffolding.

The final exercise is designed to be completed individually, but could easily be completed as a group activity before answers are discussed as a whole group. Again, this scaffolding should provide enough help for these students. 

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.