These videos take you into classrooms in several communities where social studies and language arts teachers are examining questions such as these:
WHY, when faced with the suffering of others, do some people choose to help, while others simply look on?
HOW do I get students to think carefully about their ethical responsibilities to others in the world?
HOW can I teach a piece of literary writing so that it helps students connect with history?
HOW might I use music to deepen my students’ understanding of history?
“This story changed my life. The power of the book is so strong.
This story makes me see that whatever happens, there’s still hope.” Joshua Wily, Student in Hawaii
Classroom Video 1: Memphis, TN (Middle School)
Introducing the “Universe of Obligation”
The Children of Willesden Lane asks students to confront an enduring human question: What prompts some people to help others in a time of crisis, while other people turn away? Sheila Huntley prepares her sixth-grade social studies students to read The Children of Willesden Lane. Prior to this session Sheila has given students background on the Holocaust, the Jewish faith, and race, prejudice, and discrimination.
Classroom Video 2: Queens, NY (High School)
Introducing the “Universe of Obligation”
New York City teacher Martina Grant prepares her tenth-grade students to read The Children of Willesden Lane. The families of these students come from dozens of countries and, like Lisa, have journeyed far from home.
Classroom Video 3: Memphis, TN (8th grade)
Choices That Make a Difference.
Facing History and Ourselves staff member Steve Becton joins teacher Nancy Parrish to help students understand the mounting persecution of Jews in Germany and Austria in the 1930s, and the shrinking—yet still vitally important—choices they had to make.
Classroom Video 4:Memphis, TN (6th grade)
A First Impression of Judaism
The Children of Willesden Lane opens a window onto Jewish religion, culture, and history, which may be unfamiliar to students. Teacher Sheila Huntley invites Rabbi Meir Feldman to share some background on Judaism with her sixth-grade students before they begin reading The Children of Willesden Lane. Prior to this session students had learned about the Holocaust and its roots, but few had ever met a Jewish person.
Classroom Video 6: Memphis, TN (8th grade)
Upstanders and Bystanders
Why do some people, and some nations, choose to help victims of persecution, while others simply look on? The Children of Willesden Lane contains examples of both “upstanders”—those who choose to help, often at risk to themselves—and “bystanders”—those who choose not to get involved. Teachers can use these concepts to help students think carefully about both the choices made in history and their own choices today. Nancy Parrish explores the concepts of upstanders and bystanders with her eighth-grade history students. The class has studied American history, including slavery and the Great Depression, as well as antisemitism and other factors that led to World War II.
Classroom Video 7: Scranton, PA (Grades 10-12)
Gaining Insight Through Poetry
How can teachers help students reflect thoughtfully about people who are marked as different by virtue of race, sex, nationality, culture, language, appearance, or sexual orientation? This fundamental challenge can emerge as a central theme in teaching The Children of Willesden Lane. High school English teacher Chris Mazzino uses poetry to connect The Children of Willesden Lane to themes he is exploring in his creative writing elective: the human condition, and what it feels like to be an outsider—or “the Other”.
Classroom Video 8: Haydenville, MA (grade 7-8)
A Structured Conversation
The Children of Willesden Lane calls on readers to understand more than Lisa’s journey from Vienna to London—it asks them to apply this understanding to becoming a citizen of the world. To do this, students need to hear one another's perspectives on the story, not just the perspective of the teacher. Setting up structured conversations about readings from the book can help. Structured conversations encourage students to compare their own responses with those of others, to anchor what they say in the details of the text, and to forge connections to larger frames of meaning. In the video, Jane Percival leads her seventh- and eighth-grade students through her own adaptation of the “Grand Conversation” outlined on Page 40 of the Teacher’s Resource. Students have been exploring the yearlong theme “What makes a community?” and have just finished reading Chapters 20–24 in The Children of Willesden Lane.
Classroom Video 9: Scranton, PA (grades 10-12)
A Concluding Discussion
How do teachers and students wrap up the study of a book through meaningful conversation? Asking students to articulate how reading The Children of Willesden Lane has influenced them takes a willingness to tackle issues that could be difficult or emotional. It also requires an understanding that students will likely disagree with one another’s opinions, and the belief that they will learn from these differences. In the video, English teacher Chris Mazzino facilitates an open-forum discussion with a group of high school students. Most of them are from his Creative Writing class; several others who have also read The Children of Willesden Lane join them.