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Lesson Plan

Life is Beautiful: Teaching the Holocaust through Film with Complementary Texts

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Life is Beautiful: Teaching the Holocaust through Film with Complementary Texts

Grades 10 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Patrick Striegel

Patrick Striegel

Tolono, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • analyze the film in terms of historical connections and setting.
  • make connections between the film and a print source.
  • form and deliver their opinion about the techniques the film use in portraying the Holocaust.
  • make predictions about film events before and during viewing.
  • respond to questions and discussion with relevant and focused comments.
  • retell information from a film.

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Session One

  1. Before viewing the film; be sure to review your behavior expectations while watching the film.
  2. Provide the students with an oral overview or summary of the film.  The time period, events, characters, and context. For more information about these topics visit the Internet Movie Database website.
  3. Hand out and explain the Life is Beautiful Discussion Questions.
  4. Begin showing the film from the beginning to 0:35:32.
  5. Once the film portion is complete allow the class the remainder of the class period to work on the discussion questions.  Have the students work individually or in groups.
  6. As students are working, move around the room answering questions.
  7. Before students exit the class, have them fill out an Exit Slip and turn them in.  Have the students answer “Predict what we will learn next in this unit and why.”

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Session Two

  1. Choose 4 to 6 Exit Slips from Session One to discuss with the class.  Try to choose a variety of responses.  If desired, have the class vote on which prediction seems most probable.
  2. Continue watching the film from 0:35:32 to 1:00:54, which is about 25 minutes.
  3. Once today’s film portion is complete allow the class the remainder of the class period to work on the discussion questions. Have the students work individually or in groups writing their answers in a notebook.
  4. As students are working, circulate around the room answering questions.

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Session Three

  1. To begin Session Three facilitate a discussion based on questions 1 through 7 of the Life is Beautiful Discussion Questions.  Allow the students to make corrections to their answers and add additional notes.
  2. Before continuing on with the film, ask the students if they need any clarification with the characters, plot, or setting.
  3. During the third session show the film from 1:00:54 to 1:26:40, about 26 minutes.
  4. When the film is completed have the class answer questions 8 through 10 from the Life is Beautiful Discussion Questions as a group.  As the students are answering the questions display their responses for the entire class to see.  Have the class come to a consensus on the best answers and write them in their notebooks.

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Session Four

  1. Continue watching the film from 1:26:40 to the end, about 27 minutes.
  2. Once this session’s film portion is complete allow the class the remainder of the class period to work on the discussion questions. Have the students work individually or in groups.
  3. As students are working, walk around the room answering questions.
  4. Before students exit the class, have them fill out an Exit Slip and turn them in.  Have the students answer the prompt “I would like to learn about...”.

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Session Five

  1. Begin the final session by talking with the students about their reactions, thoughts, and feelings about the film. Some suggested questions are listed below:
    • What did you think about the film?
    • Which character did you like the most?  Why?
    • What did you not like about the film?
    • Was the mood of the film appropriate for the topic?
    • Use one word to describe the film.
    • Based on the Holocaust literature we have read (The Diary of Anne Frank, Night or from the Suggested Holocaust Literature), what connections can be made between the film and our reading?  What events, scenes, or situations are similar or different?
    • Based on the Holocaust literature we have read, what is similar or different about the mood or tone of the pieces?
  2. Facilitate a class discussion using the Life is Beautiful Discussion Questions.
  3. Using the Letter Generator, explain to students that they will be writing a letter to the director of the film.  In this letter the students should discuss how this film trivializes the atrocities of the Holocaust, or they can write a letter defending its sometimes humorous portrayal.
  4. Distribute and explain the Letter to the Director Rubric and allow time for students' questions.
  5. Allow time for students to work on their letters using the interactive.  Once finished have the students share their letters to the class or post them on a bulletin board or display area.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Choose a scene from this film and a similar scene from Schindler’s List or another Holocaust film.  What is similar and different between them?  Why is this?  What is different about the purposes of the two films?  Other popular Holocaust films include The Pianist, Fateless, Playing for Time, The Greyzone, and The Counterfeiters.
  • Write a letter from an adult Joshua’s point of view to his late father thanking him for what he did.
  • Have a discussion with the students about how this film fits into the fable genre.  What are the magical moments, and what are the realistic moments?  What lesson or moral does it teach us?
  • Have the students create a movie poster for a sequel or prequel to the film.
  • Write short diary entries from the perspective of the father, mother, or son.
  • Write an acceptance speech from the perspective of Roberto Benigni (the writer, director and star of the film) after winning the Oscar for best actor in a leading role.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Look for details that indicate comprehension of the film in students’ written response (Film Questions) as well as in classroom discussion (Session Five). Additionally, look for evidence of connections being made between the film  and the original reading (Session Five)
  • Use the Letter to the Director Rubric to assess students’ ability to form and support their opinions about the film.
  • Check students'  Exit Slips following Sessions One and Four for comprehension of the film.

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