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Lesson Plan

Using Technology to Analyze and Illustrate Symbolism in Night

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Using Technology to Analyze and Illustrate Symbolism in Night

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Catherine Thomason

Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Sessions 5 and 6

Session 7


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Gain knowledge by learning about symbolism and about how to use new technologies

  • Apply that knowledge by analyzing symbols in Night, explaining how they are used to achieve the author's purpose, and using a variety of websites and software

  • Synthesize what they have learned by illustrating the symbols in the text; finding photos and text to represent the symbols; creating a photomontage; and writing a project report

  • Explore connections between the symbols, contemporaneous texts, and current events through classroom activities and discussions

  • Practice oral skills by participating actively in whole-class and small-group discussions and by presenting their work to the class

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Session 1

1. To activate prior knowledge, hold up pictures of signs that use a symbolic image to convey meaning, for example a walk sign that has a walking figure on it or a school crossing sign. You can also demonstrate some common hand signals, for example, a wave, the sign for OK, or the timeout gesture. Ask students what each means. How do they know without an explanation or words?

2. Introduce the term symbol. Ask students what it means, working toward the following definition: A word, phrase, character, or object that represents or stands for something other than its literal meaning.

3. Talk about the use of symbols in literature. You want to make sure that students understand that symbols are used in everyday life as well as by artists and writers. Discuss the difference between concrete and abstract things. Name some things you can touch, like a car, clothes, and a bicycle. Next name some abstract ideas or concepts, such as freedom, hope, and jealousy. Explain that symbols allow writers to put abstract ideas into concrete form in literature. For example, an eagle is an actual bird, but in the United States it also represents the idea of freedom. That's why eagles are printed on U.S. money, to stand for the freedom of democracy. A wedding ring is literally a circle of gold, but it symbolizes the union of two people in marriage. Married people wear their rings as representations of their love and loyalty.

4. Use Mix-Pair-Chat to let students rehearse the new concept. Each student will think of a symbol, mingle around the room, stop, pair, and chat about the examples they generated.

5. Discuss the use of symbolism in Night. What symbols do they think Wiesel uses? List students' responses on the board or a piece of chart paper.

6. If students have not listed darkness or a synonym, add this word to the list. Explain that this is a major symbol in the text and that it represents a number of important issues. Ask students to identify places in the narrative where darkness is important.

7. Using the Numbered Heads Together strategy, have students rehearse darkness as the major symbol in the book by thinking about what darkness might represent. Examples are numerous, including death, inhumanity, violence, loss of faith, shame, isolation, loss of innocence, hopelessness, evil, confusion, hatred, physical pain, sorrow, and fear.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 2): Students should choose a passage from Night that they think makes effective use of darkness as a symbol. Tell students they can use any text from the book with the exception of the passage you have chosen as an example (see Preparation, Step 3).

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Session 2

1. Read the passage from Night that you have selected as an example of Wiesel's use of darkness as a symbol, and ask students to think about the use of symbolism and how they might represent what he is saying using a picture. Questions for discussion include:

  • What kinds of images does the passage bring into their minds? What colors?

  • How is this passage important to the overall story?

  • How is Wiesel using darkness as a symbol in this passage? How would they represent that symbol in an image?
2. Show students how to use the Literary Graffiti tool. They should use it to quote from the passage they have chosen for homework, draw a picture, and explain both how the picture represents the symbolism in the passage and what the passage's significance is to the overall story. Questions for them to consider while working include:

  • What feelings do the victims experience at the hands of the Nazis?

  • What is the result of the Nazi's hatred and violence?

  • What changes occur in the minds, hearts, and actions of the Jewish prisoners? How are these related?

  • How does the Holocaust relate to human experience in general and to history? Is it an isolated event? Have there been events like this one? Has genocide occurred before or since the Holocaust? Is it possible such a thing could happen again?
3. Circulate while students are working to answer questions and provide support as necessary. Students should print their graffiti when they finish.



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Session 3

1. Hang the Literary Graffiti drawings around the room.

2. Facilitate a whole-class discussion of the various representations of the symbol of darkness in the drawings. The following questions will help clarify responses:

  • What does the drawing mean to you?

  • Why did you choose to illustrate the symbol as you did?

  • How does your drawing relate to the central theme of the book?
3. Discuss Wiesel's purpose in writing Night. Why do they think he wrote this book? How does he use darkness as a symbol to achieve this end? The purpose should be clarified as follows: to bear witness and inform, to prevent future genocide/hate crimes, and to unburden the author's feelings of guilt and shame for having survived. It may be helpful to read from the preface of the book, which outlines some of this information.

4. At this point, to help students understand the connection between Wiesel's purpose for writing about his experiences and the hate crimes and acts of genocide witnessed today, introduce the terms hate crime, genocide, and ethnic cleansing and give recent examples (see Preparation, Step 2). You may choose to use the following definitions:

  • A hate crime is a crime committed against another person, with the specific intent to cause harm to that person due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or culture.

  • Genocide is the act of killing people because they belong to a group of a particular color, race, religion, or ethnic origin with the intention of destroying all or part of that group.

  • Ethnic cleansing is the systematic elimination of an ethnic group or groups from a region or society by deportation, forced emigration, or genocide.
5. Place students in groups of three or four. Give each group a recent article about a hate crime (see Preparation, Step 2). Instruct them to read and discuss the article. They should list the similarities between the hate crime described and the events in the book and the effects on the victims. Other questions include:

  • How would you feel in the same situation?

  • What is your responsibility when faced with issues of prejudice, intolerance, or hate?

  • What is society's responsibility?
6. End this session by asking each group to share their findings with the class.

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Session 4

1. Introduce the term photomontage to students. Ask if any of them know what it means. Talk a little bit about the history of photomontages, using the information you have prepared (see Preparation, Step 6).

2. Explain to students that they will be combining what they have learned about symbolism in Night, what they know about the Holocaust, and what they have explored about hate crimes into a photomontage. Their goal is to choose appropriate pictures and text that affect them and combine them in a way that expresses a message about hate crimes and intolerance or that expresses a response to the book. An effective and powerful photomontage is a combination of elements (text and images) that forms a unified whole.

3. Distribute the Photomontage Project Assignment Sheet and Photomontage Project Assessment Rubric and review both with students. Explain that they will be assessed on their understanding of symbolism, their ability to choose appropriate images and text for use in a photomontage, their ability to follow direction and create a photomontage using the software you have chosen, an essay in which they describe the choices they made in their montage, and a presentation of the montage to the class. Visit Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for School Projects and talk about citing the sources students will use for their project.

4. Give students time to answer the guiding questions portion of the assignment sheet.

5. Give students CDs or disks and have them visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, On Every Day Since – List of Illustrations, and Art in Response to the Holocaust to find images for their photomontages. (The museum site is full of images, but two of the best places to look are the Online Exhibitions section and the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

6. Students should save their images to a CD or disk. To do this, they right-click the image, click Save As, name the image, and save it to the disk drive.

7. Once students have selected their images, they should collect text to use as well. Students can visit the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, the Personal Histories section of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Tolerance.org to find text; they should also use relevant text from Night. Students should highlight the text, click the Edit menu, click Copy, then paste the text into a word-processing document. They can then save the document to their individual disks.

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Sessions 5 and 6

1. Show students the Nortel LearniT: Imaging video(s) you have chosen for them (see Preparation, Step 6) to guide them through the process of modifying their images. (Note: Save the "Digital Imaging: Creating a Collage" video until after students have edited their images.)

In addition to the videos, you may choose to demonstrate (using a projector if you have one) how students can use the photo-editing software they will be working with to modify their images.

2. Students should crop, rotate, and manipulate their images with your help before saving them for the montage. They may want to watch some of the videos again while they work to remind them of what to do. In addition, by clicking on the "Step-by-Step" icon next to each video link, they can view and print step-by-step instructions for whatever the video is teaching.

3. Show students the "Digital Imaging: Creating a Collage" video. You may also choose to demonstrate (using a projector if you have one) how students can use the software they will be using to create their montages.

4. Circulate while students are creating their montages, offering help and advice. When students are finished, they should print their montages.

Homework (due by Session 7): Students should write their process reports and prepare to present their montages to the class. At the end of Session 7, they should turn in their Photomontage Project Assignment Sheet, their project report, and their montage.

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Session 7

Students present their photomontages to the class. They should list the separate elements they used for the montage (pictures, images, text, tinting, sizing—anything that plays a part in the overall meaning). Next, they should give several reasons that explain why they made these choices. In addition, they can explain the placement of images, and the digital manipulations of images. For example, "I chose a picture of a gag because society does not want to talk about hate crimes." or "I chose a skull and resized and enlarged it to hold all the faces of victims within it to show that the result of hatred is death."

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  • Assess the Literary Graffiti drawings. These are successful if the student has chosen an appropriate event from the book, located a supporting quote, and clearly explained how it relates to the various symbolic meanings of darkness.

  • Informally assess students' participation in the discussion activities during Sessions 1 and 2. In addition to making sure that all students are participating, you want to check that students understand what symbolism is, successfully explore symbolism in Night, and are able to come up with their own examples.

  • Use the Photomontage Project Assessment Rubric to assess students' work on the photomontages, as well as their reports and presentations.

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