Standard Lesson

Using Technology to Analyze and Illustrate Symbolism in Night

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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What images symbolize hatred, peace, freedom, or confinement? What feelings do these images evoke in the viewer? What power do images have? These and many other questions provide the framework for students to use technology to explore symbolism in Elie Wiesel's Night. Students begin with a discussion of everyday symbols, such as street signs and hand gestures, to help them come up with their own definition for symbolism. Students then choose and analyze passage from Night that uses darkness as a symbol, and then brainstorm how they might reinterpret their selected passage as an image. After learning about symbolism and discussing its use in the book, students create visual representations using an interactive tool. Students then express their response to the symbolism in the book by creating a photomontage using images from multiple websites about the Holocaust, text from survivor stories, articles about hate crimes, and Night.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • The boundaries of literacy are expanding to include skills in using software of various types; critical thinking about video, still images, audio, and text; as well as information gathering, retrieval, and its effective use in presentations.

  • Technology offers teachers a way to engage students in authentic tasks involving meaningful communication through project-based learning. In a multimedia context, students can access and manipulate actual documents and data and can collaborate and communicate with peers and experts.

  • Adolescents perceive a gap between the literacy they use daily and the literacy they are taught at school. For students to truly value learning and to see teachers as relevant in their lives, teachers must become knowledgeable about the uses of technology for teaching.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Materials and Technology

  • Night by Elie Wiesel (Bantam, 1982)
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Microsoft Paint software
  • Blank CDs or disks
  • Sticky notes
  • Photo-editing software (optional)
  • Data projector





1. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Night by Elie Wiesel; students should read the book before you start the lesson. You will also want to provide students with some background on the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has an online workshop for teachers and a resource book that you might find useful. You may also want to teach the lesson Fighting Injustice by Studying Lessons of the Past before beginning this lesson.

2. You will also want to familiarize yourself with contemporary examples of ethnic cleansing, hate crimes, and genocide, and have definitions of these terms ready to share with your students. and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are good resources for this information. Choose articles about recent hate crimes and print them off for students to review in groups of three or four (see Session 3, Step 5).

3. Choose a passage from Night where Wiesel uses darkness as a symbol for something else. You will share this passage with students (see Session 2, Step 1). Some examples include:

  • Page 32: "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed."

  • Pages 34 and 35: "So much had happened within such a few hours that I had lost all sense of time. When had we left our houses? And the ghetto? And the train? Was it only a week? One night — one single night?"

  • Page 63: "Night was falling. Others prisoners continued to crowd in, from every block, able suddenly to conquer time and space and submit both to their will."
In addition, the title itself is symbolic of the hatred and inhumanity of the Nazis and the horrific experiences they caused the victims of the Holocaust.

4. Teach students the procedures for Mix-Pair-Chat and Numbered Heads Together as follows:



Students mix about the classroom as they think about the topic.

b. Call time or use a quiet signal after about 30 seconds to a minute.

c. Students pair with the closest partner and discuss the topic until you tell them to resume mixing.

Numbered Heads Together

a. Have students count off from one to five.

b. Ask a question or introduce a topic and give "think time."

c. Have students write a response individually.

d. Direct students to put their heads together with the group sharing their number and discuss a group response.

e. Call a number. Students with that number stand and share the group response.

5. Make sure your students have permission to use the Internet following your school's policy. If you do not have computers with Internet access available for student use in your classroom, reserve four 50-minute sessions in your school computer lab (see Sessions 2, 4, 5, and 6). Arrange to use a computer with Internet access and an LCD screen in your classroom or computer lab for Sessions 5 and 6 as well. If you do not have access to an LCD, you may choose to have students follow as you work on a computer with a large screen or to guide them as they use individual computers in the lab.

6. Learn about the history of photomontages at Cut and Paste: A History of Photomontage. To learn about making photomontages, go to the Imaging section of Nortel LearniT and watch all of the videos from the Introduction through the Publishing area. Decide which videos your students will need to watch to edit their photos and create their photomontages—their expertise will help you determine what they need to see. Bookmark your selected videos for use during Sessions 5 and 6.

7. Familiarize yourself with the software you will use for this project. The most basic way to create the photomontages will be to use the Microsoft Paint software that came installed on the computers you will be using. (This can be accessed through the Accessories folder in the Start menu.) You may also choose to use photo-editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Roxio Photosuite or Irfanview. Nortel LearniT has a Collage Project video for both Photoshop and Irfanview under the Working with Digital Images heading on the Imaging Tutorials page.

8. You will also want to provide your students with usage and citation guidelines. Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for School Projects lists what students may use and how when creating multimedia projects.

9. Familiarize yourself with the Literary Graffiti tool. To use it, you may need to download the Shockwave player.

10. Visit and bookmark the other websites you will use for this lesson:

11. Obtain pictures of road signs that contain images but no text (see Session 1, Step 1).



Student Objectives

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

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).

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.



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.

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 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.

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.

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."



Student Assessment / Reflections

  • 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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