Historical Social Commentary: Creating a Conceptual Understanding of Genre

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SWBAT analyze primary source documents for rhetorical purpose and strategy by reading and discussing WWII journalistic writing.

Big Idea

To place our study of social commentary back into the historical time period we are studying, we will spend time looking at primary sources that reveal the genre's purpose.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time. I will read with the students during this time. 

Primary Source Analysis

15 minutes

To begin making the transition into our next whole class text study of Night, which we will use this short, Wednesday class period to do an integrated social commentary assignment. 

My teaching partner has been talking about Hitler's rise in power for the past few days. With that in mind, my English colleagues and I found a social commentary/primary source document written by a German author, Fritz Gerlich, who was writing critiques of Hitler's racist rhetoric in the 1930s, which we will have students analyze (RH.9-10.1). 

This short article will hopefully provide a historical reference for the purpose/intention behind the genre of social commentary. As students read, I will ask students to annotate for the author's purpose and technique. I will also project an image of the actual article complete with pictures (this page is in German. Just click on the image and you can get a full view of it). 

Once they've had a chance to read the piece, I will ask them to share their observations with the class (SL.9-10.1). Specifically, I will ask them what reading this primary source teaches them about the purpose/intention of social commentary and what particular sections of the text reveal the author's rhetorical purpose (RI.9-10.5 and RI.9-10.6). 

Wrap Up and Next Steps

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of my half of the block, I will ask students to turn in their social commentary proposals if they haven't done so already. 

Personalized Introduction to Night

30 minutes

I'm actually going to teach the 2nd half of the block today too, but it isn't going to be standards aligned at all. Sometimes you just need time to engage the students in thinking and to whet their appetite for learning. Our next unit of study will be an analysis of Night, so this is not completely out of place, but it is a little more personal than my lessons usually are. 

To do this, I am going to show students pictures from my trips to Germany and the Czech Republic, specifically of the two concentration camps I visited while I was there. I will tell them stories as we look at my pictures about what I learned from my tour guides and how it felt to be in these historical and haunting locations. Tomorrow we start Night, so I want them to hear as personal an account as I can give about what studying the Holocaust will be like. 

At the end, I've included a few pictures of my more recent trip to England as well as some fun pics from Prague and Bavaria. This is perhaps an indulgent way to spend 30 minutes of class time, but I am hoping that in doing this, our study of this incredibly heavy topic will become more personal and relevant for all of us.