What Should Our Response Have Been: WWII Seminar

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SWBAT demonstrate their ability to come to a discussion prepared to draw on text to support analysis of ideas by participating in a seminar on WWII.

Big Idea

As a culmination of study of WWII and the Holocaust, students will engage in a seminar style discussion about the purpose for learning about this time period/event.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time. I will offer to hand out our next novel, To Live, during this time. If there is any time remaining, I will read with the students. 

Seminar Set-Up and Requirement Review

5 minutes

For the past week, students have been preparing for this seminar by reviewing their reading of Night and researching.

Before I let students know which groups they will be in for today's seminar, I will remind them of our essential questions, which are: 

  • What responsibility do we have to other human beings?
  • What lessons are we meant to learn from studying WWII and The Holocaust?
  • What are modern attitudes towards both of these subjects? 

I will then remind them what will earn them points while they are speaking and while they are listening, which is as follows: 

  • Speakers need to add to the conversation with quotes, meaningful questions, commentary on other speakers ideas and/or new ideas based on their research or reading (SL.9-10.4). They may also earn points if they help others to speak or if they help to moderate the discussion and keep their peers on track (SL.9-10.1c and SL.9-10.1d). I will be keeping track of these behaviors and scoring the discussion portion of the seminar
  • Listeners will earn points by taking notes while listening. They will also earn points if they are actively engaged in the seminar, which means that they are not multi-tasking or working on other things. My teaching partner will keep track of these behaviors and will score the listening portion of the seminar. 

Once we've gone over all the requirements, I will project their groups on the boards. These groups represent a very intentional strategy. Generally, I try to balance my groups so that all students can be successful. I'm pretty happy with the groups I have for today. Hopefully they will work as well as I want them to. 

Fishbowl Seminar (3 rounds)

60 minutes

The seminar itself will be organized in a fishbowl style, which means that roughly 20 students will be speaking at a time while the other 40 students will be listening and taking notes to either prepare for their time in the inner circle or to add to their seminar prep notes, which I will be collecting for points at the end of class.

Each speaking group will get 20 minutes of seminar time. All three groups will be responsible for answering the same questions. 

Students should be prepared for the seminar discussion (SL.9-10.1a) with all of the following materials, so they can use text to support their analysis (W.9-10.9): 

The room set-up is always a little tricky, especially because my classroom has a giant pillar right in the middle of it. I will ask students to create the inner circle of 18 desks and then have the listeners pull their desks up as close as they can get. Once everyone is in position, we will begin the three rounds of seminaring. 

Seminar Reflection

20 minutes

After each group has had their 20 minutes of discussion time, we will have the students help us put the room back together before we do the final reflection/discussion. 

The final reflection/discussion is meant to bridge today's seminar with our final project/unit of the year. To do this, my teaching partner and I will lead the students through an additional whole class discussion using the essential questions from our next unit as a final reflection for the seminar (SL.9-10.1), which are:

  • What are the post independence challenges?
  • How do post war colonial nations deal with revolution?
  • How do newly independent nations deal with changing political, social and cultural conditions?
  • How do shifts in political ideology/leadership impact the “common man”?

Obviously, the students will not have the information needed to answer all of these questions, but our final unit is going to look at how the modern world took shape post WWII. We will be studying Asia, the Middle East and Africa and asking students to pay specific attention to how countries that were once colonized dealt with newly found independence. We will also ask students to think about our seminar question about the appropriate way for humans to treat each other as they consider what could or should have happened. 

By bringing these questions in today, we are hoping to have the students hypothesize about what did happen while also planting the seeds of thinking about what should have happened so that they begin to create a conceptual folder for this final unit of study.

Wrap Up and Next Steps

15 minutes

Depending on how long the students take to reflect/hypothesize in our whole class discussion, we will use a little of our wrap up time to show John Green's video on post WWII decolonization. This is a good introduction to the beginning of our unit tomorrow and will be a good way to decompress after our discussion.