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Teaching the Holocaust to Year 7?


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#1 Lizzie C

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 03:48 PM

My HoD is proposing that we teach the Holocaust in year 7. We still have a 3 year KS3, and currently teach it to year 9 where the theme for the year is currently Conflict and Co-operation. HoD would like to change theme to Revolutions in Y9, and Y8 is currently Empires and Society, so he holds that the Holocaust now fits best with the Y7 theme which is 'People, Power and its abuse', but effectively looks at the 'Big Story' of Democracy from Ancient Greece to Women's Suffrage. I feel that to teach it in year 7 would be completely unsuitable but I would be very interested to hear people's reactions.

Does anyone do this? If so, why and how?

If you do think it could/should be done, how would you select/adapt suitable resources without compromising the integrity of the subject and/or playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers by downplaying certain aspects?

Any and all thoughts appreciated.

#2 larochelle

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 04:13 PM

No way. And even more definitely no if it's not because circumstances are forcing you to (like a two year KS3 meaning you have to teach it in year 8 - never heard of year 7 doing it before though). Madness. I find teaching the Holocaust fascinating but 11 or 12 is just too young. Have you talked to your HOD about your concerns? What does he say?

Sounds like a horrendous case of being wedded to the NC themes (which are in no way compulsory in terms of having to teach thematically) at the expense of reason and common sense...

Edited by larochelle, 24 May 2010 - 07:34 AM.


#3 Katie Hall

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 06:19 PM

This sounds like a terrible idea. Surely you would want to build up the historical skills, knowledge base and critical thinking ability of any pupil before teaching them such a complex and important topic, why on earth just 'stick' it somewhere for the sake of it...especially as you don't 'have' to because of 2 year KS3 etc.

Also the previous reply is absolutely correct, why is your HoD overworrying about themes when there is no requirement to teach like this...how are they planning on developing chronological understanding in this framework?

#4 marie w

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 06:46 PM

I would avoid it at all costs - I had similar issue as SLL for history I found out the tutors in year 7 as part of PSHE were "teaching" the holocaust - I was shocked at some of the content being told to young students - I think sometimes we forget how young year 7 are... Speak to your HofD and hope for reason.

#5 j hewson

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 07:18 AM

There is no way that something so complex and horrific should be taught at that age. I did an assembly for all 5 years at my school and, after showing the presentation to Year tutors beforehand, had to amend the Y7 and Y8 ones considerably, to avoid too much upset. I have no issue with the conecpt of the holocaust being addressed in passing in Year 7 but as a unit of study, they need the maturity and skills to handle the topic with not only the sensitivity required but also the understanding. This raises all sorts of issues with new thematic study of change just for change's sake and the distinct lack of chronological understanding that develops as a result. Speak to your HoD about this and ask how watered down do they want the Holocaust to be.

#6 John Perkins

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 07:54 AM

I agree with much of what has been said but did half consider to teach the holocaust to year 7. My reason is that they are reading The boy in Striped pyjamas in English and I had an 11 year old announce that he was anti-semitic. They had also all been told by their English teachers to ask me all about it. My concsience was pulled as what they were getting from the English department was an almost glossy view of the holocaust with none of the understading about why it happened. This could probably be my most accepting audience but I just don't think at this age they can grasp the significance or gravity of what happened.

Edited by John Perkins, 24 May 2010 - 07:55 AM.


#7 Matt Spring

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 02:10 PM

While every non-Englishman with whom I've ever discussed History teaching has insisted that his country's syllabus focussed overwhelmingly on his nation's history, more and more of my own countrymen appear horrifyingly ignorant about the story of England/Britain.

I should be very unhappy if my children (were I to have any, of course), when in Y7, were denied the opportunity for a delightful romp through medieval England. No shield wall at Hastings? No ravages of the Black Death? No castles/siegework?

The 'Big Story of Democracy from Ancient Greece to Women's Suffrage' all sounds rather dry, high-minded and (dare I say it!) rather 'political'...

Matt

#8 Katie Hall

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 04:58 PM

I agree with much of what has been said but did half consider to teach the holocaust to year 7. My reason is that they are reading The boy in Striped pyjamas in English and I had an 11 year old announce that he was anti-semitic. They had also all been told by their English teachers to ask me all about it. My concsience was pulled as what they were getting from the English department was an almost glossy view of the holocaust with none of the understading about why it happened. This could probably be my most accepting audience but I just don't think at this age they can grasp the significance or gravity of what happened.



I think there are issues with English departments and this book as well. I know ours read it in Year 9 and we have had to have concerns about considering the 'fantasy' element of the book and how the main situation could really never happen. It is a fab book but again I don't think Year 7 minds would really be up to the layers of ideas it holds. Mind you our English dept still let them draw Nazis on WWI recruitment posters when they are doing poetry even though we have pointed out the issues with this!

#9 Lizzie C

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 05:56 PM

Thank you for all your replies so far - much appreciated. You have all been very helpful, as well as confirming my thoughts :)

As far as themes go, I think they have been helpful as an analytical tool for getting students to make comparisons and links between periods and see the bigger picture, but that has worked best in Year 7 so am hoping to get HoD to give dept meeting time to discussing why that might be and whether we can make them work better/get in the way less in other years. We still teach topics chronologically within the theme across each year, which helps with developing a sense of chronology but certainly isn't a perfect answer.

I'm interested by your comments on the Boy in Striped Pyjamas. Our year 7s study it, and the KS3 English co-ordinator has given me a very clear outline of how they teach it, focussing on the stylistic elements of the novel (dealing with difference/similarity, barriers, and the narrative voice of a 9-year-old who doesn't understand) and avoiding 'teaching the Holocaust' at all. I'm sure my HoD thinks this is another string to his bow, but English co-ordinator very clearly on my side that we should wait until they are older to actually go into the details, and that English dept should tell them that this is what will happen. I think it is still a valid cross-curricular link even if it is within a key stage not within the same year, and my year 9s have certainly referred back to their knowledge of the B in SP when studying the actual events, nature, causes, significance etc. of the Holocaust in all its complexity (and in relation to other genocides) this year.

Hoping to speak to HoD tomorrow and persuade him that we need a dept meeting to discuss/establish consensus (would be our first since March), but keep your thoughts coming!

#10 Chouan

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 08:00 AM

Just to add my insignificant intellectual weight to the responses above. Its far too complex a subject for them, and they love Hastings and castles.

#11 JohnDClare

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 11:49 AM

And my little reply, for what it's worth...

You can teach anything to anybody, you just have to pitrch it at the right level.
When your four-year old asks you where babies come from, you don't refuse to answer on the grounds that the answer needs a 15 certificate; you frame your answer in terms that a child of that age can understand. I reckon that the same goes for the Holocaust.
It sort of spoils treaching the subject, because there's lots of issues you would have been able to go into with an older class - but then teaching them Hastings spoils Hastings, I find!

What I DO like about some of the replies above is that History and English departments seem to be coordinating their syllabi, which surely makes sense.
I always thought it was bonkers the way the English department taught the WWI poets in Year 8, whereas we waited until Year 9 to do WWI - but they didn't do any Shakespeare until Year 9, whereas we taught Tudor theatre and did the Taming of the Shrew in Year 8! Now we are allowed to change the chronological order I reckon I would swap them both.
And why don't we do the Industrial Revolution when they're studying Oliver Twist?

And it makes sense therefore to do the Holocaust when the English department is doing Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Anne Frank's Diary.
The PROBLEM is that, depending on what year you do it, you need to adopt a totally new, appropriate, SoW to deliver it.

#12 Chouan

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 01:58 PM

Surely they could do The Boy.... in Y9 instead?

#13 john bassett

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 03:40 PM

Currently teaching Year 9 this topic and finished a lesson today by posing the question here.

They had the arguments about maturity and also that they need to have the full details in order to understand the full extent of the horrors therein.

As one boy said, "although the sources are horrific, without them you wouldn't be getting the full impact"

After I showed the interview from People's Century, Master Race of the Lithuanian(?) who ended up in a pit only to survive, the Yr 9 asked the question, how would they deal with that? The man was crying, recalling the events and very powerful, something that would be beyond a Year 7.

Yr 7 = big no.



#14 marie w

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 06:48 PM

I agree that there is so much cross over in teaching - finally as a school we have sat down and realised that we can be working together. When year 8 Geog are studying India - we look at the British Raj in India. Music are teaching spirituals we study slavery and the use of music as evidence. RE are teaching the notion of war, we are teaching the cold war and the impact of nuclear weapons. And yes Oliver Twist and industrial Britain. The impact is great and lessons are so much richer.

That said I have recently been asked to teach year 7 the DDay landings to help with a year 7 trip to Normandy. We currently teach a unit on control and conquest. This includes 1066 (and all that) but I am wondering how can I work in DDay without expecting to much... and having to cover extensive WW2 stuff done much later on...? Without it being just lip service to it. Any ideas welcome

#15 JohnDClare

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:12 PM

Surely they could do The Boy.... in Y9 instead?

Good point, but sometimes the mountain has to come to Mohammed.


The man was crying, recalling the events and very powerful, something that would be beyond a Year 7.
Yr 7 = big no.

This is a non-sequitur, surely?
We would all be in absolute agreement that it would be wrong to use such sources with Year 7s - in fact I would hesitate to use many of the sources with Year 9s.
But that does not mean you cannot teach the Holocaust to Year 7s - it's just a matter of finding appropriate sources for them.
If your 11-year-old son asked you to explain what the Holocaust was to him, you would not refuse on the grounds that you couldn't show him the more horrific pictures of the genocide.
You would explain it to him in terms suitable for an 11-year-old.

What is so different about teaching it to Year 7s.
I agree that it might not be the time you would most wish to deliver the topic, but - if the school situation required it - I am sure you could devise an appropriate SoW.




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