Encountering Evil: Night

Students explore human nature through the memoir of Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who vividly describes the horrors he experienced.

Unit Summary

Night is one of the most significant memoirs of the 20th century. Written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, the text recounts the author’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

Although his story is universally accessible, Wiesel’s memoir is particularly evocative for younger readers: he was just sixteen years old when he and his family were transported to Auschwitz, just sixteen when he saw his mother and sister for the final time, just sixteen when he watched his father die. Although the memoir is narrated in the voice of an adult Wiesel, the text centers on the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of a young person in otherwise unimaginable circumstances.

Night is a short but powerful memoir. Because Wiesel’s writing is perhaps sparer than other texts students have encountered, they will need to pay close attention to the words that he does choose. What is written between the lines? How does Wiesel create such a powerful and wrenching emotional world for the reader in such a short text?

While Night is the heart of this unit, students will engage with several nonfiction texts that provide context for the Holocaust. These texts include videos describing other young people’s experiences and interviews with Holocaust survivors.

In this unit, students will continue to practice their analytical thinking and writing skills, and begin to develop their ability to conduct independent research. In the first task, students will reinforce their ability to write strong claim statements and gather appropriate evidence to support those claims (W.8.1.A; W.8.1.B). This provides teachers with an opportunity to give students in-depth feedback on their evidence selection and analysis (likely more than is possible when grading daily target tasks!). Additionally, students will begin to think about the impact of tone on their writing, and make tweaks to their essays in order to establish and maintain a formal, academic tone (W.8.1.E). In the culminating writing task of the unit, students will work in small groups to create a powerpoint presentation about violence, persecution, and genocide taking place today (W.8.6; SL.8.5). This requires a number of new skills, including determining the credibility of sources, appropriate citation (W.8.8), as well as presenting information to an audience in a way that is clear and effective (SL.8.4). Students will also have to navigate group dynamics to create a high quality final product that reflects the work of all members.

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Texts and Materials

Core Materials

  • Book: Night by Elie Wiesel (Hill and Wang, 2006)   —  1000L

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How do human beings respond to situations of unthinkable horror?
  • What are the dangers of human indifference?
  • What impact do painful stories have on readers?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • The Holocaust is one of the darkest chapters in human history. Fully understanding what happened during that time—through testimonies of those who lived through it—is a powerful way to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.
  • People are capable of tremendous violence and evil; to be indifferent to the suffering of others is a kind of violence.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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It is essential that teachers come into this module with enough schema to fill in any blanks that students may have that will interfere with their understanding of the text. These are some of the most significant concepts students will need to understand:

  • Propaganda
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Nazi
  • Adolph Hitler
  • Aryan
  • Ghetto
  • Gestapo
  • Transports
  • Cattle Cars
  • The Final Solution
  • Auschwitz
  • Birkenau
  • Barracks
  • Liberate
  • Death Marches
  • Kommando
  • Blockälteste
  • South African Apartheid
  • Dysentery
  • Rwandan Genocide

Notes for Teachers

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  • This is an intense, deeply troubling text. It is highly recommended that you send a letter home to parents explaining the content area that will be discussed. Some of the supplemental materials do show graphic images of dead bodies (although it is up to teacher discretion whether you think this is appropriate in your own classroom).
  • Supplemental resources that may be useful when teaching this unit are:
  • Each lesson lists the homework for that evening; the vast majority of the time the assignment is for students to read and take notes on the pages of focus for the following day’s class. Students should come to class prepared with a literal understanding of the reading in preparation for closely re-reading shorter sections of text during that class period. For homework accountability, it is recommended that teachers check students’ reading notes each day, to ensure that they read and understood the gist of the chapter. Additionally, teachers may wish to assign a short written response to the homework thinking task to bring to class the following day. Another option is to give a quick homework check quiz at the beginning of each class (3-6 questions assessing literal understanding.

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 2 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Lesson Map

1

  • “Step by Step”

    RI.8.3

Explain how and why the author uses chronology and cause/effect relationships to present information about the Holocaust.

2

  • “I'm Still Here” — 00:10–06:00

  • Night — Preface pp. vii–xv

    RI.8.6

Analyze Elie Wiesel’s purpose for writing Night based on the preface of the text.

3

  • Night pp. 3 – 11

    RL.8.3

Use specific lines and events from the text Night to draw conclusions about characters.

4

  • Night pp. 11 – 22

    RL.8.4

    L.8.5

Explain why Wiesel uses specific words, phrases, and punctuation in his writing, and the impact of these choices on the reader.

5

  • Night pp. 23 – 28

    RL.8.3

Draw conclusions about the passengers in the cattle car—and human nature more generally— based on the incident with Mrs. Schächter.

6

  • Night pp. 29 – 36 — (stop at the page break)

    RL.8.2

Determine developing themes in Night by analyzing Wiesel’s thought and feelings upon his arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

7

  • Night pp. 36 – 46

    RL.8.3

Explain how events in Night reveal how Wiesel has—and has not—changed since arriving at Auschwitz.

8

Literary Analysis Writing

  • Night pp. 1 – 57

    RL.8.3

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.a

    W.8.1.b

Gather evidence in order to craft strong a thesis statement.

9

Literary Analysis Writing

  • Night pp. 1 – 57

    RL.8.3

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.d

    W.8.1.e

Draft strong concluding statements and revise writing to ensure establishment of a formal tone. 

10

  • Night pp. 47 – 57 — (to the page break)

    RL.8.2

Identify themes in Night based on the behavior of characters in the text and support those themes with specific textual evidence.

11

  • Night pp. 57 – 65

    RL.8.4

Explain why Wiesel uses specific words and phrases and the impact of these choices on meaning in the text and on the reader.

12

  • “The Perils...”

    RI.8.2

Determine how Wiesel develops central ideas in his speech “The Perils of Indifference.”

13

  • Night pp. 66 – 84

    RL.8.3

Explain how incidents in Night reveal changes in characters and lead to significant decisions.

14

  • Night pp. 85 – 97

    RL.8.4

    L.8.5

Explain how Wiesel develops mood, tone, and meaning in Night.

15

  • Night pp. 98 – 112

    RL.8.3

Explain how specific lines of text and incidents in Night reveal aspects of Wiesel’s character as well as more general truths about human nature.

16

  • Night pp. 113 – 115

    RL.8.2

Determine themes in Night and trace how Wiesel has developed these over the course of the text.

17

  • Night pp. 117 – 120 — Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech

    RI.8.2

    RI.8.6

Determine Wiesel’s purpose, point of view, and central message in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. 

18

Socratic Seminar

  • Night

  • Socratic Seminar Guide

    SL.8.1

    SL.8.1.a

Take a clear position on questions and support those positions with appropriate textual evidence and thoughtful analysis.

19

Informative Writing

    W.8.2

    W.8.2.b

    W.8.8

Differentiate between credible and non-credible sources while beginning research.

20

Informative Writing

    W.8.2

    W.8.6

    W.8.8

    SL.8.5

Create a PowerPoint presentation and appropriately cite sources. 

21

Informative Writing

    W.8.2

    W.8.2.a

    W.8.2.f

    W.8.8

    SL.8.5

Logically organize the information in presentations and include all required components.

22

Informative Writing

    W.8.2

    W.8.8

    SL.8.4

    SL.8.5

Present PowerPoints using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.

23

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.8.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.8.3 — Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

  • RI.8.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.8.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.8.3 — Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

  • RL.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.8.1.a — Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

  • SL.8.4 — Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

  • SL.8.5 — Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.8.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • W.8.1.b — Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.8.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

  • W.8.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.8.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content

  • W.8.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.8.2.b — Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  • W.8.2.f — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented

  • W.8.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

  • W.8.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.