Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Challenging the Human Spirit

Colleen Starr


Students select a theme-related essay topic from [Night], by Elie Wiesel, or [The Metamorphosis], by Franz Kafka, and develop an essay that relates the theme to modern day personal experiences. The essay follows a preset rubric.


The student selects and uses appropriate pre-writing strategies, such as brainstorming, graphic organizers, and outlines.

The student drafts and revises writing that: is focused, purposeful, and reflects insight into the writing situation; has an organizational pattern that provides for a logical progression of ideas; has effective use of transitional devices that contribute to a sense of completeness; has support that is substantial, specific, relevant, and concrete; demonstrates a commitment to and involvement with the subject; uses creative writing strategies as appropriate to the purpose of the paper; demonstrates a mature command of language with precision of expression; has varied sentence structure; and has few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling.

The student produces final documents that have been edited for: correct spelling; correct punctuation, including commas, colons, and common use of semicolons; correct capitalization; correct sentence formation; correct instances of possessives, subject/verb agreement, instances of noun/pronoun agreement, and the intentional use of fragments for effect; and correct formatting that appeals to readers, including appropriate use of a variety of graphics, tables, charts, and illustrations in both standard and innovative forms.

The student uses effective strategies for informal and formal discussions, including listening actively and reflectively, connecting to and building on the ideas of a previous speaker, and respecting the viewpoints of others.

The student recognizes and explains those elements in texts that prompt a personal response (such as connections between one's own life and the characters, events, motives, and causes of conflict in texts).


-Texts to be referenced
[Night], by Elie Wiesel, published by Bantam Books in 1960.
[The Meatmorphosis], by Franz Kafka, found in [British and Western Literature], edited by G. Robert Carlson, published by McGraw-Hill in New York, 1979.

-Walter Cronkite Interview with Elie Wiesel, found in the video [The Holocaust: In Memory of Millions], published by the Holocaust Museum Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 1994.

-Video - [Auschwitz: If You Cried, You Died]. Published by the Moore Foundation, Indianiapolis, IN, 1991.

-Handout listing 9 thematic options in topic sentence form (included as attachment)
-Rubric Checklist describing preset criteria for essay (included as attachment)
-Peer Evaluation Form (included as attachment)


1. Secure copies of both texts and issue to students allowing adequate time for reading.
2. Read [Night].
3. Be prepared to lead discussion on historical significance and personal implications for victims.
4. Grade and return all Response Journal/Book Reviews to verify understanding of text and applications.
5. Secure TV/VCR for films.
6. Preview film clips.
7. Adjust Wiesel clip to appropriate place in video.
8. Prepare to lead discussion of love/hate and revenge/forgiveness including definitions and relationship to emotional healing.
9. Read [The Metamorphosis].
10. Prepare all handouts and have them copied.


*Students participate in an extensive study of [Night] by Elie Wiesel.

*A detailed Reader/Response Journal and Book Review demonstrate understanding of literary elements as well as understanding of historical facts.

Double Entry Journal:The students will record chapter summaries or select 10 quotes from the book in the first column of a double entry journal. In the second column, students record personal responses. If quotes are used in the first column, student responses should include the significance of each quote choice in addition to personal responses.

Book Review: Students answer questions about the literary elements of the book and draw conclusion based on their interpretations of certain elements.

*Students read [The Metamorphosis], a short story by Franz Kafka, and analyze the autobiographical details of the plot as well as the themes of the story.


Day 1 activities: (based on 63 minute class periods)
1. Write the following words on the board:
Political manipulation
Shattered innocence

2. Ask students what historical era these terms describe. Allow students to offer several possibilities.

3. Confirm that these terms adequately describe the conditions that governed the lives of Elie Wiesel and Gregor Samsa, a character created by Franz Kafka.

4. Ask students to list aloud specific examples showing how these terms have universal and personal applications beyond the setting of these works of literature. Accept all possible answers as students brainstorm through the centuries of American and world history. (Answers may be written on the board if teacher senses the need for visual learners.)

5. Once universality has been clearly established, ask students to consider the following questions.

*Ask students to think about how these terms have applications in their own personal experiences.
*Ask students to consider which of these situations affected them the most during their maturation process.
*Ask students to consider whether the influences on their lives were positive or negative.
*Ask them to what degree they think these experiences are essential for maturity.

6. Distribute writing assignment handout. When all students have received a handout, read aloud the instructions written at the top of the sheet and read through each of the nine topics listed.

7. Tell students to choose a topic in order to begin the prewriting/brainstorming process.

8. Discuss and web the following example with your students:

*Write the word DISPOSABLE on the board.
*Discuss how America has become a society that demands convenience. Ask students to think of things they have thrown away in the last two days. (ex: breakfast wrappers, paper cups, lunchroom plates and utensils, paper, plastic bottles, etc.)
*Discuss how this mindset carries over into other aspects of life. Ask students to brainstorm about people or groups who are often considered disposable by some elements of American society.
*Through webbing, write all examples on the board surrounding the word, DISPOSABLE.
*Remind students that each example represents an example of prejudice to some degree.
*Remind students of the interview comment by Elie Wiesel that hate did not cause the Holocaust because the Nazis did not consider the Jews important enough to hate. He says the greater enemy was apathy. Explain how each of these examples represents apathy in action.
*Review how the Jews were dehumanized, stripped of all that makes us human. Mention that we discover who we really are when we ignore where we live and what we possess. We discover our character and identity when all that remains is the human part of us ,what is in our heads and in our hearts.

9. Tell students to web/brainstorm their topic choice before actually beginning to write their essays. Completed first drafts should be brought to next class.

10. Be sure to discuss rubric checklist with students for structure and general expectations for this essay.

Day 2 activities: (63-minute class period)
11. When a first draft is complete, students exchange drafts with a writing partner for peer evaluation. Partners discuss strengths and weaknesses of the essay. (Peer Evaluation form is included in attachment).

12. Essay authors revise and edit their drafts giving consideration to peer evaluation sheets. Evaluation sheets and first drafts will be turned in with the final paper.

13. Emphasize that editing is basically the correction of spelling and punctuation errors, but revising is a much more involved process. Revising involves working with ideas, concepts, and expressions. All revisions and editing should be done outside of class time.

14. Two days later, collect Final Paper Packet that include the brainstorming/prewrites, first draft, peer evaluation form, and the final draft of the essay. Final essays should be graded by the previously discussed rubric checklist.


1. Formative Assessment based on valuable contributions to class discussions and brainstorming activities.
2. Formative assessment based on observations of partners in writers’ workshop activity as they work consistently on task.
3. Peer Evaluation sheets taken up with final packets and recorded as a grade. This form should describe complete discussion between writing partners evaluating essays. I use a scale based on completion.
4. Student interpretation and development of a topic in a well-written essay that exhibits strong focus, organization, support, and conventions according to a preset rubric checklist.
5. Successful revisions of first drafts to adhere more closely to preset writing rubric.
6. Final essay packets compiled in prescribed order and turned in by the due date.

Attached Files

Essay topics and scoring rubric.     File Extension: pdf

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