Today in 8th grade classes, we discussed the typical experience of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust as they traveled to and arrived in concentration camps. After a reading and looking at some photographs, students were getting restless but still had a number of questions, so I had them do the following.
Students split into pairs and wrote two questions they had about the camps or Holocaust, more broadly on two post-it notes. Then they stuck the post-it notes on the board and chose two post-its from other groups with questions they wanted to answer.
I didn’t want to turn students loose on Google to start looking for the answers to their questions, so I directed them to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website. If they couldn’t find the information there, then I asked them to talk with me and we researched the information together. I was attempting to strike a balance between wanting students to research on their own, but also giving guidance to avoid potentially disturbing or inaccurate information.
After they finished answering the questions, they returned the post-its to the board and the originators of the questions retrieved them. There was a built-in quality control. Students whose questions weren’t sufficiently answered complained to the question answerers 🙂 which allowed me to say to those groups, “Hey, they don’t think you’ve answered their questions well. Give it another go.” Students then shared some of the questions and answers with the class as a whole.
The activity was really productive in terms of being able to answer large number of student questions and also to give students the sense that I’m not the only source of trustworthy information.