Unit plan for ages 12-14 in Language & Literature

Teaching Tools, 19 February 2007

© Courtesy of National Geographic Society Image Collection
Siberia. A Khakass farmer drives his sheep home across the endless steppe.

The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig

Knowledge

To know how East European refugees and deportees lived in Russia during World War II

Values

To foster in the students empathy for children and their families who suffer persecution because of their membership of a minority group, and because of the politics of their government To demonstrate the resilience of the human mind and people's capacity to create hope for the future To appreciate the contribution that refugees can make to their host communities

Skills

LESSONS 1 and 2

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
  • Esther's happy early childhood in Vilna, living in the large family mansion which was composed of several apartments, all occupied by her aunts, uncles and cousins, and her own immediate family
  • The drafting of Esther's father into the Polish army to fight the German invaders, and his subsequent safe return
  • The removal of Esther's entire extended family from the mansion by unfriendly Russian soldiers, and the splitting up of the family.

Introduction:

Teacher reads aloud from the beginning until half way down to page 4, stopping just after the sentence "But in 1939 Hitler's army marched on Poland."

Students continue to read to the end of the chapter silently by themselves.

Development:

Class discussion dealing with the characteristics of the happy environment in which Esther spent her early childhood; the war events of 1939-40 and their actual impact upon Esther's life; the short time the family were allowed to pack for their exile; the fast destruction of the world of Esther's childhood to be separated from family, home and country.

Homework:

Students read chapter 2.

RESOURCES
Esther Hautzig, The Endless Steppe (New York, Harper Collins, 1968), chapter 1

LESSONS 3 and 4

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
Deprivations while en route to exile
How might a person react when faced with injustice?

Class Discussion

Students are asked to give their reactions about their homework reading. Refer to the lesson plan for possible questions.

Students are given class time to read chapter 3 and are required to write a short account of how they would react if they were in a similar situation as the Rudomin family, confronted by a mean and hostile soldier like Popravka.

Homework

Students read chapters 4 and 5.

RESOURCES

Hautzig, The Endless Steppe, chapters 2 and 3

LESSON 5

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
The hardships suffered during the early period of exile learning to adapt, changing one's expectations of daily life

Homework review

A few minutes are spent asking questions to check comprehension, with emphasis on the portion of the reading dealing with the village market, the baracholka.

Preparation for role play

Students are divided into 'families' and discuss among themselves what each family member would pack for their 'exile'.

Homework

For the next lesson, the students bring real examples of the items which they have decided upon; these items can then be sold at the class baracholka.

RESOURCES

Hautzig, The Endless Steppe, chapters 4 and 5

LESSONS 6 and 7

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES

The class baracholka.

Setting the scene

Students are asked to think about the characteristics of the local inhabitants of Rubtsovsk.

Role play

Three 'families' are selected first to present their goods for sale. Later, other families can have their turn. The currency used at the baracholka is hard-boiled eggs. The refugee 'traders' have to persuade the 'locals' to part with their eggs.

Debriefing discussion

Teacher and students compare their class baracholka with what they consider would be the situation at the real baracholka.

Homework

Students read chapters 6-10.

LESSON 8

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
Esther Hautzig's literary techniques used to convey the vibrant and optimistic character of the character, Esther

Exercise

Students sift through their five chapters of homework reading to locate and to write out the various descriptions, sometimes exaggeration, that the author used to convey her picture of the child, Esther.

Homework

Students read chapters 11 to 14.

RESOURCES

Hautzig, The Endless Steppe, chapters 6-10

LESSON 9

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES

Extreme poverty in Siberia making each facet of daily life a problem to be surmounted

Students are asked to consider aspects of their own daily lives which became trials of hardship for the Rudomins. How did the Rudomins cope?

Homework

Students read to the end of the novel.

RESOURCES

Hautzig, The Endless Steppe, chapters 11-14

LESSON 10

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES

Displaced children's capacity to adapt, to fit in with their new environment; their determination to get on with life, whatever the circumstances

Discussion

...dealing with Esther's adaptation first to life in Russia and then her adjustment to the prospect of return to Poland, her former homeland.

RESOURCES

Hautzig, The Endless Steppe, chapters 15-22