Primo Levi’s Shema: Can ordinary language describe extraordinary experiences? A Lesson for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

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This lesson addresses Essential Questions that are common within Secondary ELA courses:

  • What makes a text effective for its purpose?
  • How are stories from other places and times about me?

It was written to mark two occasions: the centennial of Primo Levi’s birth and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This lesson is academic in nature, including some historical contextualization, close reads of two short texts, and a written evaluation of Levi’s use of accessible language in Shema. It is aligned to both the Common Core and Pennsylvania Core standards. It also aligns with the Pennsylvania Public School Code Act 70 requirements of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Violations Instruction.

It is a complete lesson plan, including prompts for student reflection and discussion, an aligned handout with an answer key, and an aligned slide show. Teachers are encouraged to adapt and edit these materials as useful for their own classrooms.


  • Ateret Cope
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