I think that, as teachers, we can all agree that The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a classic and icon text to teach, not in the least because of Anne’s incredible and heart-wrenching story. I was able to choose the texts I taught in my first year of teaching, and The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the books I chose. Although I was teaching in a low-income charter school with students who were primarily non-native English speakers from other countries (mostly Somalia, but other countries, as well), most of my students found Anne’s story intriguing and got into the book.
As I mentioned, my school served a lower socioeconomic area, and many of my students were below grade level in not just reading but most subject areas. So, of course, I had to keep this in mind when choosing the novels I taught that year. We saved The Diary of Anne Frank for the second half of the year, when students had had time to read easier class novels. For a couple of the other novels I taught that school year, I was able to find audiobook versions and play them on speakers hooked up to my iPod. This worked really well, because it helped me save my voice, and it was easy to pause it to ask them questions and discuss things we read. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to do that for The Diary of a Young Girl.
Instead, we read the book aloud. Sometimes I would read, but usually I had students read. Their favorite style of reading aloud was popcorn reading, where they were allowed to read for as long as they liked (although I recall I had some minimum amount of paragraphs – it had to be more than just one word or one sentence, because you know 6th graders would pull that kind of trick). Then, when they felt they were done reading for the time being, they’d call out, “Popcorn!” Other students who wanted to read raised their hands, and the student had to choose the next reader.
Other times, as I said, I would do the majority of the reading, or I would call on students to read. Because I had so many students below grade level in reading, I did not usually have them read this particular text silently and independently. Although Anne was not much older than they were when she wrote her diary, her language and writing style were well-developed, and it was often a bit too tricky for my students. There were also, of course, some sections of the book that I had to skip because of age appropriateness and maturity of my students.
While I gave assessments and writing prompts throughout the reading unit, I also found a (not great, to be truthful) documentary version of The Diary of a Young Girl on Netflix, which I showed my classes after we finished reading the book. Again, there were a couple of parts I had to skip through, but I think it really helped with their comprehension to see the story acted out – plus, kids almost always enjoy watching videos in class.
At the end of the unit, I created a summative assessment for my students. This assessment was a choice project, where I provided my students with three different projects that they could complete to demonstrate their understanding of the text. The first was to write a letter from one character to another, the second was to create a collage of pictures and images, and the third was to create a playlist of songs. Needless to say, my students not only loved having a choice in what they completed, but they also really enjoyed the projects!
I created Common Core-aligned rubrics to assess their projects, which helped me ensure that students were mastering the standards for the unit and also helped everyone stay on the same page for how students were being graded. I allowed my students class time to complete their projects, although they could work on them at home if they needed to, as well. We were not required to give much homework at that school, and most of my grades came from in-class assignments and assessments. Of course, your school may be different.
Once their projects were created, I had students do in-class presentations of their projects. They had to read aloud their letter to the class and explain it, they had to show their collage and explain what all the different pictures were and how they related, and they had to read off the songs they chose for their playlist and explain how each song related to the story. Again, I created a standards-aligned rubric to assess their presentations. Students had already done an oral presentation earlier that year, but that time, I had the students do their presentations to small groups, where they assessed each other and themselves. This time, though, they had to stand at the front of the classroom and present to the whole class.
If you’re interested in my final project for The Diary of Anne Frank, you have two options! I have a FREE download of the collage project, or you can get the full project described above here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. This resource has been one of my best-sellers for years now! Just like my students loved this project, I feel confident that your students will love it, too!
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