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Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

Theme: Resistance to Injustice
Grades: Grades 6-7

It is 1943. Three years of Nazi occupation have brought changes to Copenhagen, the home of 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen. There are soldiers in the streets, a curfew, and supply shortages. When word comes that Denmark's Jews are to be "relocated," the Johansens hide Ellen and take her by train to Uncle Henrik's coastal farm. From there the Rosens and other Jewish Danes are smuggled aboard fishing boats that will carry them to safety in neutral Sweden. Annemarie learns just how brave and strong she can be, when she must carry a mysterious packet through the Nazi-patrolled night woods to her uncle's ship. An Afterword explains how Number the Stars, while fiction, was drawn from true accounts of the Danish Resistance, which succeeded in saving the lives of almost all of Denmark's nearly 8,000 Jews.

  1. Introducing Vocabulary.
    Write occupation and resistance side by side on the chalkboard, overhead, or chart paper. Students may know the common use of the word occupation; tell them the word has a different meaning in Number the Stars. Guide students in identifying the roots occupy and resist. Using the roots and a dictionary if necessary, have students establish the military definitions of occupation and resistance. Then scatter these words on the board: surrender, sabotage, persecution, swastika, relocation, rationing, curfew. Have students work in small groups to define these words and relate them to occupation and resistance.
  1. Tapping Prior Knowledge: Quickwrite.
    Have students write about an incident—from their own experience or from their reading—in which someone took a stand against injustice (unfairness). Tell them to describe what happened and explain how the incident made them feel. Invite students to share their responses. As students read Number the Stars, encourage them to make connections between their experiences and events in the novel.
  1. A Journalist is Born.
    Ask students to interview a grandparent or another person who lived through World War II about his or her memories. Guide them to plan their questions and record the person's answers in the form of a printed interview. Let students know that you (or a librarian) can help them find interviews in magazines or other publications to use as models.

  1. In Memory.
    Have students make scrapbooks honoring the characters Lise or Peter, who die for Denmark's Resistance Movement. They can create pictures, captions, newspaper clippings, and so on, covering significant moments mentioned in the novel.
  1. Resistance across Europe.
    In this project, students will research resistance efforts in countries occupied by the Nazis before and during World War II.

    Suggested Procedure:

  • Help students brainstorm a list of places where they might find information about resistance efforts. For example, they might check encyclopedia entries on World War II, the Holocaust, or various countries occupied by Germany. They might look up books or computer resources on resistance organizations, and follow up with biographical material on individuals.
  • Let students explore available resources to identify possible research topics. If needed, make suggestions, for example, Le Chambon, France; or Oskar Schindler. There were resistance movements in every Nazi-controlled country, including Germany and Italy, and in some ghettos and camps, such as the Warsaw Ghetto.
  • Have students work alone or in small groups to choose a resistance movement or hero to research. Guide the selection to cover a variety of people and places. Help students establish criteria for written reports. Encourage them to include visuals, such as drawings of people or places.
  1. Fact or Fiction.
    Have students find and read a factual account about Denmark at the time of the German occupation, using an encyclopedia, a history book, the Internet, or the library. Ask students to write an essay comparing the factual account to Number the Stars. Ask them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type of writing.