Building Global Understanding through Collaborative Relationships

History Matters: Grade Six Students Reflect on the Effects of War
by Krista Jiampetti

As a Reading Specialist, I have the pleasure of collaborating and co-teaching with Grade Six English Language Arts teachers in a suburban middle school of approximately 750 students. My role extends beyond small reading groups due to a flexible academic intervention program, which allows me to support students within a classroom setting as well.

Through the many changes and challenges we face each year, one teacher and I find ways to share topics and books with students that are meaningful and interesting. With this in mind, Toni Corigliano and I welcomed the opportunity we were given when the Grade Six New York State Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy stated:

Respond to literature by employing knowledge of literary language, textual features, and forms to read and comprehend, reflect upon, and interpret literary texts from a variety of genres and a wide spectrum of American and world cultures.

This allowed students in our class to explore their own families’ backgrounds, enabled us as teachers to utilize a variety of texts, and opened the door to discovering perspectives of people around the world!

Our implementation of what we titled our “War Unit,” which was based on novels about WWII, helped the whole class take on different perspectives of people throughout the world, including but not limited to Denmark, Germany, Japan, Poland, and France. There were several steps to take before reading the novels, which included providing students with knowledge and information they would need in order to understand other perspectives. From there and throughout the unit, all types of texts were referred to and read that supported and strengthened the views and opinions we faced.

Our unit’s central theme, or common thread among texts, was: How do the views and experiences of people around the world support the statement that ‘War is never a good idea’?

This focus point led our discussions and helped students think about who was affected by war, rather than just focusing on the war itself. We not only learned historical information, but also made connections to the importance of this era in today’s society.

This chart lists the tasks and activities we employed throughout the unit, as well as the purpose for each. We were constantly adding, modifying, and changing activities as our discussions evolved and as students presented their thoughts and opinions that guided our purpose.

War Unit – Fall 2012 – Grade Six

Type of text/Activity


Expose students to the time period of WWII in a read aloud of The Quilt by Gary Paulsen •Encourage discussion through a Power Point presentation by using vocabulary from the book connected to pictures/music from the time period.
•Model and practice taking on another’s perspective with the whole class. Respond through writing, drawing, and poetry.
•Complete survey responses about students’ own backgrounds.
Cultural X-Ray •Students begin with the blank outline of a body figure. We ask them to dig deep and write down aspects of themselves that no one would know just by looking at them (i.e. culture, feelings, beliefs). This writing goes on the inside of the body outline.
•On the outside of the outline they write things people can see – possibly their physical traits.
•Students complete another X-ray later, based on a character in their books. We encourage students to compare the two and attempt to take on another person’s perspective.
Develop the concept of war through reading these picture books (one each day):

Feathers and Fools by Mem Fox
Why War Is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiva
Playing War by Kathy BeckwithReading response

•Encourage discussion among students to build knowledge of the concept before reading novels for content.
•Students respond, based on what we had read/discussed: “Do you think that war is ever a good idea? State your opinion and use details and examples to convince someone to believe that what you say is true.”
Picture Book Study •Students work in pairs to read a picture book from the list and consider guiding questions in order to discuss with the class (Appendix B)
Book Talk: WWII Novels

•Activities during the reading of novels include:

~Drawing what they see or feel in response to their books
~Writing poetry
~Finding quotes from the books that stand out to themSmall group discussions
~Teacher interviews
~Whole class discussions that compare the books

•Match students’ reading levels with books to read (Appendix A)
•Students read with a focus that correlates with the common thread
Nonfiction textsArticlesNBC National NewsAnti-bullying classroom meetings •Information about historical events, recent articles relevant to the unit, and watching the nightly news helps students make connections to their novels:

~Modern day war
~Social studies topics
~Malala Yousafzai: Should she return to her homeland?

Reading WWII novels (Appendix A)Novel notesQuotes •Students read novels silently, taking notes on the WWII event in the book, where the main character is from, and what surprised/worried them about the story. These notes will be useful during discussions as we relate the stories back to our theme.
•Students begin to follow the lead of the teachers in sharing quotes from the books that stood out to them:

~“There are many reasons for a person to lie, but to have a reason to tell the truth, you must have a deep belief. And great courage.” (The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti)

Writing: WWII flyer •Students create a flyer, based on the event in their novels, which tells about the war and tries to convince/persuade people that war is never a good idea.
Whole class share •Students write a reflection on the unit and choose their best line. We read each line aloud, around the group to create a reflective poem (see below).

Students Reflect

At the end of the unit, students were asked to reflect on the quote, “After all this is over, all that will have really mattered is how we treated each other.” Students used their knowledge from what they read, their own opinions, and the perspectives of others to write in connection to the quote. (Appendix C)

We shared by having students choose their best/favorite line within their writing and we shared aloud each line as an oral class poem. Below is our poem, which had a powerful impact in class that day. It also met and exceeded the Common Core State Standard, providing evidence that students can read, interpret, and reflect on their own lives as well as the lives of others.

Reflection on War Poem
by Grade Six Students

If you put war first for everything, what’s the world going to turn into?
“After all this is over all that will have really mattered is how we treated each other.”
War takes many tolls.
I still believe that war is a bad idea, but “After all this is over all that will have really mattered is how we treated each other.”
Now I can see more of the sacrifices that people take to protect me and my country. I wish I had realized before now.
We can celebrate what we have in common, not punish our differences.
I’ve noticed that bullying and war aren’t as different as I thought for these reasons – someone gets hurt, there’s never a true winner, and it never benefits either side.
I think that war is a bad idea because cities are destroyed, poisons are in the air, innocent people are killed.
It takes a real brave person to go to a foreign country to help foreign people, and watch your back at the same time.
In war you’re looking at what’s different, but then at the end you look at the same thing.
War affects me because too many people are killed or injured because of things other mean people do to them.
Every person was made with love, not hate in their soul.
People should treat people how they want to be treated.
Don’t be prejudiced to the people around me.
I think there shouldn’t have been war ever and I hope there should never be war again.
“After all this is over all that will have really mattered is how we treated each other.”
Men and boys go into war, leaving families and loved ones behind.
War affects so many people in so many different ways.

Krista Jiampetti is a Reading Specialist at Lisha Kill Middle School in Albany, NY. She can be contacted at

Appendix A

World War II Novels

Grade 6 Unit



# of pages

Fountas & Pinnell Level

Aleutian Sparrow Karen Hesse



Blue Joyce Moyer Hostetter



The Book Thief Marcus Zusak



A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor Harry Mazer



The Boy Who Dared Susan Campbell Bartoletti



Code Talker Joseph Bruchac



Dawn of Fear Susan Cooper



Dear America: The Fences Between Us Kirby Lawson



Don’t You Know There’s a War On? Avi



Elephant Run Roland Smith



Four Perfect Pebbles Lila Perl



Hitler’s Canary Sandi Toksvig



The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins Walter Dean Myers



Journey to Topaz Yoshiko Uchida



Number the Stars Lois Lowry



On the Wings of Heroes Richard Peck



The Quilt Gary Paulsen



Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Eleanor Coerr



Shadows on the Sea Joan Hiatt Harlow



Snow Treasure Marie McSwigan



Soldier Bear Bibi Dumon Tak



Someone Named Eva Joan M. Wolf



Stepping on the Cracks Mary Downing Hahn



T4 Ann Clare LeZotte



Under a War-Torn Sky Laura Malone Elliott



Warriors in the Crossfire Nancy Bo Flood



When My Name Was Keoko Linda Sue Park



Willow Run Patricia Reilly Giff



Appendix B

WWII Picture Books

Baseball Saved Us Ken Mochizuki
Boxes for Katje Candace Fleming
The Bracelet Yoshiko Uchida
The Butterfly Patricia Polacco
The Cello of Mr. O Jane Cutler
The Greatest Skating Race Louise Borden
Faithful Elephants Yukio Tsuchiya
Hiroshima No Pika Toshi Maruki
The Little Ships: The Heroic
Rescue at Dunkirk in WWII
Louise Borden
Mama Played Baseball David A. Adler
My Hiroshia Junko Morimoto
My Secret Camera Frank Dabba Smith
Sadako Eleanor Coerr
Shin’s Tricycle Tatsuharu Kodama
So Far from the Sea Eve Bunting
Star of Fear, Star of Hope Jo Hoestlandt
The Unbreakable Code Sara Hoagland Hunter
The Yellow Star Carmen Agra Deedy

Picture Books Used as Read-Alouds

Feathers and Fools Mem Fox
Why War Is Never a Good Idea Alice Walker
Faithful Elephants Yukio Tsuchiva
Playing War Kathy Beckwith

Appendix C


Student Reflection – Leah

In this war unit, we have learned how war has affected people in the past and present. We all learned how our behaviors changed during these times. People were hit hard with the sights of war that can never go away.

Now I can appreciate more of the people who are in the world today, still facing war. Soldiers, children, adults, and even animals. Soldiers are fighting for their countries and children are lost in their dreams of a better place, only waking up to devastation. Mothers and fathers are trying to comfort them and protect them from danger but sometimes it just comes, and animals are left behind because people can’t take care of them anymore because of struggles like being put in a situation where you had to pick up and leave because you are in danger.

During World War 2, this serious event took place around the world all over. Some were victims and some were bullies. We are not born a bully or evil, you are taught to mistreat each other or you, too were bullied. Bullied to the max, were you’re rage came out. We are innocent but sometimes guilty. In the quote, “After all this is over all that will have mattered is how we treated each other.” This is a message I think is really important saying that when everything builds back up again, the way we treated each other wouldn’t be the same because of how much damage was done.

This quote applies to my own life because I see war on the news every day and I don’t see a difference. The war going on near Israel and Gasa affects us, too because our army has to fight. War is a never ending story. It always pops up somewhere in this world. This quote connects to all of our lives. If we could make a change would it be a better place? Would the earth be a better place or would it be the same. It all starts with you, you could be the one who makes the difference.

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