Number the Stars,by Lois Lowry. New York: Dell 1990
Grade Levels: 3 through 5
The student should be able to:
- Recognize and understand the courage and heroism of the Danish and Swedish people and all others who resisted the Nazis.
- Realize that each of us has the capacity to do good as well as evil.
- Analyze and understand the reasons and motivations that caused certain people to take a stand.
- Recognize his or her own ability to work for justice and make a difference in one's own society and culture.
Sunshine State Standards:
- Grades 3-5
- SS.A.1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.3, 2.3.1, 2.3.2
- SS.B.1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3
- LA.A.2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.4, 2.2.7
- LA.E.1.2.4, 2.2.3, 2.2.4
View all Sunshine State Standards
In Denmark in 1943, the lives of all Jews are in jeopardy. Ten-year-old Annemarie's best friend, Ellen, is Jewish. Annemarie's family undertakes the dangerous mission of smuggling Ellen and her family to Sweden aboard the fishing boat that belongs to Annemarie's uncle. But when Anemarie's mother is injured, and the special package that was to be delivered to Annemarie's uncle on the fishing boat is found beside the porch, it is up to Annemarie to deliver the package safely. Along the way, she must contend with German soldiers, as well as her own fear.
Annemarie spends much time reflecting on what it means to be brave. She feels she is not brave because of her fear. But Annemarie comes to realize that bravery and fear often go hand in hand. The book dramatizes the heroism of the Danish people as a whole, as well as individuals like Annemarie and her family. An afterward explains the historical facts behind the fiction.
Procedures: Pre-Reading Activities and Discussion Questions:
- World War II was one of the costliest and most destructive wars in history. What do you know about this terrible conflict? Choose one of the following topics, do some research about it in the library, and share what you learned with your classmates.
Causes of World War II
War in Europe
War in the Pacific
Plight of the Jews during the war and Hitler's final solution
Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski
- Find the country of Denmark on a map or a globe. Answer the following:
- Which city is the capital of Denmark? Where is the city located?
- Which part of Denmark is near the country of Sweden?
- What separates Denmark from Sweden?
- Which country is directly south of Denmark?
- Work in your literature circle group and complete a FRIENDSHIP web. Complete the web as you discuss what friendship means to you. Then compare your friendship web to the webs made by other groups in your class.
- Devise a plan to hide a friend for a week from cruel representatives of an unjust government. Determine the safest place to offer your friend shelter, the way you would bring food to your friend, and how you would make sure that others would not know your friend's whereabouts.
Suggested Topics for Literature Circle Discussion and Responding:
- Tell why Kirsti's reaction to the soldiers in chapter one is different from Ellen's and Annemarie's.
- Explain what Henrik means when he says, "It is easier to be brave if you do not know everything" (page 76).
- On page 79, explain the thought that Annemarie feels that she and her mother were equals.
- What are the other sources of pride to which Annemarie is referring on pages 93-94?
- Explain why it is harder for the ones waiting (p. 98)?
- Why doesn't Annemarie's mother tell her what is in the package?
- Why doesn't Annemarie think she was brave (p.122)? Do you agree with her? Explain why or why not. Use text reference to back up your response.
Suggested Topics for Discussion and Responding:
- Discuss some of the everyday hardships that the Johansens and the Rosens had to face because of the war.
- Consider Annemarie's words, "Now I think that all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews." How might the people of Denmark accomplish that task?
- Write about an event that happened in your own life as through it were a flashback. This event should be one that would help someone you know understand you better.
- Think about what you have learned so far about Annemarie and the times in which she lived. Do you think Annemarie will be called upon to exhibit courage and bravery in some way? What might Annemarie be called upon to do? As you continue to read the story, compare your prediction to what actually happens.
- Compare and contrast the German soldiers who came to the Johansens' home different from those who patrolled the streets.
- Compare and contrast Annemarie and Ellen. Use a Venn diagram. List the traits they had in common on the overlapping part of the circles.
- Predict what might happen next in the story.
- Write a letter to Papa telling about your journey to Uncle Henriks home. Tell what you did the morning after your arrival. Then explain the strange events of that evening. Include personal feelings that you think Annemarie might have had during that time.
- Write a journal entry reflecting the most recent events in your life. Predict what you think is going to happen next.
- Write a journal entry describing what you did and how you felt during your dangerous adventure.
- Locate passages in chapter 15 that create a sense of danger and fear and allow the reader to know how Annemarie felt. Choose two passages that reflect the exciting and suspenseful mood. List them, and tell why they made you feel that way.
- Imagine a situation in which Annemarie and Ellen meet again after the war. Write a journal entry that explains where, when, how, what and why. Describe the time and place. Work with your group and write a scene that can be presented to the class.
- Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter and the time is a few weeks after the end of World War II. You have just learned about the heroic efforts of the Danish people to save their Jewish population from the Nazis. Write an article for your newspaper describing those efforts and how the Danes accomplished their goals.
- Choose one of the characters in Number the Stars. Pretend that you are the character. Write a short autobiography of your life. Introduce yourself to the rest of the class as the character you selected and read your autobiography aloud.
- Create a Heritage Day. Bring in items from home to represent your cultural background such as old pictures, recipes, maps and articles of clothing. Use the library to locate folk tales, legends, and songs that describe or celebrate your heritage. Share the items you brought from home by placing them on display in your classroom. Then join together with your classmates to read some of the stories and sing some of the songs. Invite other classes, or families to attend.
- Flashback in literature refers to a scene or a series of episodes that interrupts the normal sequence of events to describe an event or events that happened in the past. Skim through Chapter two to find a flashback. Respond to the following:
- What is the time period of the flashback?
- What happens in the flashback?
- Why is the information in the flashback important?
- Allusion is a reference in literature to a familiar person, place or event. Do some research to find out about the Norse God Thor to whom Kirsti alluded when she named her cat. Why was Thor a humorous name for the kitten?
- A cliffhanger in literature is a device borrowed from serialized silent films in which an episode or chapter ends at a moment of heightened tension and suspense to encourage the reader to continue on in the story. Tell about the cliff-hanger at the end of Chapter twelve.
- Personification in literature is a device in which an author grants human qualities or attributes to inanimate objects.
Dawn would creep across the Swedish farmland and coast; then it would wash little Denmark with light and move across the North Sea to wake Norway.
- The last section of the book is called the Afterward. Consider the information that the author gives the reader in this section. Discuss why this section was included, what you learned by reading the section, and if there would be another effective way to include this information somewhere else in the text.
- Create a sense chart that identifies a specific place. Include the five senses. Think about a special place that you once visited. What did you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel while you were there? Use the chart to list the things that you experienced with your senses. Use at least one descriptive word to tell about each item. Try to write a draft of a story about this place.
- Have students use classroom resource materials and media center resources to find out about when the German occupation of Copenhagen began. Investigate the response of the people of Denmark.
- Use classroom and media center resources to research Christian X, who was portrayed in the novel as a very principled, courageous man. Have students find out about this unusual ruler.
- Using a map of Europe, have students locate and label Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Sweden, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea (and the part of the North Sea called Kattegat, p.16), Hillerod, and Norrebro (page 7).
- Have students research the culture, economy, and history of Denmark. Have students research and find out about places Annemarie remembered that her family enjoyed prior to the war (pages 30-31). Have them present findings to the rest of their literature group, or to the class in a creative way.
- Have students write a story, or poem that explores the meaning of bravery. Annemarie wonders what it means to be brave. Students can express their thoughts to Annemarie.
- Annemarie sets out to deliver the package containing the handkerchief, while doing this she tells herself the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Writers often use devices such as metaphor and allegory that help to bring a deeper meaning to their text. Use examples of metaphor and allegory to help students understand how these devices are used. Then, ask students to write a journal entry comparing Annemarie's experience on her mission to deliver the package to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Have them share the ways that Annemarie's experience mirrors the tale. Have students also discuss the ways it is different.
- Ask students to find an image that Lois Lowry created that helps them understand the story. Ask students to create a work of art that would help express these thoughts.
- Danish boats ferried Jews to safety in Sweden from the following points on the map: Gillelje, Rungsted, Copenhagen and Mon. Locate these places on a map and tell about the boats and people that ferried people to safety.
- Have students select two characters from the story. Draw their pictures. Under the picture have them use descriptive language and tell about the characters, make sure that they compare and contrast.
- Students can create a poster or chart that show the elements of fiction found in Number the Stars. Have them present their poster in a creative way.
- After each day's reading, encourage students to write one or more new things they learned from the text.
- Provide students with quotes from the novel and ask them to write their own responses.
- Students can design a postcard to send to Papa in Copenhagen. Have them use descriptions from the book to draw the postcard (countryside, farm of Uncle Henrik, the seashore, or a fishing boat). Have them write a message to Papa telling him of the trip to Uncle Henriks. Remind the students that Nazis might intercept the mail, and that they need to write in code. Display the finished postcards. (Do front and back on two pieces of 3x5 oak tag.)
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.