Institute News

Inside IWitness: "The Power of Words"

Inside IWitness is an ongoing series that will profile each activity in IWitness, along with a clip featured in the activity and a teacher who uses IWitness in his or her classroom.

The Power of Words activity is inspired by Elie Wiesel; thousands of students read his memoir Night every year to learn about the Holocaust. In his speaking and writing, Wiesel has described the power of language, and once said that we may "use words to break the prison." Students will consider the ways in which speaking and writing might empower survivors.

The activity begins by asking students to read the preface of Night and think about why Wiesel decided to write his memoir.

Next, students watch a clip of Clara Isaacman, who describes how Wiesel encouraged her to write about her own experiences as a survivor. He told her, “What you can write I can’t,” and gave her directions on getting started. Isaacman eventually wrote her memoir Clara’s Story. Students write three more questions they would want to ask Clara.

Students then construct their own video project, choosing from one of three prompts. They can find three clips of survivors who talk about writing, three clips of survivors who talk about why they decided to give testimony, or three items (including clips, photographs, documents, etc.) that answer the questions they had for Clara.

Finally, students post their completed videos and respond to each other’s work. They can discuss what they learned from their classmates’ videos and suggest other clips and quotes that relate to their projects.