Institute News

Attention teachers: A new series of stories will spotlight education resources that develop empathy, understanding and respect

“It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.”

In fewer than 10 words, children’s author Roslyn Bresnick-Perry spoke volumes about the power of the human story.

The quote also captures the essence of IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s no-cost online education resource that draws on the Institute’s massive archive of audiovisual testimony from genocide survivors and witnesses to develop empathy, understanding and respect. IWitness is geared toward middle and high school students – and, increasingly –  university students.

Teaching with stories is at the heart of IWitness’s approach. As part of its Stronger Than Hate initiative, USC Shoah Foundation is introducing a new series to highlight specific learning activities in IWitness.

Called IWitness Spotlight, the series is aimed at teachers who are looking for resources that:

  1. provide tools to help students understand, articulate and act to counter the dangers of hate and intolerance
  2. address the Holocaust and genocide in a way that is age-appropriate
  3. develop digital literacy

Each of the 250-plus learning activities contained in IWitness was designed by a certified educator through USC Shoah Foundation. The activities are built around clips of testimony from genocide survivors and witnesses in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive.

Most of the activities are one hour, though they range from 30 minutes to five hours. Each is divided into four segments, known by IWitness teachers as the 4 C’s: consider, collect, construct and communicate.

In consider, students build their background knowledge about the topic of study, engage through close reading, analysis and reflection.

In collect, students further develop critical thinking skills by gathering evidence from clips of testimony and other sources.

In construct, students craft a project such as word cloud, video or analytical paragraph by synthesizing the information they gathered.

In communicate, students reflect and engage in a critical review of peer projects.

“On the other side of each activity, students come away better informed about some of the world’s most weighty topics, more digitally literate and more likely to become active participants in civil society,” said Dr. Claudia Wiedeman,  USC Shoah Foundation’s director of education. 

The series will begin with a story spotlighting the activity “My Story Matters: The Power of Story,” which offers the quote from Bresnick-Perry to demonstrate how a handful of carefully chosen words can convey a powerful message.  The activity culminates with students producing their own six-word stories.