Pre-Viewing: “Take This Giant Leap”: Preparing to Teach Schindler’s List | Facing History & Ourselves
Picture of woman taking a leap.

Pre-Viewing: “Take This Giant Leap”: Preparing to Teach Schindler’s List

Students prepare for their study of Schindler's List by creating a contract establishing a thoughtful, respectful, and caring classroom community.


At a Glance

lesson copy


English — US


  • History
  • Social Studies


  • The Holocaust



Poet and Holocaust survivor Sonia Weitz begins I Promised I Would Tell, her collection of poems about her experiences during this dark period of history, with the following lines:

Come, take this giant leap with me
into the other world . . . the other place
where language fails and imagery defies,
denies man’s consciousness . . . and dies
upon the altar of insanity. 1

In this lesson’s first activity, students learn that to study this history, and to bear witness to the depravity of the crimes committed during the Holocaust, is to take Weitz’s “giant leap.” Learning about the Holocaust requires us to examine events in history and examples of human behavior that both unsettle us and elude our attempts to explain them.

Before taking the “giant leap” Weitz describes, it is crucial for students to consider how they might form a thoughtful, respectful, and caring classroom community while engaging with the deeply affecting depiction of this dark period of history in Schindler’s List. The second activity in this lesson guides the class to do so by creating a class contract. The contract demonstrates to students that both the teacher and their classmates value and respect their voices, and it establishes rules and norms for proper engagement with such a powerful film.

  • How can we prepare ourselves to be historically informed, engaged, and emotionally reflective viewers of the film Schindler’s List?
  • How can we create a class environment that will support our study of an emotionally challenging film that probes the extremes of human behavior—good and evil?
  • 2 activities
  • 1 reading

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

This lesson provides one approach to creating a classroom contract. You may have your own approach, or you may have already established a contract with your students. If you have already established one, we recommend reviewing it with students at the beginning of their study of the Holocaust and Schindler’s List. We consider classroom contracts to be “living documents” that can be returned to or altered as needed. Don’t hesitate to return to the contract with students to reinforce the guidelines and norms students have agreed to as necessary.

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Lesson Plans


  • Explain to students that they will soon watch a film called Schindler’s List, which tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a man who saved the lives of 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. They will prepare for the film by learning about the dark and difficult period of history during which the story takes place.
  • Project the poem by Sonia Weitz, a Holocaust survivor, from the reading Take This Giant Leap. We suggest having students read the poem aloud, at least two times. After reading, ask students to respond to the following questions in their journals:

    • What does this poem mean to you? What questions does it raise for you?
    • What does this poem suggest that learning about the Holocaust is like?
    • Then ask students to share their responses to these prompts. Their questions about the poem can be recorded on the board (or you can use the Graffiti Boards strategy) so that they can be revisited at a later date when students have greater familiarity with the history of the Holocaust.
  • Explain to students that studying the history of the Holocaust raises fundamental questions about human behavior, including the often dire consequences of hatred and discrimination. As a result, this history can elicit powerful emotional responses and force us to consider how we think about and treat each other in our schools, communities, and the world today.

  • In order to meaningfully probe such important and challenging topics, it is therefore worth taking time to consider how the students can create a classroom community that confronts this history together thoughtfully, respectfully, and sensitively. Use the Contracting teaching strategy (steps 4, 5, and 6) to create a class contract for the unit.

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