Lesson 1 of 8

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

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

  • 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?


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.


Notes to Teacher

  1. The Facing History Classroom Contract
    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.


Teaching Strategies


  1. Prepare Students to Confront the Holocaust

    • 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.
  2. Establish a Class Contract

    • 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.



Get Started

Prepare yourself and your students to use the Teaching Schindler's List unit to view and analyze the film as a class. 

Lesson 1 of 8

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.

Lesson 2 of 8

Pre-Viewing: Establishing the Historical Context for Schindler’s List

Students are introduced to the history of ideas, events, and decisions that shaped the world of Schindler’s List.

Lesson 3 of 8

Viewing: Watching Schindler’s List

Students experience a thoughtful viewing of Schindler's List by completing activities immediately before and after watching it that help them reflect and process reactions.

Lesson 4 of 8

Viewing: Oskar Schindler and the Making of a Rescuer

Students consider how Schindler's evolution from collaborator to rescuer adds to their thinking about the importance of individual choices.

Lesson 5 of 8

Viewing: Analyzing the Art of Schindler’s List

Students analyze the film as a work of art and consider how Spielberg’s artistic choices foster emotional engagement with Holocaust history.

Lesson 6 of 8

Post-Viewing: The Persecution of the Rohingya and the Persistence of Genocide

Students reflect on how the Holocaust can educate us about our responsibilities to confront genocide and injustice today.

Lesson 7 of 8

Post-Viewing: Responding to Hate in Our Communities Today

Students begin to relate Schindler's List to the contemporary world by examining recent stories of racial hatred in Charlottesville and Germany.

Lesson 8 of 8

Post-Viewing: Building a Toolbox against Hate

Students create a "toolbox" of the skills, attitudes, and actions that are necessary to respond to and prevent hatred from taking hold in their communities.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.