Women’s History Month, coming up in March, is a wonderful time to honor women who have made monumental contributions to this world, whether through math, science, social justice, or through the written word.
Anne Frank did just that through her diary.
The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most haunting books I have ever read or taught. Anne Frank’s own penned words tell the bitter-sweetness of living in hiding with her family and other Jewish individuals for two years during the Holocaust.
Her diary is raw, honest, and unfiltered. From writing about her frustrations concerning her own mother to telling about her crushes on boys, Anne leaves nothing to the imagination. A girl, who bared her heart on paper and never imagined it would be read, has transformed what we know about what it was like to live during the Holocaust and be a teenager during this harrowing time.
The diary itself is suitable for grades 7 and up, but even if you are an elementary teacher, Anne Frank is a wonderful young girl to learn about during Women’s History Month in March.
Anne Frank, the daughter of Otto and Edith, was born in Germany and later lived in Amsterdam once her father relocated due to work. Anne and her family went into hiding in 1942 after Anne’s sister, Margot, was called up to report to camp. Anne’s diary portrays the two years they were in hiding, leading up to 1945 when the diary eerily ends. Anne and her family were discovered and taken to a concentration camp. From there, Anne died at the age of fifteen years old from typhus fever at Bergen-Belsen Camp.
If you are unable to teach about Anne Frank from her actual diary because of the age of your students, the following are great books that explore all about Anne, as well.
Just thirty-seven pages and suitable for the ages of 5-10, this picture book is historical, age-appropriate, and contains wonderful illustrations.
At 112 pages and suitable for ages 8-12, this short novel is perfect to learn about the basic major details of Anne’s life. You can never go wrong with a Who Was book.
For second to fifth graders, this book is a more gentle way to introduce the Holocaust and Anne’s life to children. The book is narrated by her real-life cat, Mouschi, and explores the pets of the Holocaust as well as Anne’s life, including the guilt she feels for living in comfortable surroundings while her friends are in a concentration camp. Real excerpts are included in this picture book as well.
4 Activities for Anne Frank
Once you have taught your students about Anne Frank’s life, here are 4 activities you can utilize.
Anne sadly died at the young age of fifteen at a concentration camp after having endured illness and separation from her family.
I discussed with students what an epitaph is and how these are words written on someone’s gravestone. Epitaphs are chosen carefully to commemorate that person’s life, to honor them, and to let others know about this person.
I tasked students to write an epitaph about a person from The Diary of Anne Frank. The epitaph had to be six lines, including their birth and death dates, and honor as well as a detail this person’s life. The epitaph was then written on a poster-board gravestone cut-out I created. Students had to also include an image that would show this person’s life. Some students chose to select the Star of David that Jewish people had to wear, or a pen to honor Anne. It is a sorrowful, yet poignant activity.
Anne’s diary was her life narrative. She revealed that one of her deepest desires was to grow up and become a writer. Sadly, even though she did not grow up in the standard sense of the word, she did, in fact, become a writer.
“I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the greatest question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
In class, we discuss how Anne used writing to release her emotions, from anger to joy. She viewed writing and her diary as her friend. She even named her diary Kitty. We talked about how writing can be a true outlet for us if we utilize it as such.
During our unit of The Diary of Anne Frank, I have students write a narrative of a time in their lives. Students have to essentially write about an event they experienced, just like Anne penned two years of her life. Some students chose happy events like visiting Disneyworld, and others chose a more serious event like a car accident.
Nevertheless, I wanted my students to see that writing can become a gift in their lives, just like it was to Anne. It was a channel for her to express her emotions, and I wanted students to be able to have that avenue as well. After all, writing is something that cannot be taken away from you.
Make Your Own Diary
Even though I teach 8th graders this book, the idea of making their own diary could transcend all grade levels. The fact that Anne’s diary was kept by a family friend, Miep, and later turned into a published book with the permission of her surviving father, shows how influential someone’s private thoughts can be when made public.
Anne’s diary can inspire generations of writers to explore their feelings and thoughts through the written word. Students can write a daily diary while they read this novel, or you can simply assign a prompt where students create a 4-5 diary entry writing piece that explores any time in their life.
Here is a freebie I shared in last week’s blog for students to write a diary during the time of the pandemic. Check it out here!
Anne was an extremely intelligent young girl with an extensive vocabulary and a wondrous way with words. Her diary is full of eloquent and articulate quotes.
After reading the novel, students explore what they’ve read to find a quote that truly impacted them on a personal level. They write this quote on an index card.
Their chosen quote is then illustrated either through symbolic colors, small drawings, or a combination. On the back of their card, they write a paragraph explaining why they felt drawn to this quote.
One particular quote that Anne wrote in her very last entry, which became ironic, yet fitting was, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Another widely chosen quote by my classes is, “The young are not afraid of telling the truth.”
Anne’s words still touch and inspire generations today.
Anne Frank was a strong, courageous, insightful, and remarkable young woman. Anne Frank is a perfect personification of what we honor during Women’s History Month: a woman who made tremendous contributions to this world. Anne did so through her enthralling diary. Her quote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” was actualized in her words and can inspire our students to do just that.