Classroom Activity on The Last Days of Hitler

At the beginning of 1945 the Soviet troops entered Nazi Germany. On 16th January, Hitler moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin. He was joined by Eva Braun, Gretl Braun, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, Hermann Fegelein, Rochus Misch, Martin Bormann, Arthur Bormann, Walter Hewell, Julius Schaub, Erich Kempka, Heinz Linge, Ernst-Gunther Schenck, Otto Günsche, Traudl Junge, Christa Schroeder and Johanna Wolf.

Hitler was now nearly fifty-five years old but looked much older. His hair had gone grey, his body was stooped, and he had difficulty in walking. His voice had become feeble and his eyesight was so poor that that he needed special lenses even to read documents from his "Führer typewriter". Hitler also developed a tremor in his left arm and leg. He had originally suffered from this during the First World War and also after the failure of the Munich Putsch in 1923. It was a nervous disorder that reappeared whenever Hitler felt he was in danger.

Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering both considered the possibility of overthrowing Hitler. One plan involved Himmler arresting Hitler and announcing to the German people that Hitler had retired due to ill-health. Their main concern was to do a deal with Britain and the United States that would prevent the Soviet Union occupying Germany. The German leaders were not only concerned about the imposition of communism, but also feared what Soviet soldiers anxious to gain revenge for the war crimes committed against their people by the SS might do. (Of the five million Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans an estimated three million were murdered or allowed to die of starvation.)

The situation became so desperate that on 22nd April, Hitler sent Christa Schroeder, Johanna Wolf, Arthur Bormann, Dr. Theodor Morell, Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer and Dr. Hugo Blaschke, away. Schroeder later recalled: "He received us in his room looking tired, pale and listless. "Over the last four days the situation has changed to such an extent that I find myself forced to disperse my staff. As you are the longest serving, you will go first. In an hour a car leaves for Munich."

On 28th April, Heinrich Himmler, involved in secret negotiations with Count Folke Bernadotte, claimed that Hitler intended to commit suicide in the next few days: "In the situation that has now arisen I consider my hands free. I admit that Germany is defeated. In order to save as great a part of Germany as possible from a Russian invasion I am willing to capitulate on the Western Front in order to enable the Western Allies to advance rapidly towards the east. But I am not prepared to capitulate on the Eastern Front."

Bernadotte passed this message to onto Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman but they rejected the idea, insisting on unconditional surrender. On 28th April the negotiations were leaked to the press. Hanna Reitsch was with Hitler when he heard the news: "His colour rose to a heated red and his face was unrecognizable... After the lengthy outburst, Hitler sank into a stupor, and for a time the entire bunker was silent." Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest. In an attempt to escape Himmler now took the name and documents of a dead village policeman.

When the Soviet troops first entered Berlin it was suggested that Hitler should try to escape. Hitler rejected the idea as he feared the possibility of being captured. He had heard stories of how the Soviet troops planned to parade him through the streets of Germany in a cage. To prevent this humiliation Hitler decided to commit suicide. By the end of April soldiers of the Red Army were only 300 yards away from Hitler's underground bunker. Although defeat was inevitable, Hitler insisted his troops fight to the death. Instructions were constantly being sent out giving orders for the execution of any military commanders who retreated. Hitler made a will leaving all his property to the Nazi Party.

On 28th April 1945 Hitler married Eva Braun. Hitler tested out a cyanide pill on his pet Alsatian dog, Blondi. Braun agreed to commit suicide with him. She could have become rich by writing her memoirs but she preferred not to live without Hitler. Braun told Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge. "Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love." Junge commented that she said this "smiling but with a sob in her voice."

(Source 2) Joseph Goebbels, diary entry (7th March, 1945)

Himmler summarises the situation correctly when he says that his mind tells him that we have little hope of winning the war militarily but instinct tells him that sooner or later some political opening will emerge to swing it in our favour. Himmler thinks this more likely in the West than the East. He thinks that England will come to her senses, which I rather doubt. As his remarks show, Himmler is entirely Western-oriented; from the East he expects nothing whatsoever. I still think that something is more likely to be achieved in the East since Stalin seems to me more realistic than the trigger-happy Anglo-American (Roosevelt).

(Source 4) General Karl Koller, diary entry where he commented on what General Alfred Jodl told him (23rd April, 1945)

Hitler declared that he had decided to stay in Berlin, lead its defence and then at the last moment shoot himself. For physical reasons he was unable to take part in the fighting personally, nor did he wish to, for he could not run the risk of falling into enemy hands. We all attempted to bring him over from this decision and even offered to move troops from the west to fight in the east. His answer was that everything was falling to pieces anyway, and that he could do no more.

(Source 5) Adolf Hitler comments to Hanna Reitsch that were recalled when she was interviewed by U.S. intelligence officers (8th October, 1945)

Hanna, you belong to those who will die with me. Each of us has a vial of poison such as this. I do not wish that one of us falls into the hands of the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them.

(Source 6) Count Folke Bernadotte sent a message to the Winston Churchill on what Heinrich Himmler had told him on 24th April, 1945.

In the situation that has now arisen I consider my hands free. But I am not prepared to capitulate on the Eastern Front.

(Source 7) Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962)

On 27th April Count Bernadotte returned from the north with the news that the Western Allies refused to consider a separate peace and insisted on unconditional surrender... Hitler was beside himself at the news... It served to crystallize the decision to commit suicide which Hitler had threatened on the 22nd, but which he had not yet made up his mind to put into effect. This final decision followed the pattern of all the others: a period of hesitation, then a sudden resolution from which he was not to be moved.

(Source 8) Erich Kempka, I Was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka (1951)

It was towards midday on 30 April 1945. Russian shelling was hitting the Reich Chancellery and the government district continuously. The struggle to hold out had become fiercer. With a thunder and a crack, whole blocks of dwellings collapsed, and the streets around the Reich Chancellery were reduced to deserts of rubble.

The Führer took his leave of his staff, shaking the hand of each and thanking them for their work and loyalty to him. Secretaries Frau Junge, Frau Christian and the dietician-cook Fraulein Manziarly were invited to lunch. Hitler sat next to his wife. As he had done in the good times, he tried to keep the conversation unforced, with everybody participating. When this last meal had ended and the three ladies had withdrawn, Hitler had them recalled by his adjutant SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Otto Günsche. In the doorway to his ante-chamber, he and Eva Braun took their leave of the three again. Frau Hitler embraced the long-scriving secretaries and shook the hand of all three in parting.

Hitler also said farewell to Bormann and his SS adjutant Günsche. The latter received an express order to contact me and arrange for enough fuel to immolate the bodies of Hitler and his wife: "I do not wish to be displayed after my death in a Russian panopticon like Lenin."

(Source 9) Heinz Linge, With Hitler to the End (1980)

When I entered, Hitler was thanking her for her commitment and services. He asked me to remove the gold Party badge from one of his uniforms and pinned it on her in "especial recognition". Immediately after this Hitler and I went into the common room where Goebbels appeared and begged Hitler briefly to allow the Hitler Youth to take him out of Berlin. Hitler responded brusquely: "Doctor, you know my decision. There is no change! You can of course leave Berlin with your family." Goebbels, standing proudly, replied that he would not do so. Like the Führer he intended to stay in Berlin - and die there. At that Hitler gave Goebbels his hand and, leaning on me, returned to his room.

(Source 11) Traudl Junge, To The Last Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (2002)

Only when Eva Braun comes over to me is the spell broken a little. She smiles and embraces me. And give Bavaria my love," she says, smiling but with a sob in her voice. She is wearing the Führer's favourite dress, the black one with the roses at the neckline, and her hair is washed and beautifully done. Like that, she follows the Führer into his room - and to her death. The heavy iron door closes.

I am suddenly seized by a wild urge to get as far away from here as possible. I almost race up the stairs leading to the upper part of the bunker. But the Goebbels children are sitting halfway up, looking lost. They felt they'd been forgotten in their room. No one gave them any lunch today. Now they want to go and find their parents, and Auntie Eva and Uncle Hitler. I lead them to the round table. "Come along, children, I'll get you something to eat. The grown-ups have so much to do today that they don't have any spare time for you," I say as lightly and calmly as I can. I find ajar of cherries, butter some bread and feed the little ones. I talk to them to distract them. They say something about being safe in the bunker, and how it's almost fun to hear the explosions when they know the bangs can't hurt them. Suddenly there is the sound of a shot, so loud, so close that we all fall silent. It echoes on through all the rooms. "That was a direct hit," cried Helmut, with no idea how right he is. The Führer is dead now.

(Source 13) Magna Goebbels, letter to her son Helmut Quandt (28th April, 1945)

My beloved son! By now we have been in the Führerbunker for six days already - daddy, your six little siblings and I, for the sake of giving our national socialistic lives the only possible honorable end... You shall know that I stayed here against daddy's will, and that even on last Sunday the Führer wanted to help me to get out. You know your mother — we have the same blood, for me there was no wavering. Our glorious idea is ruined and with it everything beautiful and marvelous that I have known in my life. The world that comes after the Führer and national socialism is not any longer worth living in and therefore I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand me when I will give them the salvation... The children are wonderful... there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son - I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country ... Be proud of us and try to keep us in dear memory.

(Source 15) Ralf Georg Reuth, The Life of Joseph Goebbels (1993)

It was Magda who saw to the murder of her own children. She had already conferred several times with the SS doctors Ludwig Stumpfegger and Helmut Gustav Kunz of the Reich Chancellery staff about how the children could be killed quickly and painlessly. Now, on the afternoon of 1st May, she had Kunz sent to her in the bunker. The decision had been made, she told him, and Goebbels thanked him for helping his wife "put the children to sleep." Around 8:40 p.m. Kunz gave the children morphine injections. He left the room with the three sets of bunk beds and waited with Magda Goebbels until the children were asleep. Then she asked him to give them the poison. Kunz refused, however, and was then sent by Magda Goebbels to fetch Stumpfegger. When Kunz came back with him, Magda was already in the children's room. Stumpfegger joined her there, and came back out with her after four or five minutes. In all likelihood she herself had broken the glass cyanide capsules, which she had received from Dr. Morell, in the mouths of Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda, and Heide.

Filled with fear of death, Goebbels was chain-smoking, his face covered with red blotches. Apparently still hoping for a miracle, he kept asking about the military situation. When time ran short, and the Soviets could be expected to storm the bunker at any moment, he made his adjutant Schwagermann promise to cremate both his and his wife's bodies. Then he took leave of those remaining in the bunker. He was clearly struggling to maintain his composure, which he tried to demonstrate with all sorts of bathetic flourishes. "Tell Donitz," he is reported to have instructed the chief pilot of Hitler's squadron, "that we understood not only how to live and to fight but also how to die."

The last details regarding the deaths of Joseph and Magda Goebbels will probably always remain unclear. It is certain that they poisoned themselves with cyanide, but it is not known whether Goebbels also shot himself in the head. Nor do we know whether they died in the bunker or outside at the emergency exit, where the Soviets found their bodies.

(Source 16) Heinz Linge, With Hitler to the End (1980)

For Dr Joseph Goebbels, the new Reich Chancellor, it was not apparent until now that he and his wife Magda would commit suicide in Berlin this same day. After the experiences of recent days and weeks hardly anything could shock us men any more, but the women, the female secretaries and chambermaids were 'programmed' differently. They were fearful that the six beautiful Goebbels children would be killed beforehand. The parents had decided upon this course of action. Hitler's physician Dr Stumpfegger was to see to it. The imploring pleas of the women and some of the staff, who suggested to Frau Goebbels that they would bring the children - Helga, Holde, Hilde, Heide, Hedda and Helmut - out of the bunker and care for them, went unheard. I was thinking about my own wife and children who were in relative safety when Frau Goebbels came at 1800 hours and asked me in a dry, emotional voice to go up with her to the former Führerbunker where a room had been set up for her children. Once there she sank down in an armchair. She did not enter the children's room, but waited nervously until the door opened and Dr. Stumpfegger came out. Their eyes met, Magda Goebbels stood up, silent and trembling. When the SS doctor nodded emotionally without speaking, she collapsed. It was done. The children lay dead in their beds, poisoned with cyanide. Two men of the SS bodyguard standing near the entrance led Frau Goebbels to her room in the Führerbunker. Two and a half hours later both she and her husband were dead. The last act had begun.

Question 1: Study sources 1, 10 and 17. Explain the message being expressed in these sources.

Question 2: Study sources 2, 6 and 7. What did Heinrich Himmler offer Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman? Why did they refuse this offer?

Question 3: Using all the information in this unit, explain why Adolf Hitler decided to commit suicide on 30th April, 1945?

Question 4: Why did Joseph Goebbels and Magna Goebbels kill their children before committing suicide?

Question 5: Write a brief account of what happened to the following after they left Hitler's bunker: Gretl Braun, Hermann Fegelein, Rochus Misch, Martin Bormann, Arthur Bormann, Walter Hewell, Julius Schaub, Erich Kempka, Heinz Linge, Ernst-Gunther Schenck, Otto Günsche, Traudl Junge, Christa Schroeder and Johanna Wolf.

Question 6: Using the information in this unit explain what kind of sources historians would use when writing about the last days of Adolf Hitler.

A commentary on these questions can be found here

You can download this activity in a word document here

You can download the answers in a word document here

Life in the Führerbunker: Hitler's final days

Those were the words of Armin Lehmann, a fanatical, sixteen-year-old member of the Hitler Youth who, along with thousands of teenagers, had been transported to Berlin in early April 1945 to defend the city against the rapidly advancing Red Army. Lehmann was chosen as a courier, running messages backwards and forwards from the radio room of the Reich Chancellery to and from the diminishing figure of Adolf Hitler. By April, Hitler had permanently retired to an underground bomb shelter located close to the Chancellery known as the Führerbunker. Lehmann was to witness firsthand the final days of the man who had brought Germany to its knees.

The bunker, which consisted of two connected shelters, was completed in stages between 1936 and 1944. Hitler took up residence in the lower bunker with his long-term partner, Eva Braun, and various staff members on the 16th of January 1945. Expensive carpets and rugs covered the floors and artworks taken from the Chancellery lined the walls, including Hitler’s favourite painting of Frederick the Great, which hung on the wall above his desk in his comfortable private quarters.

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The lives of Hitler and Stalin: Two sides of the same coin

Hitler would spend a total of 105 days living in the bunker. As the net closed in on his regime, life for the staff in both the Chancellery and the bunker descended into drunkenness and decadence. Officers, among them Martin Bormann, Hitler’s unpopular brute of a private secretary, often laid into the Chancellery’s extensive wine cellar early in the day. A notorious womanizer, Bormann found plenty of takers in the increasingly cavalier atmosphere that took hold as the Soviets closed in.’

Hitler, meanwhile, took daily strolls around the elegant gardens of the Chancellery with his beloved German Shepherd dog, Blondi. It was one of his last remaining pleasures. However, as the Red Army began its final advance on the capital and shells began to rain down on the Chancellery and its gardens, even this was denied him.

The last day Hitler ventured outside was on the morning of April the 20th. It was his 56th birthday. By this stage, he cut a very different figure from the triumphant conqueror of just five years before. Addicted to powerful opiates prescribed to him by his personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morell, visibly shaking from Parkinson’s Disease and looking much older than his age, the Führer made his way out to the now ruined Chancellery garden to hand out medals to children of the Hitler Youth.

As his previously loyal commanders began to desert him, Hitler realised the end of his rule was nigh

Amongst those meeting Hitler that day was Armin Lehmann. He received an Iron Cross from the Führer for bravery during a battle in which he had saved two of his comrades in early January. The boy couldn’t believe it when Hitler grabbed him by the cheek and gave his face a playful shake. ‘We all idolised Hitler,’ he later recalled. “We were dedicated to following his path unerringly even though we were dodging Allied bullets.’

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Killing Hitler: The many assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler

After his brief time outside, Hitler returned to his bunker and never came out again. The following day, he ordered what remained of his forces to attack the advancing Soviets, but his orders were ignored. On hearing this, Hitler flew into a rage and for the first time he acknowledged the war was lost. It was now only a matter of time before Berlin was overrun and the Soviets reached the Führerbunker.

Six days after realising the war was lost, Hitler received the news that Heinrich Himmler was trying to negotiate Germany’s surrender with the Americans. Apoplectic with rage over this betrayal, Hitler declared Himmler a traitor and had his SS representative, the loathsome Hermann Fegelein, taken out and shot. That Fegelein happened to be Eva Braun’s brother-in-law made no difference to the furious dictator.

As his previously loyal commanders began to desert him, Hitler realised the end of his rule was nigh. News reached him that Benito Mussolini had been captured, executed and his body hanged upside down from a lamppost in Milan. Determined not to share the same humiliation, Hitler decided to end his life. Eva Braun told Hitler she would die alongside him. For her unerring loyalty, Hitler finally decided to marry her.

The couple were married just after midnight on the 29th of April in a civil ceremony that involved both parties swearing they were of pure Aryan blood. A rather muted wedding reception was held after the ceremony while Hitler retired to his study with his secretary, Traudl Junge, to dictate his last will and testament. In it, he once again blamed the Jews for his and Germany’s ills.

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Hitler’s Dark Vision for the UK

The following day, Hitler received word that the troops defending Berlin were rapidly running out of ammunition and it was only a matter of time before the encircling Soviet forces overran the bunker. Hitler realised his time had run out.

‘He was like a ghost - he didn't seem to see me or anyone,’ Lehmann later recalled. ‘He just stared ahead, lost in thought. At that moment, the bunker was shaken by a strong tremor as a bomb hit. Dirt and mortar trickled down on us, but he made no attempt to brush it off. He looked so much more unhealthy than 10 days earlier at his birthday reception when I had first met him. It looked like he was suffering from jaundice. His face was sallow.’

After instructing his physician to poison his dog Blondi to test the effectiveness of the cyanide capsules he and Eva intended to take, Hitler and his new bride said their goodbyes to the bunker staff and retired to their private quarters. There, Braun killed herself with cyanide and Hitler shot himself. As per his instructions, Hitler and Braun’s bodies were taken out into the Chancellery garden and burned. Because the grounds of the Chancellery were being almost constantly shelled by this stage, the guard charged with the hasty cremation dashed to the bunker entrance and tossed a lighter at the petrol-soaked bodies. As a result, The couple were married just after midnight on the 29th of April in a civil ceremony that involved both parties swearing they were of pure Aryan blood. A rather muted wedding reception was held after the ceremony while Hitler retired to his study with his secretary, Traudl Junge, to dictate his last will and testament. In it, he once again blamed the Jews for his and Germany’s ills.

Read more about: Battles

The man who didn't shoot Hitler

The following day, Hitler received word that the troops defending Berlin were rapidly running out of ammunition and it was only a matter of time before the encircling Soviet forces overran the bunker. Hitler realised his time had run out.

‘He was like a ghost - he didn't seem to see me or anyone,’ Lehmann later recalled. ‘He just stared ahead, lost in thought. At that moment, the bunker was shaken by a strong tremor as a bomb hit. Dirt and mortar trickled down on us, but he made no attempt to brush it off. He looked so much more unhealthy than 10 days earlier at his birthday reception when I had first met him. It looked like he was suffering from jaundice. His face was sallow.’

After instructing his physician to poison his dog Blondi to test the effectiveness of the cyanide capsules he and Eva intended to take, Hitler and his new bride said their goodbyes to the bunker staff and retired to their private quarters. There, Braun killed herself with cyanide and Hitler shot himself. As per his instructions, Hitler and Braun’s bodies were taken out into the Chancellery garden and burned. Because the grounds of the Chancellery were being almost constantly shelled by this stage, the guard charged with the hasty cremation dashed to the bunker entrance and tossed a lighter at the petrol-soaked bodies. As a result, another guard who had not witnessed this dash to the door thought the bodies had spontaneously combusted.

Read more about: Battles

History of the Berlin Wall

The following day, Magda Goebbels – who along with her husband Joseph and her six children had moved into the bunker April 22 – killed her children with the aid of an SS dentist. Goebbels and his wife then ascended into the gardens where they were shot dead or committed suicide (reports vary) and their bodies were burned. Their bodies were not buried, but instead left out on the crater-pitted ground to be discovered by Soviet troops two days later.

The remaining staff either committed suicide or made several bloody attempts to break out of the bunker and through the Soviet lines. Some made it out, many others did not. Armin Lehmann managed to evade capture by the Red Army. He was shot during his escape and later captured by American troops who treated his wounds. Martin Bormann was not so lucky. He managed to cross the river Spree, but his body was later seen lying dead on the ground by Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann as he also made his escape.

The bunker was finally captured by Soviet forces on May 2. Inside, they found the six bodies of Magda Goebbels’ murdered children. The bodies of Hitler and Braun were dug up and Hitler was later identified by his dental records. The bodies of Hitler, Braun, Hitler’s dogs and the Goebbels family were buried and exhumed several times before finally being crushed into dust and tossed into the river Elbe in 1970. Nothing now remains of Hitler save for a small section of his jaw and part of his skull.

Read more about: Hitler

Adolf Hitler: Life and Times Knowledge Quiz

The bunker was dynamited as part of the demolition of the Reich Chancellery between 1945 and 1949. The dynamite caused some damage, but most of the structure remained intact. Parts of the bunker were demolished when the area was developed in the 1990s, but quite a lot remains and there is now an ongoing debate in Germany over whether it should be opened up to tourists. In the meantime, all that now indicates that this was once the final bolt hole of a grotesque tyrant is a small information board next to a bare patch of ground.

And what of Armin Lehmann, the fanatically loyal teenager who was one of the last people to see Hitler alive? He was forced to witness for himself the monstrousness of the regime he supported when the Americans took him to see the horrors of a Nazi death camp. He renounced his Nazi faith that very same day and decided to become a peace activist. He spent the rest of his life travelling around the world promoting peace, tolerance and non-violence at events held in over 150 countries. He died in Coos Bay, Oregon on the 10th of October 2008.

A sick man

By April 1945, Hitler's health was deteriorating fast. His left arm often shook, his skin was sallow and his face was puffy. An assassination attempt in 1944 had damaged his eardrums. Witnesses reported that his eyes were often filmed over. He suffered from intense stomach cramps at moments of crisis. He was taking Benzedrine and cocaine-laced eye drops to get him through the day and barbiturates to help him sleep at night. His diet cannot have helped his situation. A committed vegetarian and paranoid about being poisoned, he was only eating mashed potatoes and thin soup by the end.

Ohio, 2011: A teacher assigned a 10-year-old black student to play an enslaved person in a slave-auction simulation. Georgia, 2017: A school asked fifth-graders to dress up as Civil War “characters” for a “Civil War Experiential Learning Day.” A black parent, Corrie Davis, reported that her 10-year-old’s white classmate dressed as a plantation owner and told her child, “You are my slave.” New York City, 2018: Officials fired a white teacher who reportedly made black students lie on the floor and then stepped on their backs to show them what slavery was “like.” And just last week, a Tennessee father tweeted about a “Living History” exercise at his daughter’s school where a fifth-grade student dressed up as Hitler and did the Nazi salute. Soon thereafter, students began giving each other Nazi salutes “in the hallways and at recess.”

How could any teacher think these historical games were good ideas? The short answer: Teachers with no sense of perspective tried to make history personal and ended up reinforcing white supremacy in the name of “learning.” (Though it’s not always clear what race the instructors in these stories are: In 2015–16, 80 percent of teachers in American public schools were white, serving a student population that was 51 percent minority.) The longer answer: These classroom incidents show how pedagogical ideas about the value of experience in learning about history, good intentions to teach “hard histories,” and vague liberal goals of multicultural understanding can all go terribly, terribly wrong.

The idea that “living through” history, in a controlled fashion, has educational value comes from the early-20 th -century Progressive education movement. Researchers Hilary Dack, Stephanie van Hover, and David Hicks have traced the idea behind what they call “experiential learning” back to the theorist and educator John Dewey, who believed that you learn things more deeply when you experience them, rather than when somebody sits at the front of the class and tells you about them.

In a database search, I found that journals for history teachers began to feature articles about role-playing in the classroom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That’s probably due to the influence of a few prominent role-playing projects. These pedagogical exercises were explicitly anti-racist in their intention, and they had dramatic outcomes that brought them media attention. In 1967, California history teacher and activist member of Students for a Democratic Society Ron Jones carried out a project called the Third Wave, which enlisted students in a quasi-fascist fictious social movement to illustrate how people could come to support Nazis during World War II. The students were far more enthusiastic about the movement than Jones had expected—an outcome that dismayed him.

In 1968, Jane Elliott, a white teacher in Iowa moved by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., devised an exercise called “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes.” She divided her third-grade students by eye color and gave brown-eyed children favorable treatment. The blue-eyed children faded into the background and the brown-eyed children began to bully them, while excelling at the classroom tasks Elliot set for them. In 1970, Elliott’s simulation became the subject of an ABC documentary called The Eye of the Storm in 1981, Jones’ experiment became a TV movie called The Wave.

The well-intentioned idea that teachers in a classroom can increase engagement by setting up a simulation seems to have trickled into history and social studies classrooms in all kinds of janky ways in the decades since then. Cory Wright-Maley, a professor of education at St. Mary’s University in Canada who studies simulations in social studies, writes that teachers and teacher educators don’t really have a collective language to identify what experiential learning is, or what it’s supposed to do. One result is the kinds of horror stories I listed above another less-painful outcome is failed lessons that go nowhere.

In 2015, researchers Dack, van Hover, and Hicks analyzed 14 videotaped lessons, pulled from a larger corpus of videotapes made in third- through 12 th - grade social studies classrooms, that involved experiential instructional techniques. The team found that 12 of the 14 had significant problems in execution. These problems weren’t always related to the infliction of emotional trauma—often, a game or simulation just didn’t work, such as in a sixth-grade lesson on 19 th -century immigration that included an element where students pretended to be on a boat, bouncing and bobbing, before returning to their seats. Some of these lessons also transmitted factual inaccuracies—a problem, the trio of researchers observed, in all social studies instruction, but it seemed to get worse in experiential lessons, when teachers went “off-script.”

“I believe teachers need a higher level of content and pedagogical knowledge” to teach role-playing games in class, LaGarrett King, a professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri, said. “We’re talking about social studies teachers who are not trained in direction, or writing for dramas, or anything like that. … What I’ve found from college students who are training to be teachers is that they lack the content knowledge sufficient enough to even talk about race, or about tough historical issues, in the classroom.” I spoke to King on a day when he taught his last class of the semester, and by way of context for our conversation, he told me that in two sections of future teachers, 40 students total, he had one male student and one woman of color the rest were white women.

A teacher may wish to teach students about the history of American slavery and may think that “feeling” their way through that history is the best way to do it. But historical empathy is much more complex than this idea assumes. In a critique of the common idea that students’ historical empathy might prompt them to adopt democratic habits and acquire an affinity for social justice, professor of education Megan Boler writes, “Passive empathy is not a sufficient educational practice. At stake is not only the ability to empathize with the very distant other, but to recognize oneself as implicated in the social forces that create the climate of obstacles the other must confront.”

This recognition of personal implication is an extremely significant intellectual and emotional leap, and one that many white adults—including teachers—have not, themselves, made. King pointed out that the teacher’s position in relationship to this history was important. Someone teaching a lesson about the Confederacy, for example, might have family members still sympathetic to the Confederacy—or she herself might be. Before teaching these lessons, he said, “Teachers need to really get in there, to understand themselves as a racialized human being.”

One danger of poorly executed simulations of the darkest parts of our history is that white or otherwise privileged students may revel in what they see as the dramatic aspects of these situations—they may actually enjoy themselves. Sociologist Sadhana Bery, whose children attended a school where the students were planning to put on a play about slavery, wrote a 2014 article for an education journal that described that situation in detail. According to Bery’s account, the leadership at the school emphasized the fact that the few black students in the school had not been pressured to act in the play at all all students had been told they could take whichever parts in the play they liked. But the result was that the black parents and students boycotted the play altogether, and the white students all chose to “play” enslaved people, declining all of the roles of slave traders and slaveholders. Bery writes that “the white teachers had to persuade the Asian and Latino/a students to play the roles of perpetrators of slavery.”

She attended the play’s performance in order to see the results. The white students playing the role of enslaved people enthusiastically cried and yelled when they were “sold away” from their families. Although she didn’t use this language to describe it, it’s clear that she found this performance utterly grotesque. For Bery, the “replacement of critical thought with emotion” in the course of reenactment obliterated any historical lesson that might be learned about slavery. Instead, white students were learning to “consume” historical black trauma, and reveling in the catharsis it could bring.

King, too, wondered what pedagogical benefit could come from reenacting the misery of slavery. “With the kind of anti-blackness we have in this country,” King asked me, “why do we have to show black vulnerability in the classroom? Why is that so important for us to do? Why is it so important for us to show black pain, and black suffering? I believe it does stem from this notion, that what we know about black history is about black pain and suffering.

“History is about emotion,” King added, “but there are other ways of getting at that emotion.”

When students are invited to playact oppressors, as is sometimes the case in these stories that go viral, existing power dynamics in the classroom and school get exacerbated—to the detriment of all. In April of this year, an Arizona parent wrote on Facebook that her 9-year-old son was made to walk across the classroom as two teachers and his third-grade peers yelled at him, in order to simulate the gantlet of hateful white people that the Little Rock Nine walked through when they integrated Central High School in September 1957. For Cory Wright-Maley, this kind of situation traumatizes the child who’s playing the “victim,” but also does a disservice to the ones whose teacher asked them to do the yelling. “You can’t pit kids against kids,” Wright-Maley said in an interview. “The realization that ‘I’ have the innate capacity to harm others is deeply scarring and psychologically harmful,” he wrote about role-plays that enlist students as oppressors, suggesting that teachers give students “the permission to act in response to evil, rather than being forced to embody it.”

One solution can be for the teacher to assume the role of oppressor. In a 2003 article interrogating the claim, made by historian Samuel Totten and others, that the Holocaust should never be simulated, professor of education Simone Schweber described an extensive and well-planned Holocaust role-play carried out over seven weeks in the context of a class on World War II. In this simulation, the teacher set herself up as “the Gestapo,” while every student in the class played a Jew at risk of being killed by Nazis.

While Schweber was inherently skeptical of the idea behind this exercise, when she surveyed the students in the class before and after the class, she did find that they “improved greatly” in their knowledge of the information and concepts surrounding the Holocaust. Schweber thought that the four students she interviewed in depth had, besides knowing much more about the Holocaust than they had, become truly emotionally engaged with the simulation: “All four interviewed students had come to recognize the arbitrariness of who survived and who didn’t, and all had gained a sense of the magnitude of that tragedy in the fabric of individual lives.”

Some educators, like Schweber, still see value in simulations in the K–12 classroom—if done with a very high level of investment and care. Adam Sanchez, a social studies teacher at a public high school in New York City, told me that both Rethinking Schools and Zinn Education Project—organizations he’s been involved with as an editor and writer—do produce curricula that include role-play and simulations. As an example, Sanchez pointed me to a piece describing a role-play on Reconstruction that he taught to a 12 th -grade government class in Queens. The class, mostly students of color, role-played as freedpeople living on the Sea Islands of Georgia during and immediately after the Civil War, with the game tracing the course of the actual community’s history. The students experienced emancipation, the brief hope for the future made possible by freedpeople’s land ownership right after the war, and the thwarting of that hope when Andrew Johnson became president, pardoned the slaveholders, and restored their land. “Obviously students aren’t going to be able to feel the feeling” that formerly enslaved landowners felt when the government decided to take their acres back, Sanchez said. But through the role-play, they put time into decisions that affected the community—“Are we going to spend money to build a school or are we going to create a militia?”—and so, when the news of Johnson’s decision hit them in the game, they had some investment in the situation.

In an article for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s magazine Teaching Tolerance, Ingrid Drake collected a list of recommendations for how to run an educational simulation or role-play: “Avoid simulations that can trigger emotional traumas” “Don’t group students according to characteristics that represent real-life oppression” “Build in ample time for debriefing” “Remind students to disengage from the role-play at the activity’s conclusion.” Sanchez’s Reconstruction simulation illustrates some of these practices. Sanchez said that he made sure to talk about the emotions that students experienced and to draw connections between those feelings and what the freedpeople might have gone through. It helped, too, to have a metaconversation with students about the pedagogical value of the simulation. “I always try to have time when debriefing the role-play when you acknowledge with students some of the limitations in role-play and simulation,” Sanchez said. “Any activity like that is going to necessarily simplify certain things, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Most histories, if you read them out of a textbook, simplify the true version of what actually happened—and that’s how most schools teach things.”

The viral role-play horror stories illustrate how far we have to go when it comes to teaching the history of slavery and the Holocaust. But LaGarrett King hopes teachers don’t get the wrong message. “What I fear is that with all the attention that these particular simulations and problematic caricatures are getting in the classroom, is that you’re going to have teachers say, ‘Well, forget it. I’m not going to teach any kind of hard history then,’ ” King said. “I like to think of it as a problem of professional development—like, ‘Hey, this is problematic! How can we fix it?’ ”

Rebecca Onion is a Slate staff writer and the author of Innocent Experiments.


The Last Days was first released in 1998. It was produced by June Beallor, Kenneth Lipper, Steven Spielberg, and the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. The film included archival footage, photographs, and documents, as well as interviews with survivors of the Shoah. The Last Days was remastered and released worldwide on Netflix on May 19, 2021.

Holocaust survivors Bill Basch, Irene Zisblatt, Renée Firestone, Alice Lok Cahana, Tom Lantos, Dario Gabbai, and Randolph Braham are featured in the film. [1] Former U.S. Representative from California Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the United States Congress. [4] [5] He was saved by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who hid Lantos in Budapest. [4] The film also included interviews with U.S. army veterans Paul Parks and Katsugo Miho, G.I.'s that liberated Dachau concentration camp. Former SS doctor Hans Münch, acquitted of war crimes at the Nuremberg trials, was interviewed about his experiences at Auschwitz concentration camp. [2] [4]

‘’The Last Days’’ received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 92% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews. [6] On Metacritic, the film holds a 85% approval, based on 25 critics. [7]

According to Radheyan Simonpillai for The Guardian, "The film’s thesis is that the Nazis were so fueled by hatred that they would sacrifice their position in the war in order to carry out the genocide, deporting 438,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz within a six-week period." [1] Roger Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times that the film "focuses on the last year of the war, when Adolf Hitler, already defeated and with his resources running out, revealed the depth of his racial hatred by diverting men and supplies to the task of exterminating Hungary's Jews." [8] John Leonard wrote for New York Magazine, "It is a story told by five survivors of that fast-forward genocide, all of them naturalized American citizens, who return to the cities and villages from which they were seized, and to the camps to which they were committed." [4] Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, former film critic for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote for Common Sense Media, "The horrors described by survivors of the death camps, the soldiers who liberated them, and historians, as well as photographs and archival footage, make this important and educational but best suited to teens and older." [9] Marc Savlov for The Austin Chronicle wrote, "Moll's film is a far cry from the elegiac poetry of, say, Night and Fog it's a document more than an examination, and its power of record is inarguable and incorruptible." [2]

PICTURES FROM HISTORY: Rare Images Of War, History , WW2, Nazi Germany

This SS officer will fight no more

Review of "The Fall of Berlin, 1945" by Anthony Beevor ( )

If anything, German resistance was surprisingly feeble, or as a German prisoner quoted by Beevor phrased it, "Morale is being completely destroyed by warfare on German territory . we are told to fight to the death, but it is a complete blind alley." There are no real surprises here -- if you didn't know anything about World War II, you could guess from the first couple of chapters that Germany is doomed. And yet, Beevor has wrenched a better book from the fall of Berlin than he was able to from the siege of Stalingrad.

A Tiger Panzer lies desolate near the Potsdam station

During the withdrawal into the centre of Berlin, the SS execution squads went about their hangman's work with an increased urgency and cold fanaticism. Around the Kurfürstendamm, SS squads entered houses where white flags had appeared and shot down any men they found. Goebbels, terrified of the momentum of collapse, described these signs of surrender as a 'plague bacillus'. Yet General Mummert, the commander of the Muncheberg Panzer Division, ordered the SS and Feldgendarmerie squads out of his sector round the Anhalter Bahnhof and Potsdamerplatz. He threatened to shoot executioners on the spot.
From Berlin Downfall 1945 by ANTONY BEEVOR

One of the last photos of Hitler. On his left is the head of Hitler Youth, Arthur Aksmann

The last days of Nazi rule in Berlin is a grim saga of hopelessness and desperation.

The forces available for the city's defense included several severely depleted Army and Waffen-SS divisions, supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and the Volkssturm which consisted of elderly men, many of whom had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I.

To the west the XX Infantry Division, to the north the IX Parachute Division, to the north-east Panzer Division Müncheberg, XI SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland were to the south-east, (east of Tempelhof Airport) and XVIII Panzergrenadier Division, the reserve, were in the central district.
Berlin's fate was sealed, but the resistance continued. The Soviet advance to the city centre was along these main axes: from the south-east, along the Frankfurter Allee (ending and stopped at the Alexanderplatz) from the south along Sonnen Allee ending north of the Belle Alliance Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag. The Reichstag, the Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz, and the Havel bridges at Spandau were the places where the fighting was heaviest, with house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat. The foreign contingents of the SS fought particularly hard, because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured.

On April 28 Heinrici rejected Hitler's command to hold Berlin at all costs, so he was relieved of his command and replaced by General Kurt Student the next day. On April 30, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. General Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on May 2.

A German soldier on the steps of Rayhskantselyarii. In its basement was a hospital with some 500 seriously wounded SS soldiers, as well as civilian women and children, who harassed the Red Army which demolished the building

This was not lucky enough to be alive

"White flags were hanging out of windows. "

In the closing days of the war, Charles Lindbergh was dispatched to Germany to gather information on the new aircraft the German Luftwaffe had developed such as the jet fighter and the rocket plane. He arrived in Germany just days after its surrender and roamed the countryside looking for information. He kept a journal of of his experience that provides us a glimpse of a nation that had aspired to conquer the world but was pulverized into defeat.

White flags were hanging out of windows in villages we passed on the way, just as they had been hanging out of many of the windows in Munich. At one point we stopped to ask directions from a group of young German soldiers - in uniform but disarmed and apparently plodding along on their way home - a half-dozen young men, courteous, giving us directions as best they could, -showing no trace of hatred or resentment, or of being whipped in battle. They looked like farmers' sons.

We were on the wrong road. We turned around, and I dropped a package of cigarettes as we passed them by. Regulations forbid our giving rides to Germans. There is to be 'no fraternization.' One is not supposed even to shake hands with them or give a bit of food or candy to the children.

The winding, stone-paved road up the mountain­side to Hitler's headquarters was filled with American military vehicles - jeeps and trucks filled with soldiers, WACS, and Army nurses, apparently bent on seeing where der Fuhrer had lived and operated.

. Hitler's quarters and the surrounding buildings had been heavily bombed - gutted, roofs fallen, in ruins. Craters from misses dotted the nearby hillsides. The pine forest around the buildings was stripped of limbs-trunks broken off, split, shattered.

We parked our jeep at the side of the building and climbed up over rubble to a gaping doorway. A few yards up the road I watched a German officer (in charge of the soldiers cleaning up) salute an American officer who passed nearby, bowing his head slightly as he did so. The American officer sauntered by, obviously taking no notice whatever, although the German held the salute until he had passed. I shall never forget the expressions of those two men.

Most of the walls of the building, being thickly built of stone, were standing firmly. Inside, rubble covered the floors, and part of the wooden furnishings had burned. We made our way over the debris on the floor of the room said to be Hitler's office to the great oblong gap which was once filled with a plate-glass window. It framed almost perfectly a high Alpine range - sharp crags, white fields of snow, saw-tooth peaks against a blue sky, sunlight on the boulders, a storm forming up the valley. It was one of the most beautiful mountain locations I have ever seen.

. We made our way back into the rear chamber. There was the stench of the dead-bodies somewhere only partly buried. We climbed up the mortar-strewn stairs, the end open to the sky where the roof had been blown off. Down again and to the kitchen, edging past a line of doughboys coming in, rifles over shoulders. The floor was covered with twisted utensils and broken dishes the stoves, with rubble thrown up by the bombs and fallen down from the ceiling."

"There was no hostility in her eyes. "

"As we approached Zell-am-See we entered territory still ruled by the German Army. Officers and soldiers were still armed and still directing what little traffic passed over the roads. Groups of soldiers stared at us as we passed but made no gesture. I could detect neither friendship nor hostility. In every instance where we asked directions, they responded with courtesy. The two of us in an American jeep drove through divisions of the Germany Army as though there had been no war.

On arriving at Zell-am-See in the late afternoon, we stopped at the newly installed local American Army headquarters to arrange for billets for the night. We were assigned a room in a nearby house which had been occupied by a German doctor. The family had been given notice to evacuate only a few hours before. (When our Army moves into an occupied village, the most desirable houses are selected and the occupants ordered out. They are permitted to take their clothing and certain household utensils and furniture - not essential furniture or beds. Where they go for food or shelter is considered none of the conquering army's concern. One of our officers told me that the G.I.'s in his organization simply threw out of the windows any articles they didn't want to keep in the rooms they were occupying.)

As I carried my barracks bag in through the door I met a young German woman carrying her belongings out. There was no hostility in her eyes as they met mine, simply sadness and acceptance. Behind her were three children, two little girls and a little boy, all less than ten years old. They stole glances at me, angry and a little frightened, like children who had been unfairly punished. Their arms were full of childhood belongings or light articles they were carrying out to help their mother."

This eyewitness account appears in: Lindbergh, Charles, A., The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970) Ziemke, Earl F., The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946 (1975).


In the spring of 1944, a Soviet invasion of Germany became a real possibility, as Soviet troops pursued the retreating German army. Hitler ordered the citizens of Germany to destroy anything that the enemy could put to good use. Embittered by defeats, he later turned against the Germans themselves. 'If the German people lose the war, then they will have proved themselves unworthy of me.'
Hitler suffered his greatest military setback of the war in the summer of 1944. More destructive by far than the D-Day landings, Stalin's Operation Bagration in Belorussia eliminated three times more German army divisions than the Allies did in Normandy. Hitler retaliated by demanding specific divisions of the German army stand fast to the last man - the very tactic that Stalin had deployed so disastrously in the early days of the war. Defeat for Germany was only months away.
Source: BBC

The commandant of Berlin Defense, Lieutenant General Helmut Reiman (in trench)

In the centre of Berlin that night the flames in bombarded buildings cast strange shadow sand a red glow on the otherwise dark streets. The soot and dust in the air made it almost unbreathable. From time to time there was the thunder of masonry collapsing. And to add to the terrifying effect, searchlight beams moved around above, searching a night sky in which the Luftwaffe had ceased to exist.

An exhausted group of foreign Waffen SS soldiers sought shelter in the cellars of the Hotel Continental. The place was already full of women and children who eyed the battle-worn soldiers uneasily. The manager approached them and asked if they would go instead to the air-raid shelter in the Jakobstrasse. The SS volunteers felt a bitter resentment that they who had been sacrificing their lives were now cold-shouldered.They turned and left. Fighting soldiers found themselves treated as pariahs. They were no longer brave defenders, but a danger. In hospitals, including one of the military Lazarette,nurses immediately confiscated weapons so that when the Russians arrived, they had no excuse to shoot the wounded.
A anti-aircraft gun lies near the Reichstag

'It's all over with the children,' she told him. 'Now we have to think about ourselves.''Let's be quick,' said Goebbels. 'We're short of time.'

Magda Goebbels took both the gold party badge which Hitler had given her on 27 Aprilin token of his admiration and also her gold cigarette case inscribed 'Adolf Hitler, 29 May1934'. Goebbels and his wife then went upstairs to the garden, accompanied by his adjutant, Günther Schwaegermann. They took two Walther pistols. Joseph and Magda Goebbels stood next to each other, a few metres from where the bodies of Hitler and his wife had been burned and then buried in a shell crater. They crunched on glass cyanide ampoules and either they shot themselves with the pistols at the same moment, or else Schwaegermann shot both of them immediately afterwards as a precautionary coup de grace

The two pistols were left with the bodies, which Schwaegermann doused in petrol from jerry cans, as he had promised. He then ignited the last funeral pyre of the Third Reich.

Double-click the "Windows Logs" option in the window's left pane.

Select a Windows log -- such as "System" -- to view its list of events in the top middle pane. Scroll down the list to the date that you suspect that someone was using your computer, and then click an event on that date to view its details in the bottom middle pane.


  • You cannot see the browser history if the browser's private browsing feature is enabled, such as Google Chrome's Incognito Mode.
  • Information in this article applies to Windows 8.1, Mozilla Firefox 27, Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome 2.0.1700.107. Instructions may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.


About the Author

An avid technology enthusiast, Steve Gregory has been writing professionally since 2002. With more than 10 years of experience as a network administrator, Gregory holds an Information Management certificate from the University of Maryland and is pursuing MCSE certification. His work has appeared in numerous online publications, including Chron and GlobalPost.

Classroom Games and Activities for General Music

Are you looking for Musical Games and Activities for your classroom? You’ve come to the right place! NAfME members shared some fantastic exercises they use in their classrooms – and now you can too! Check out some of their great recommendations below, and be sure to share yours on Amplify!

Bucket Band is an easy and inexpensive way to help teach rhythm – great activity for middle school kids!

Spin and notate activity!

Musical chairs writing! When the music stops pick up writing where the last person left off – writing can include note values, rhythm exercises, song lyrics to help the memorize a piece – you choose!

Scavenger hunt for an ice breaker!

Building chords with legos!

Get to know your students ice breaker – and helps students get to know one another!

What note am I? An Ice Breaker Music Game!

Incentive Program

All the students in Grades 6-8 are split up into one of three houses (sort of like in Harry Potter – which the kids love to reference). It builds community as students from other grades and classes work together to earn points and rewards.

Split students up into Music Teams.

Create six Music Teams named for the periods of music history: Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, and Post Modern.

Each team has a Team Leader. The leader gets to sit in a special chair and is the person I can call on to pass out their team’s notebooks, rhythm instruments, or to get their materials basket. The Team Leader chair rotates every two weeks. Make it random so that the students won’t be able to predict who the Team Leader will be.

Boomwhacker Station

At this station students work together to read simple melodies on the treble clef staff and play them together using Boomwhackers.

Coloring Station

Even the big kids like to color! At this station they are using a color by note worksheet. You can find free printable versions of the worksheets here

iPad Station-Flashnote Derby

At this station, students used the Flashnote Derby app to test their knowledge of the treble clef lines and spaces. This fast paced review really helps see who knows their notes!

Gone Fishin’

At this station students sit on a large tablecloth and match fish to fishbowls. Each fishbowl has a treble clef staff with 3-8 notes on it. By identifying th e letter names of each, students discover that it spells a word. Then they find the matching fish which had a word on it.

Spell a Story

At this station, students work on a pitch identification worksheet. As they identify the pitch names of the notes they complete a story.

Treble Twist Up

Everyone likes Twister, right? This game is a great deal like Twister. You can create a staff with a plain shower curtain and electrical tape, or with masking tape on carpet too. Students use a spinner and follow the directions “Right Hand E!” “Left foot B!” for a fun and physical way to review pitch names.

Teachers: You can download the template to make your own Treble Twist Up spinner here.

Ideas for the Last Day of Class

For some of us, the end of the school year coincides with Memorial Day. Folks are already making plans for those last few weeks of school, including ideas for the last day of class. The following recommendations were shared in social media when an NCTE member asked for suggestions for an end-of-school-year activity:

  • Give students a freewrite prompt—an inspirational quote about the future, a reflection on what they are proud of achieving in the course, words of advice to future students, etc. The student has five minutes to write and then discussion can follow.
  • Invite students to complete a survey about the class or the semester and provide feedback. This can be done on paper or via Google Forms or other online platform.
  • Play a game! Collect concluding paragraphs from novels that were read during the year. Ask students to reread each paragraph and see if they can recall which novel and author the paragraph was from, and then see if they can make some overall assertions about what great writers attempt to leave us with.
  • Spend 30 minutes leading them through a close reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art”—a perfect farewell poem that encapsulates all the paradoxes of memory and forgetting!
  • Share Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech—a good way to end the course and reflect on the meaning of literature as they leave the classroom.
  • Take time for a discussion on the topic, “How is what you have learned in this class affecting your life outside this classroom?” Students seem to genuinely enjoy presenting examples of direct effects of the class on their day-to-day existence, and the critical thinking necessary to make the connections between “real” life and education supports mastery and retention of the material.
  • Encourage students to make a video, providing suggestions for the next students of the class or course.
  • Engage students in a study of humor! Invite students to research and share what made people laugh and why. Conclude with students describing their own favorite humor

What ideas could you add to this list?

Lisa Fink

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This indicates resources located on The Teacher's Corner.

    A fun and educational game to end the school year with.
    Submitted by: Terry Grillo - West Brook High School
    A teacher-created poem inspired by Shel Silverstein.
    Submitted by: Daphne Rice - Portland Oregon
  • Positive Words
    I have my students fill out a Positive words sheet on everyone in the class. They only have to fill in a couple of words for each student but they really seem to enjoy giving each other a lift. I have them fill-in the blanks, then I take the papers and create one paper for each student with the words that were said. When I had them out the smiles are great to see. It can be adjusted to any grade. Another thing that I have done is have them fill out a sheet on me to help me learn from them how to be the best teacher. I just make up a quick sheet with questions like What was your favorite part of this year, What did you like least, etc. It is really interesting what some of my prior students have told me and I have made some changes. .DOC Downloads: Positive Words Directions - Positive Words Paper
    Submitted by: Sharon Staudt - Westside Elementary
  • Advice from Grads
    At the end of the school year I always have my fifth graders write a paragraph offering advice to incoming fifth graders for the next year. When the new school year starts, I read their advice to the new students.
    Submitted by: Sylvia Portnoy
  • Memory Book
    An easy way to capture memories from the year. Have the students create a memory book from 3-ring binders and clear sheet protectors, using artifacts from the past year. On the front include a class photo.
    Submitted by: J. Rader
  • Vacation Calendar
    Put together fun, easy, and educational activities for students. Give each student a calendar for the months they will be on vacation with simple activities to do each day. For example: Count the stars that are in the sky Find 20 words from the newspaper that begin with "B" etc.
    Submitted by: Anne Martini
    Create your own or use our word list.
    Create your own or use our word list.
  • A class memory!
    An easy and creative idea to help students remember their fellow classmates. I give the students an extra large piece of construction paper, and give them a 4x6 patter to trace. Then I have them decorate around it, like a frame. I have a digital camera and I took a picture of the class on a sunny day. I had 25 copies made, one for each of my students. They then placed the picture in the frame and let everyone sign around it!
    Submitted by: Denise
  • AutobiographiesGrades Any
    Not only will this activity build writing skills, but it will also be a special keepsake. My grade 5 Language Arts students wrote simple autobiographies. They wrote 3-10 sentences for each year of their life. Then I copied and bound them into a "yearbook" with memory pages to give as end of the year keepsakes.
    Submitted by:[email protected]
  • Autograph BookGrades Any
    A great book your students will treasure forever. At the end of the year have each child make an autograph book and for an afternoon activity let them pass around their books and get everyone's signatures and notes for a summer keepsake.
    Submitted by: Jessica [email protected]
    Grades Any
    A fun letter of things to do that you can send home with your students.
  • "How To Survive 5TH Grade"
    An activity to end one year and prepare for the next. I have my children create an ABC book called, "How To Survive 5TH Grade." They each come up with a word for every letter of the alphabet. We do allow cheating for x, but the kids are good at the other letters. Then they illustrate their books. I save these and have them on the desks for next year's new students.
    Submitted by: Cheryle Hodges [email protected]
  • Ice Cream Cones
    Give students a chance to share what they've learned throughout the school year. Trace a triangle for the cone. Students will draw at least 3 scoops and cut out. On each scoop they write something they learned from the school year. Then they glue the scoops attaching them to the cone.
    Submitted by: Danielle
  • The Jolly PostmanGrades K-2
    A fun way to wrap up the school year and the study of fairy tales. I read The Jolly Postman to my class. I also have read many of the other fairy tales over the school year. Then I have my class write letters to the characters in any of the fairy tales and make an envelop with an appropriate address. Ex: Jack Bean (from Jack and the Beanstalk) 7 Lima Bean Rd. Beansville, NY 90783
    Submitted by: [email protected]
  • Last-Day Water StationsGrades Any
    Help your kids cool off and have a little fun in the process. The last week of school was into the 90 degree days this year and at the spur of the moment, we decided to have a Water Fun day. All the kids in our school (about 400) wore/brought their swimsuits and towels to school and we went outside for 2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 in the afternoon to take part in about 15 different "water" stations. (similar to our field day activities). Stations included beach volleyball, basketball hoop in a baby swim pool, obstacle course (through a sprinkler, over hurdles, through tires, etc.), sprinkler limbo or jump rope (using those hoses with holes in them), filling buckets with frisbees from a kiddie pool, water balloon activities including several relays, tug-of-war and to top it off, the village fire truck was there all day to spray anyone and everyone. We finished activities in time to dry off or change clothes so that no one went home on the bus wet. It was a great cool off and quite a nice change for the last week of school.
    Submitted by: [email protected]
  • Puzzle FunGrades Any
    Personalize your end-of-the-year puzzles. For the last day of school I make a word search with everyone's first name. Use our Word Search Maker! An additional tip: Use the "Fun Options" to scramble their names before they can find them - it is super simple and quick to make a fantastic word search!
    Submitted by: [email protected]
  • Summer WritingGrades 2+
    Help you and your students keep in touch. Over the summer I have my class list with addresses of all my students, and also send the list home so we can all write over the summer. This works well by email as well. You can use our Writing Prompts for inspiration!

Back to Summer Activities

Watch the video: ESL Warm Up Activities Simple ESL warm up Activities (January 2022).