After-Reading Activities for Number the Stars

After-reading Activities for Number the Stars

One of my favorite things about using historical novels for whole-class novel studies is that they present so many connections to current events and so many opportunities for really interesting follow-up activities.

For example, Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars is a great one to read as a whole class and then use as a lead-in to a variety of other language arts activities – reading, writing, discussing, and even research.

Number the Stars is set in Denmark during World War II. It tells the story of Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen, a Danish Jew. The story chronicles heroic efforts that keep Ellen safe until the war ends.

Of course, a novel like Number the Stars is perfect for a class discussion that the kids can really get involved in, but that is just the beginning!

For extended reading, Number the Stars could be paired with current events articles to provide a mix of fiction and non-fiction. For example, in the novel, Annemarie’s sister and her sister’s fiancé, Peter, were members of the Danish Resistance. This could be paired with current news articles about young rebels in a conflict today anywhere around the globe.

After reading the novel and maybe some related articles, it might be the perfect time for students to write a non-fiction narrative or an opinion essay about what they think life would be like in a difficult situation which they haven’t experienced themselves. Having read the story and the news articles should have helped students empathize with young people in other countries who are caught up in world conflicts and be ready to write.

Number the Stars also lends itself well to student research. Students could research a topic related to the time, place, or historical events in the novel or a modern day equivalent. After completing their research, students could present their findings in an oral presentation, maybe with an added student-made visual such as a chart or a slide presentation. Some topics might include: 

  • the country of Denmark
  • the Danish Resistance
  • the Jewish religion
  • locations of current day conflicts
  • one particular conflict today
  • other world religions
  • religious persecution
  • young freedom fighters of today

And back to those class discussions for a minute. To get started, here’s a little activity to try. First, in a quick writing activity (maybe five minutes) have the students each generate a list of points of comparison between the situation in Annemarie’s story and situations today. Then, in a second quick-write, have them list ideas and questions, suggested by items in their first list, that they would like to discuss. After these two beginning steps, you should have plenty of topic ideas, not to mention lots of student interest already generated!

All of these activities – class discussions, related current events readings, narrative or opinion writing, and research – could also be used with many other historical novels. I’ll add links to novel studies for some of my favorites below.

If you are interested in some teaching resources for a unit on Number the Stars, here is the link to my novel study. Like all of my novel studies, this one includes chapter questions and graphic organizers for before-, during-, and after-reading activities.

More Historical Novel Studies

Stepping on the Cracks Novel Study
Bud, Not Buddy novel study
The Cay Novel Study
After-reading activities for Number the Stars

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