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Lesson plans for ages 12-14 in Language & Literature

Teaching Tools, 19 February 2007

LESSONS 1 and 2


A class set of The Endless Steppe is needed.


For the necessary entry behaviour, tell the students that this story begins in Poland, during the period of the Second World War. At the beginning of World War II, Germany and Russia agreed not to attack one another. In September 1939, Poland was first invaded by the Germans, and then by the Russians. Up to a million Poles were deported, many to Siberia, including the author and her family.

To begin the lesson, it is suggested that the teacher reads aloud from the beginning of chapter 1 until halfway down page 4, stopping just after the sentence "But in 1939 Hilter's armies marched on Poland". Students are then given class time to finish the chapter.

Discussion questions

  • a) How would you describe Esther's childhood in Vilna? Give examples of her childhood memories. b) What were Esther's impressions of her father, mother and grandparents? c) How would you describe Esther?
  • What do you think was in the mother's mind when she sent Esther off with her jewels to her maternal grandmother? (To prevent the theft of the jewels by the soldiers? A financial protection for the future, indicating a belief in their eventual return to Vilna?)
  • a) List the things that the family finally selected and packed for their journey. b) Why did Esther want to bring along her photo album? Suggest some reasons that her mother could have had in her mind for refusing? c) If you were about to become a refugee, like the Rudomin family, and only given a little time to pack, what would you take with you? Write down the answer to this question because the information will be needed for lesson 5.
  • What was the reason given by the soldiers to the Rudomins for their deportation? Could this be considered a form of persecution?
  • Chapter 1 began with a description of the emotional security which Esther enjoyed, surrounded always by her extended family, her life full of familiar traditions such as her grandfather in his garden, calisthenics with her cousins on Thursdays, and preparing Friday evening meals with her mother and their cook. How does chapter 1 finish?

Homework: Students read chapter 2.