Number The Stars Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
About the Book
In Number the Stars, the family of 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen takes in Annemarie's best friend, Ellen Rosen, as German troops begin their campaign to "relocate" all the Jews of Denmark. Annemarie's family conceals Ellen by pretending she's part of the family. Through Annemarie's eyes, readers witness the Danish Resistance smuggling nearly the entire Jewish population of Denmark across the sea to Sweden.
Pre-Reading Questions and Activities
1. Discuss Germany's occupation of other European nations during World War II including Denmark, Belgium, Norway, and The Netherlands. Talk about the fate of many Jews under the Nazi regime.
2. Read aloud the book's title, Number the Stars, and ask students to speculate on its meaning. Write their ideas on a poster pad to review when they reach Chapter 10.
3. Have students read through the list of chapter titles and make inferences about the story. Draw their attention to the number of titles that are questions. What do so many questions suggest about the story? (that it depicts a time of uncertainty) What other words jump out from these titles? (words of death and darkness — “long night,” “dark-haired one,” “death,” “casket,” “dark path”)
You may wish to draw students' attention to the words listed below before they begin reading the book.
One way to make vocabulary lessons fun is to use the words in a "Funny Fortune" activity.
Step 1: Explain that students should first look up the word, then write a one-line fortune using the word. For example:
Today you'll find your missing pen in your rucksack.
Don't worry — there's no casket in your near future.
This month you should stop sneering about homework and do it!
Step 2: Students can place their fortunes in a box and take turns picking one, reading it to the class, and discussing the underlined word.
Words With Life
The author's use of personification provides an opportunity to introduce this literary device.
Step 1: Explain that personification is when a writer gives human characteristics to inanimate objects or animals. Give these examples from the text:
- “seagulls soared and cried out as if they were in mourning.”
- “dawn would wake”
- “trees and bushes closed around her”
Step 2: Challenge students to find other examples in Number the Stars or other texts.
Step 3: Encourage students write their own examples of personification.
Interview a Character
Step 1: Match each student with a partner. One partner will select a character from Number the Stars to portray. The other partner will be an interviewer.
Step 2: Ask the partners to work together to formulate at least three questions and answers about the character's part in the action and how the character felt as the action unfolded.
Step 3: Encourage interviewer and character partners to perform their interview for the class. Direct them to improvise their interview from notes rather than read from a script.
Step 4: Grade students on the importance and depth of their questions, along with the fullness and accuracy of the answers. Also grade on the partners' ability to maintain a conversational tone.
Write a Journal Entry
Step 1: Have students look back at the characters in Number the Stars. Talk about how Annemarie and Ellen are similar and different.
Step 2: Challenge students to write a journal entry from each girl's point of view about life in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Encourage students to use some of the content area and support words in their journal entries.
Step 3: After students have written their journal entries, have them explain how they portrayed their character's feelings about the events. Ask students to point out the first-person pronouns they used.
Teaching First-Person Narrative
Recall with students that journal entries are first-person narratives and that the pronouns I, me, my, and mine are used throughout. First-person narratives are usually informal and express feelings.
The Holocaust Books for Younger Readers (grades 3-5) and Older Readers (grades 4-12) Book Wizard book lists include both fiction and nonfiction books that will enhance students' understanding of the Holocaust.