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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Include:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the story of an innocent and ignorant boy whose father is the commandant of the concentration/death camp Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Poland during World War II. Though the book is written in third person/omniscient point of view, the author has Bruno use his unknowing voice, calling Auschwitz “Out-with”, and the Fuhrer (Adolf Hilter) “the Fury”, to show his true misunderstanding of all that is actually happening around him.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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For more information about teaching The Holocaust, see our History of the Holocaust Teacher Guide.


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A Quick Synopsis of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Contains Plot Spoilers)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas begins with a young Bruno frantically trying to figure out why his maid is touching and packing up all of his things. He wonders if he has done something wrong. He is a young boy during World War II, the son of a Nazi commandant, living in Berlin. Due to his father's sudden promotion, Bruno and his family are forced to move to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland.

Bruno is unabashedly against the move, protesting loudly to his mother and to his maid. After the move, Bruno sulks, inconsolably, at the loss of his Berlin home and friends. He is bored and lonely. He is also under strict orders to not explore too much, due to living in such close proximity to a concentration camp. This is difficult for Bruno to accept because he wants to be an explorer when he grows up. He is, however, ignorant of what the Nazi party does to the “guests” of the camp. He thinks that the camp is full of farmers.

When playing outside, Bruno falls off of a tire swing. When he goes inside, a man tends to his cuts. He tells Bruno that he is a doctor. Bruno doesn’t understand why a doctor of medicine would quit to tend to his family. The man is a prisoner of “Out-with” (Auschwitz) and has been forced into servitude. He also will get in trouble if someone learns he had touched Bruno. When Bruno’s mother finds out about it, she lies to her husband and says that she tended to his injuries.

Bruno decides to disobey his parents and go past the walls of their yard. Quite a distance from his home, Bruno comes upon a section of fence, and behind it is a boy about his age. He sits down and befriends the boy. Bruno has lots of questions, many of which the little boy, whose name is Shmuel, cannot answer. Bruno takes to visiting Shmuel many times. Quickly, they become the closest of friends. It seems that Shmuel understands more about what is happening than Bruno, yet he still seems innocent in some ways. Bruno smuggles all kinds of food and goodies to Shmuel as often as he is able. Meanwhile, as Shmuel's friendship with Bruno grows, his mother is becoming increasingly disgusted with what is happening with the prison, and Bruno’s sister Gretel’s love for the Nazi party is becoming stronger.

One day, Bruno begins to talk about Shmuel coming over to his side of the fence, but Shmuel says it is not allowed. Knowing that was true, Bruno says he could go over to Shmuel’s side. Shmuel didn’t understand why anyone would voluntarily come to his side of the fence. Bruno tells Shmuel that if he gathers some worn striped pajamas, then Bruno could truly fit in with that special community. Shmuel knows where to find some for him.

When the day ends, Bruno is so excited. He runs to the fence with joy, and Shmuel is happy to see Bruno. Bruno squeezes under the fence, leaving his clothes behind. He quickly gets into the ill-fitting and unwashed garments. The two boys begin to look for Shmuel's father and somehow end up in a large group. It is raining and the guards march the group into a gas chamber. Bruno is scared, and so is Shmuel. They hold hands.

The doors to the “shelter” close, the gas pours in, and people begin to scream. Bruno has accidentally been put to death by the Nazis. Bruno’s mother realizes what has happened when she sees the pile of clothes next to the fence. Everyone goes looking for poor little Bruno. They never find him.

Essential Questions for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

  1. How important is it to have knowledge and to be informed?
  2. What is the meaning of friendship?
  3. How does fear stop us from doing what is right?

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Summary


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Creating a storyboard for summarizing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas will challenge students to decide what is essential. Similar to a "Five Finger Retell", students need to think critically about the events in order. This activity will also give students the opportunity to explore characters in more depth.

Consider having students plan their storyboard with a blank template prior to creating the full storyboard online. Students should begin with the retold narrative in each box before adding character dialogue. This will allow them to focus on the purpose of retelling without getting distracted by the details of the storyboard.


Example Plot Diagram for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Exposition

The book starts by introducing young Bruno. He is very upset because his maid is packing all of his things and he doesn't understand why she would be touching his belongings. It turns out that his father is a German officer during World War II and his job is requiring a move from Berlin to Poland to live near the Auschwitz concentration camp.


Major Inciting Conflict

In addition to the Nazi vs. Jews conflict, there is also a conflict between Bruno and his parents. They don't fully realize how severe the conflict is - Bruno not liking his new home and lack of friends - but it leads to his escape into the camp.


Rising Action

Bruno goes against his mothers wishes and "explores" beyond the fenced back yard. He meets and befriends Shmuel and he begins to visit him daily. He sneaks food to him as well.


Climax

Bruno changes into a set of striped pajamas and crawls under the fence to the prisoner side. He leaves his clothes and boots. The two boys go to look around the prison grounds for Shmuel's father, who has gone missing.


Falling Action

Bruno and Shmuel get locked inside the prison.


Resolution

Both Bruno and Shmuel are murdered in the gas chamber. This is never fully realized by his parents, but it leads both into a world of despair and pain.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas -Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That Image Attributions: Gas chamber, Auschwitz (7/11 gz08) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedandjen/14671403876/) - Ted and Jen - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) 23304-Auschwitz (https://www.flickr.com/photos/xiquinho/16192737790/) - xiquinhosilva - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) 23172-Auschwitz (https://www.flickr.com/photos/xiquinho/16194242497/) - xiquinhosilva - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION The book starts by introducing young Bruno. He is very upset because his maid is packing all of his things and he doesn't understand why she would be touching all of his stuff. It turns out that his father is a German officer during World War II and his job is requiring a move from Berlin to Auschwitz (in Poland.) In addition to the general Nazi vs. the Jewish conflict, there is also a conflict between Bruno and his parents. They don't fully realize how severe the conflict is (Bruno not liking his new home and lack of friends), but it leads to his escape into the camp. Bruno goes against his mother's wishes and "explores" beyond the fenced backyard. He meets and befriends Shmuel and he begins to visit him daily. He sneaks food to him as well. Bruno changes into a set of striped pajamas and crawls under the fence to the prisoner side. He leaves his clothes and boots behind. The two boys go to look around the prison grounds for Shmuel's father, who has gone missing. Bruno and Shmuel get locked inside the prison. Both Bruno and Shmuel are murdered in the gas chamber. This is never discovered by his parents, but it leads both into a world of despair and pain.

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Story Outline Storyboard Template
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION