Exploring Human Rights: The Breadwinner

Students explore the Taliban's influence on the Middle East through the lens of human rights in the book The Breadwinner, and practice narrative writing by rewriting scenes from other point of views.



Unit 2

5th Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore the Taliban influence on the Middle East through the eyes of multiple young women. In the core text, The Breadwinner, students experience how the Taliban presence in Afghanistan drastically altered Parvana and her family’s life. Students will be challenged to think about what constitutes basic human rights, how the Taliban violated the human rights of many Afghanistan citizens, and how women’s rights to education and freedom were constantly at risk under Taliban rule. Additionally, students will realize that a positive attitude, dedication to family, and drive to be self-reliant can help people survive, and thrive, in the worst of situations. In the second part of the unit, students read about the experiences of real children living in Afghanistan after the Taliban left. Through those experiences, students explore how education and women’s rights are still restricted in Afghanistan and grapple with what it will take to create a society where women have access to the same basic freedoms as men. In the last part of the unit, students meet Malala Yousafzai and analyze how her positive attitude and drive help her fight for women’s rights in Pakistan despite facing incredible challenges and threats. Over the course of the entire unit, it is our hope that students will build a deeper understanding of the importance of women’s rights and access to education around the world, particularly in the Middle East. 

This unit pushes students to compare and contrast characters and analyze character points of view, noticing how comparing and contrasting can help them develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of characters and events. 

Students deep dive into the setting, noticing how the setting of a story influences the way characters behave, foreshadows events, and provides a window into the society where the character lives. Students will also notice how authors reveal the theme of a story, often using predictable pathways and patterns. Students will also use informational texts, particularly memoirs and first-person accounts, to help build a deeper understanding of fiction texts. The focus for informational reading is similar to the focus for fiction, and students will analyze how the point of view influences how events are described. When discussing the text, students continue to work on elaborating and supporting their own ideas, using examples and evidence to justify their own thinking. Doing so sets students up for success with discourse in later units when students are pushed to engage with the thinking of others.

Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task questions. In the first half of the unit, students use narrative writing to build a deeper understanding of the text and point of view, by rewriting sections of the text from another character's point of view. In the second half of the unit, students build on the work they did in unit one to continue writing opinion and literary analysis paragraphs that focus on a strong topic sentence, supporting reasons, and effective elaboration. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • How can family relationships and dynamics influence a person's actions? 
  • How did the Taliban regime impact life for residents of Kabul? 
  • Feminism advocates for women's rights and equality of the sexes. What can be done to improve women's rights and equality in both Afghanistan and Pakistan? 
  • How can one person impact a community? 

Reading Focus Areas

  • Comparing and contrasting characters helps readers develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the text.

  • Authors reveal the theme of a story by using predictable patterns and pathways.

  • The setting of a story influences the way characters behave, foreshadows events, and provides a window into the society where the character lives.

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • Write strong topic sentences that clearly state the opinion.

  • Support a point of view with strong reasons and information.

  • Write concluding statements that are connected to the opinion.

Narrative Writing

  • Use relevant text details or background knowledge from the text to develop characters, ideas, or situations.

  • Brainstorm and draft a story with a logical sequence of events that unfolds naturally.

  • Use description and dialogue to develop experiences, events and characters.

  • Use precise words and phrases to describe character actions and feelings.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Prepare for discussion.

  • Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.

  • Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share their thoughts.



anxious brutality ceased cower depressed decreed decency defy deprived exile forbade haven ignorant illiteracy immune impoverished intimidate insanity menacingly obscenity refuge restrictive relented resentful sensible smuggle sulking vital


-ful -ible -ous -tion ill- im-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 2, view our 5th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Notes for Teachers

Since this edition was published in 2015, there has been continued conflict in Afghanistan. In 2021, United States troops evacuated Afghanistan. Later that year, the Afghanistan government collapsed and the Taliban took over Kabul. If desired, provide students with this article, Taliban take over Afghanistan: What we know and what's next, from Newsela to provide an overview of events. This article contains content that may be upsetting for some readers. 


Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 1

Building Community: Seedfolks


Unit 3

Protecting the Earth: Plastic Pollution

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