Unit 2: 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.
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.
Please Note: In February 2023, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: The Breadwinner: 15th Anniversary Edition by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2015)
Book: Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2012)
Book: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick (Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016)
Rubric: Grade 5 Narrative Writing Rubric
Resource: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) by United Nations General Assembly
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
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.
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.
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.
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.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 2, view our 5th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
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 to help teachers prepare for this specific unit
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.
Describe what inspired Deborah Ellis to write The Breadwinner and what she hoped to accomplish.
Describe the setting of The Breadwinner and what it is like where Parvana lives.
Analyze how the author characterizes Parvana and how the author develops characterization.
Analyze how Parvana, Mother, and Nooria respond to Father’s disappearance and how their responses help build a deeper understanding of character.
Rewrite a section of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.
Compare and contrast Parvana's, Nooria's, and Mother's responses to Parvana dressing as a boy and how their responses help to build a deeper understanding of the character.
Analyze the ways in which Parvana has taken on her father's role.
Rewrite sections of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.
Explain why Shauzia says that some people wouldn’t mind being dug up and whether or not that makes their actions justifiable.
Describe Shauzia’s and Parvana’s plans for the future and why they both want different things.
Defend if Parvana was right to be losing hope and what advice you would give her.
Debate if it is naive of Parvana to hope that things will get better and if hope is a useless emotion in a time of war and oppression.
Narrative Writing – 3 days
Discussion & Writing
Determine the themes in The Breadwinner and explain how different characters respond to the major themes by using key details from the text to determine theme.
Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from The Breadwinner.
Write a paragraph to answer a unit essential question.
Explain if Faranoz and Shabona share the same point of view on a woman’s right to education and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.
Explain if Zuhal and Palwasha share the same point of view on how to improve women’s rights and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.
Explain if Sara and Sigrullah share the same point of view on how to improve women’s rights and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.
Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from Kids of Kabul.
Explain what terrorism feels like and how Malala’s point of view compares to others’ in the unit.
Describe how the author characterizes Malala and her family and how the author develops that characterization.
Defend if "Targeted" is the best title for Part Four of the text.
Pick three or four words that best describe Malala and defend why.
Defend if Malala is or is not an ordinary girl by stating a claim and supporting the claim with evidence from the text and videos.
Debate and analyze unit essential questions using details from all three core unit texts.
Write a paragraph to answer a unit essential question.
Writing – 4 days
Write a magazine article that informs readers about a key theme from the unit by stating a claim and providing evidence from the entire unit.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.
— Use verb tense to convey various times, sequences, states, and conditions.
— Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.
— Use a comma to set off the words yes and no (e.g., Yes, thank you), to set off a tag question from the rest of the sentence (e.g., It's true, isn't it?), and to indicate direct address (e.g., Is that you, Steve?).
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.
— Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
— Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
— Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
— Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
— Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
— Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
— Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
— Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
— Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
— Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
— Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.
— Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., consequently, specifically).
— Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.
— Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
— Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
— Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
— Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses.
— Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 5 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., photograph, photosynthesis).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal contrast, addition, and other logical relationships (e.g., however, although, nevertheless, similarly, moreover, in addition).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 4—5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
— With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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