Fleeing Conflict: Refugee & The Unwanted

Students explore the topic of "coming of age" through the stories of young refugees from different time periods, all of whom face unthinkable hardships as they desperately seek safety.

Unit Summary

There are seventy million people in the world today who have fled their homes due to the threat of violence or persecution. They are young children and adults and the elderly. Most are struggling to survive; all are desperately seeking safety and stability.

This final ELA unit of the 6th grade year introduces students to their plight. 

Students will begin the unit by reading The Unwanted, a nonfiction graphic novel by Don Brown that focuses on the experience of Syrian refugees. This compelling book uses text and images to educate the reader about both the political complexities of this crisis and also the human toll. Students will build their schema around this pressing and timely issue before diving into Refugee by Alan Gratz. This bestselling novel tells the story of Isabel, Josef, and Mahmoud, three young refugees from three time periods, as they flee their respective homelands in search of safety. This text will continue students’ year-long interrogation of what it means to “come of age” by analyzing how characters change over the course of the text in response to events (and particularly traumatic events).  As he alternates between each refugee’s story, Gratz draws the reader’s attention to the unique challenges each faces, all while deftly weaving their stories together across time. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • Why do people make the decision to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, and what are they willing to sacrifice to find safety? 
  • How do people respond when they see others in need?
  • What does it mean to “come of age” during times of crisis and war?

Enduring Understandings

  • Refugees are people who choose—or are forced—to flee their homes because of war, political unrest, violence, or persecution. Currently, there are millions of refugees around the world—the highest number in recorded history. 
  • The Syrian civil war has sparked one of the largest refugee crises in recent history as many millions of people have left the war-torn country seeking refuge and asylum elsewhere. 
  • Refugees often face extreme hardships and even risk death in their search for safety for themselves and their families. 
  • The response to refugees can vary widely; some individuals and governments are welcoming, while others are unwelcoming or even hostile to those who seek their help.

Vocabulary

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Text-based

dignity eternity flee hostile idolize inferior odyssey pandemonium persecute peril refugee resentment somber

Root/Affix

sub-

Academic

anecdote author's purpose author's perspective/point of view coming of age figurative language free verse frame graphic novel gutter imagery mood narrative box panel point of view/perspective splash page speech bubble structure statistic thematic topic theme tone

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 6th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers

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  • These texts present the brutal reality of what life is (and was) like for refugees. There are scenes in both core texts that graphically describe war, violence, and torture as well as the emotional aftermath of these events. The Unwanted may be particularly upsetting to students because events are depicted visually. While we feel that these images are not gratuitous, it is strongly recommended that you determine what is appropriate for your specific group of students and inform parents about what you will be discussing. Provide students with ample opportunities to discuss their reactions to the text. 
  • This unit focuses primarily on the experience of refugees and does not go into much detail about the complex and contentious politics of refugee aid/resettlement. You may wish to supplement this unit with up-to-the-moment information about laws and policies that impact refugees. Consider providing information about how the world refugee crisis impacts your own state, city, and community—and how politicians representing your area have responded to these issues.

Lesson Map

12

Writing

  • Refugee

    W.6.1

    W.6.1.a

    W.6.1.b

Perform a Close Reading of the text using inference and evidence.

21

Writing

    L.6.2

    L.6.2.a

    W.7.7

    W.7.8

Evaluate and compile research information into a digital presentation.

25

Writing

    L.6.5

    W.6.3.d

Interpret an experience of a displaced family through a free verse poem. 

26

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.6.2

L.6.2.a

L.6.4

L.6.4.a

L.6.4.c

L.6.4.d

L.6.5

RI.6.3

RI.6.4

RI.6.5

RI.6.6

RI.6.7

RL.6.2

RL.6.3

RL.6.4

RL.6.5

RL.6.6

SL.6.1

SL.6.1.d

SL.6.2

SL.6.3

SL.6.4

SL.6.5

SL.6.6

W.6.1

W.6.1.a

W.6.1.b

W.6.2

W.6.2.a

W.6.2.b

W.6.3.d

W.7.7

W.7.8

Supporting Standards

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L.6.1

L.6.1.a

L.6.1.b

L.6.1.c

L.6.1.d

L.6.1.e

L.6.2.b

L.6.3

L.6.3.a

L.6.3.b

L.6.4.b

L.6.5.a

L.6.6

RI.6.1

RI.6.10

RI.6.2

RL.6.1

RL.6.10

W.6.1.d

W.6.1.e

W.6.10

W.6.2.c

W.6.2.d

W.6.2.e

W.6.2.f

W.6.3.a

W.6.4

W.6.5

W.6.6

W.6.9

W.6.9.a

W.6.9.b