Unit 5: 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.
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.
Please Note: Updated enhanced lesson plans for the writing lessons in this unit will be released in September 2023. There may be 3-4 instructional days added to the unit writing projects.
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Book: Refugee by Alan Gratz (Scholastic, Inc., 2017)
Book: The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018)
Website: How to Read Comics by Tracy Edmunds (TracyEdmunds.com)
Article: “Refugee” by Diane Boudreau, Melissa McDaniel, Erin Sprout, Andrew Turgeon (National Geographic)
This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be
given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the
Download Content Assessment
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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
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
author's perspective/point of view
coming of age
point of view/perspective
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 6th 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
Define important terms related to this unit and determine the technical meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues and reference texts.
Define significant terms essential for understanding graphic novels, and explain how Brown uses text and illustrations to develop the reader’s understanding of the conflict in Syria.
Explain how Brown uses words and images to develop mood, tone, and meaning.
Describe different challenges that refugees face and explain how Brown develops the reader’s understanding of this topic.
Determine author Don Brown’s point of view on the world’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis and his purpose in writing The Unwanted.
Describe the narrative structure of Refugee and explain how the first three chapters develop aspects of characters, setting, and plot.
Explain how Gratz uses figurative language, word choice, and punctuation to help develop mood and meaning.
Explain how characters respond to the difficult situations they face and what their responses reveal about them.
Explain how characters respond to and change as a result of specific plot events, and identify how their responses reveal their perspective.
Explain why Refugee can be considered a “coming-of-age” novel and describe how each of the three protagonists are changing as the text progresses.
Explain how Gratz uses figurative language and imagery to help develop mood and meaning.
Write an analytical paragraph with a clear thesis statement, strong evidence, and thoughtful analysis.
Explain how Gratz makes connections between the stories of the three young refugees.
Explain how characters in Refugee respond to and change as a result of specific plot events and identify how their responses reveal their perspective.
Explain how characters in Refugee respond differently to specific plot events, and how their responses reveal their perspective.
Explain how and why characters in Refugee respond to specific plot events, and how their responses reveal their perspective.
Describe how characters’ perspectives have changed by the end of the text and explain how Gratz makes connections between the book’s three protagonists.
Determine themes in Refugee and explain how they are developed through the stories of specific characters.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, responding directly to others by rephrasing and delineating arguments, determining the strength of evidence, and posing clarifying questions.
Begin to gather information for their presentations from provided resources and those they have found online, differentiating between credible and non-credible sources.
Evaluate and compile research information into a digital presentation.
Logically organize the information in presentations, including all required components, and appropriately cite sources.
Present digital presentations using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.
Plan and outline a free verse poem that explores the experiences of a displaced family.
Interpret an experience of a displaced family through a free verse poem.
Assessment – 2 days
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
— Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.
— Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context.
— Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
— Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
— Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
— Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
— Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
— Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
— Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
— Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.
— Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
— Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
— Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
— Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content
— Introduce a topic; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
— Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
— Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.
— Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
— Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive).
— Use intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves).
— Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person.
— Recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).
— Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others' writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.
— Spell correctly.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.
— Maintain consistency in style and tone.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).
— Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole, item/category) to better understand each of the words.
— Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., stingy, scrimping, economical, unwasteful, thrifty).
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
— Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6—8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 6—8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
— Follow rules for collegial discussions, set specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.
— Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
— Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
— Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
— Use appropriate transitions to clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
— Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the information or explanation presented.
— Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
— With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
— 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 three pages in a single sitting.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
— Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres [e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories] in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics").
— Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not").
— 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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