Finding Home: Refugees | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M1

Finding Home: Refugees

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In this module, students will develop their ability to read and understand complex text as they consider the challenges of fictional and real refugees.

In the first unit, students will begin Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, analyzing how critical incidents reveal the dynamic nature of the main character, Ha, a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl whose family is deciding whether to flee during the fall of Saigon. The novel, poignantly told in free verse, will challenge students to consider the impact of specific word choice on tone and meaning. Students will build their ability to infer and analyze text, both in discussion and through writing. They then will read informational text to learn more about the history of war in Vietnam, and the specific historical context of Ha's family's struggle during the fall of Saigon.

In Unit 2, students will build knowledge about refugees' search for a place to call home. They will read informational texts that convey universal themes of refugees' experiences across various times and cultures as they flee and find home. As they continue to move through the novel, they will focus on how particular incidents move the story forward and reveal aspects of Ha's character. Unit 2 culminates in which students examine how the universal refugee experience causes the refugee's life to be turned inside out and eventually return back again.

In Unit 3, having finished the novel, students will reread critical incidents, while also working in research groups to study the experiences of refugees from one of several cultures. Students will use this knowledge to write to write two, free verse narrative poems that capture the universal refugee experience. Students will reread poems from the novel as mentor texts. This free-verse narrative poems performance task centers on ELA standards RI.8.1, RI.8.2, W.8.3, W.8.4, W.8.5, W.8.7, W.8.9, L.8.1, and L.8.2.


Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • What is home?
  • How do critical incidents reveal character?
  • What common themes unify the refugee experience?
  • How can we tell powerful stories about people's experiences?
  • Critical incidents reveal a character's dynamic nature.
  • Characters change over time in response to challenges.

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies content. These intentional connections are described below.

Social Studies Core Curriculum

  • Social Studies Themes in Context
  • Individual Development and Cultural Identity
  • Role of social, political, and cultural interactions in the development of identity
  • Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences
  • Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures
  • Role of diversity within and among cultures


Each unit file includes teacher materials and student-facing materials.


Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
One per student
ISBN: 978-0061962790, 0061962791


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

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