Build Background Knowledge: The Lost Boys of the Sudan | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G7:M1:U1

Build Background Knowledge: The Lost Boys of the Sudan

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Students begin Unit 1 by reading the novel A Long Walk to Water. The focus of the first half of the unit of reading is catching questions about the conflict described and analyzing how the setting shapes the characters and plot and how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters in the text. In the second half of the unit, students begin to analyze how themes have developed throughout the story so far. Students also create discussion norms in order to have productive discussions about the text at the end of the unit.

A Long Walk to Water contains references to sensitive topics such as war (including the violent death of family members and children), displacement, family separation, hunger, thirst (including death from lack of water), refugee camps, violent deaths from wild animals, and serious illness of family members. These issues must be carefully and sensitively discussed to give students context as they read the story. Speak with students and families in advance, especially those who may have sensitivity to topics discussed.

In this unit, students begin to read literary nonfiction texts at their level as they choose independent research reading texts. There are Independent Reading Sample Plans in online resources with ideas on how to launch independent reading. Students should complete 20 minutes of independent research reading for homework when they are not reading a chapter from the anchor text. Students should also continue independent research reading over weekends.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. (See the Support All Students section of the Teaching Notes in Lesson 1 for further detail.) You will find the unit's Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Discovering The Lost Boys of the Sudan: Building Background Knowledge: The Lost Boys of the Sudan
  • Task: 
    • Complete selected and constructed response questions to analyze how setting shapes plot and characters and how the author develops and contrasts points of view. 
    • Participate in text-based discussion about the development of themes in A Long Walk to Water.
  • Targets: R.7.1, RL.7.2, RL.7.3, RL.7.4, RL.7.6, RL.7.10, SL.7.1a, SL.7.1b, SL.7.1c, L.7.4, L.7.6
  • Texts: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, "The Lost Boys of the Sudan"


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, and collaboration). Students also work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, and compassion).

In this unit, as students read A Long Walk to Water, they witness evidence of respect, empathy, collaboration, and perseverance and discuss what these look and sound like in the text. Also, students focus on respect, empathy, and compassion as they respond to one another's ideas and skills in written work and in discussions. Students also focus on collaboration and taking initiative during discussions. They practice integrity and perseverance as they work independently on assessments. They take responsibility for their own learning as they track progress on their assessments.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park
One per student
ISBN: 9780547577319

Preparation and Materials

Prepare the following anchor charts for this unit:

  • Performance Task anchor chart
  • Questions about A Long Walk to Water
  • Module Guiding Questions anchor chart
  • Settings/Character/Plot anchor chart
  • Point of View anchor chart

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of A Long Walk to Water, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Academic word wall
  • Domain-specific word wall
  • Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart
  • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart
  • Strategies to Answer Selected Response Questions anchor chart
  • Work to Become Effective Learners anchor chart
  • Criteria of an Effective Literary Summary anchor chart 
  • Common Themes in Literature anchor chart
  • Discussion Norms anchor chart
  • World map
  • Vocabulary logs
  • Equity sticks
  • Track Progress folders


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