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Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study

Use these creative lesson ideas for your Refugee novel study unit to help maintain engagement among your students.

Are you looking for Refugee novel study lessons?  The novel Refugee by Alan Gratz weaves three different voices together – Josef, a Jewish boy escaping the concentration camps in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl who sets out on a raft to America in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy immigrating to Europe in 2015.

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Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study

Refugee Novel Study Unit Overview

Use this novel with your students to help them learn more about the experiences of refugees around the world. Through the stories of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud, your students will become immersed in the challenges faced by these characters. 

I would recommend this book for students in Grade 6 or higher, as it covers sensitive topics that might be difficult for younger students to understand. However, you know your students best and can decide if this novel is right for them. 

  1. Play the book trailer Refugee by Alan Gratz before you start the novel to peek your students’ interests.
  2. Use the audiobook combined with the eBook or paper book to access the novel with your class. The audiobook brings the novel to life, better than just assigning students to read the chapters independently. 
  3. Aim to finish reading the novel in 4 weeks or less. Then schedule 1 week for the final project. There are 53 chapters in the novel which means you need to read between 13 and 14 chapters per week. Try to read at least 3 chapters at a time so that students get to know the stories of each character as it alternates between 3 different narrators Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud.

Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study

Sample Refugee Novel Study Outline

  • Week 1 – Work on activating your students’ prior knowledge. Learn about elements of a novel and literary devices. Have students work on novel introduction activities e.g., historical background, and general knowledge of refugees. Spark student interest by showing the book trailer and reading the first three chapters.
  • Week 2 – Read 13 – 14 chapters and have students complete comprehension questions as well as take notes on elements of a novel and literary devices. Assign different students each day to share the notes they took on these topics. This also holds students accountable for their learning. 
  • Weeks 3 – 5 – Same as week 2.
  • Week 6 – Now that the novel reading has been completed have students work on a final project to summarize their new learnings. 

Ready-To-Go Refugee Novel Study Refugee Novel Study

Don’t spend your evenings and weekends planning this novel study. Check out this fantastic no-prep Refugee novel study resource. 

Lesson Outline

  • Lesson 1 – Activating Prior Knowledge Brainstorm and Discussion
  • Lesson 2 – Elements of a Novel Notetaking 
  • Lesson 3 – Modelled Practice of the Elements of a Novel and Reading Strategies (Plot, Character, Conflict, Setting, Topic, Theme, Foreshadowing, Symbolism, Simile, Metaphor, Predictions, Connections, Questions, Inference, Visualization)
  • Lesson 4 – Refugee Novel Introduction Activities
  • Lesson 5 – Refugee Novel Study Graphic Organizers
  • Lesson 6 – Refugee Chapter Questions (3 Questions per chapter) 
  • Lesson 7 – Refugee Final Project

Resource Includes

  1. Print & Digital Formats
  2. Detailed Lesson Plans
  3. Chapter Questions (PDF and Self-Marking Google Forms™ Formats)
  4. Lesson Slideshows
  5. Background Knowledge Building Activities 
  6. Map Activity
  7. Graphic Organizers
  8. Answer Keys
  9. Novel Study Final Project
  10.  MP3 Audio Files of Student Readings
  11.  PDF, Google Slides™ and Google Forms™ Formats

Find this resource for purchase in USD on TPT or in CAD on Shopify.

Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study

Why should students read the novel Refugee?

I love reading this novel with students. They are immediately hooked by the high-interest content and events of the novel. The characters are around the age of middle school students so this helps students relate to them more. 

Students should read this novel because
  1. The novel offers a unique perspective on the struggles of refugees around the world. Through his writing, Gratz, helps the reader understand the challenges faced by those forced to flee their homes. 
  2. The author does an excellent job of integrating three different characters, cultures and storylines throughout the novel.
  3. It has vivid descriptions and dynamic characters that help the reader become immersed in the storyline. 
  4. The writing can also be used as mentor sentences and paragraphs for teaching students to become better writers. 
  5. Students will gain a better understanding of the global refugee crisis and the struggles faced by those who have been displaced from their homes. 

Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study

Refugee Novel Study Lesson Ideas

  • Have student research background information about Cuba, Syria and Germany.
  • Create an information poster about the countries discussed in the story.
  • Create a chart paper comparing the reasons that made Isabel, Josef, and Mahmoud leave their homes. Then create Venn diagrams for each reason to explain – How they were alike? How they were different?
  • Pretend your class has the chance to interview the author. Students can gather in groups to create a list of 5 questions they would like to ask during the interview. Have groups share their ideas with the class. Then watch the Refugee Book Talk with Author Alan Gratz. Have students see which questions were answered and which were not. This interview is 44 minutes long so preview it beforehand to ensure it meets the needs of your students. 
  • Create a double-entry journal for some different chapters in the book. 
  • Create a poster with what you consider to be the four most important points in the book. Illustrate these scenes and write a short paragraph explaining each scene.
  • Create a collage that represents the theme of the story or a significant event that occurred. Students can use images they print from the computer or gather from print media. 
  • Have students write a short essay discussing the theme of the novel.
  • Have students work in groups to create a gallery walk about key points in one person’s story in the novel. Each character could have a gallery walk. They do not need to be major characters. Some groups could do more than one minor character. 
  • Create a graffiti board about the book and have students share their thoughts on parts of the novel or related topics. This would be a great whole-class engagement activity or could be done in small groups.
Creative Lesson Ideas For Your Refugee Novel Study
Have students create a map.
  • Interview people that have relocated from one place to another. What were their biggest concerns? How did they prepare? What were their challenges and successes?
  • Have students create a map to learn where different parts of the novel take place.
  • Create a list of comprehension/discussion questions for the class to discuss. Use one of these discussion strategies to change up the traditional and answer format: Think-Pair-Share,  Socratic Seminar, Say Something, Fishbowl.
  • Students can create a Quizziz, Kahoot or Blooket with questions and answers from the story. 
  • Working in small groups or independently, have students create a book trailer for the book. The trailer should be at least one minute long and build interest in reading the novel. You can view examples here and here.
  • Have students create a life map of one of the three main characters. Learn more about creating a life map in this Middle School Biography Assignment blog post.
  • Your students can use any of these 8 reading log alternatives to showcase their learning about the novel. 
  • Try any of the interesting activities found in this Refugee Novel Study Unit.
  • Use relevant non-fiction articles to support the themes and ideas explored in this unit. Follow the Article of the Week format for these lessons.

Middle School Refugee Novel Study

Refugee Novel Study

If you love the ideas above and are looking for a ready-made Refugee unit that has engaging activities like QR Codes, Map Creation, Chapter Comprehension Questions and much more check out this resource which is for purchase in USD on TPT or in CAD on Shopify.

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