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ELA G7:M1:U1

Perspectives in Southern Sudan

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In this first unit, students will explore the question: “How do culture, time, and place influence the development of identity?” Through a study of the development of character in the novel A Long Walk to Water, students will immerse themselves in the experiences of the people of Southern Sudan during the Sudanese Civil War.

In this unit, students will read the first five chapters of the novel, discovering the differing perspectives of the novel’s two main characters and considering the different experiences of the Dinka and Nuer tribes of Southern Sudan. Students will then explore informational texts that describe the cultures of the Dinka and the Nuer. Students will identify textual evidence that supports the differing perspectives of the novel’s characters and the Sudanese people, and do routine writing tasks to analyze and explain that evidence. (This will lay the foundation for a rich performance task in Unit 3 in which students synthesize their understanding of character point of view in a two-voice poem.)

Throughout this unit, students build their ability to read closely and to analyze textual evidence in writing. This unit also introduces important discussion protocols that help students collaborate effectively during discussions. For the Mid-Unit and End of Unit Assessments in Unit 1, students will demonstrate their abilities to gather textual evidence that highlights the different perspectives from their readings. 


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Individual survival in challenging environments requires both physical and emotional resources.
  • Authors of fiction both draw on and elaborate on historical facts in order to convey their ideas about what it was like to be alive during that time.
  • How do individuals survive in challenging environments?
  • How do culture, time, and place influence the development of identity?
  • How does reading from different texts about the same topic build our understanding?
  • How does juxtaposing multiple characters help an author develop and contrast their points of view?

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about the Second Sudanese Civil War. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

  • Unifying Themes (pages 6–7)
  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports 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. 
  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments).
  • Social Studies Practices, Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5–8: 
  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).


Texts to buy

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

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park
One per student
ISBN: 978-0547577319, 0547577311

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Water for South Sudan
by Water for South Sudan, Inc
“Loss of Culturally Vital Cattle Leaves Dinka Tribe Adrift in Refugee Camps,”
by Stephen Buckley
Washington Post Foreign Service, 1997
“Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War,”
by Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service, 1999
“Life and Death in Darfur: Sudan’s Refugee Crisis Continues,”
by Current Events, April 7, 2006
“Author’s Note,” from A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park
Sandpiper by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-57731-9


Optional Activities


Invite experts to come speak to the class about the connection between the Lost Boys of Sudan and New York. Locate refugees from Sudan to come and answer the questions students generate. 




Coordinate a local refugee center to inquire about service opportunities. 


  • Social Studies teachers may complement this unit with a focus on similar Guiding Questions, which were developed from the NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum; see Guiding Questions above. 
  • Science teachers may directly connect with this unit with a focus on science Disciplinary Core Idea LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, as written in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Science teachers could use the Sudanese environment as a case study for analysis of interdependence in a particular biome.

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