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ELA G7:M1:U2:L10

Introducing Essay Prompt: Factors for Survival in A Long Walk to Water

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of literary text. (RL.7.1) 
  • I can analyze the development of a theme or central idea throughout a literary text. (RL.7.2)

Supporting Targets

Learning TargetsOngoing Assessments
  • I can select pieces of textual evidence that show the factors that help Salva survive.

  • Exit Ticket


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

A. Entry Task: Introducing Learning Targets and Connecting to Mid-Unit Assessment (5 minutes)

B. Introducing Essay Prompt (5 minutes)

2.  Work Time

A. Discussing the Prompt (10 minutes)

B. Introducing the Forming Evidence-Based Claims Graphic Organizer (10 minutes)

C. Completing the First Row of Forming Evidence-Based Claims Graphic Organizer (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment 

A. Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

A. Finish Row 1 of Forming Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer.

  • This lesson is the transition between the lessons on reading the novel and informational text about Sudan and the scaffolding toward the literary analysis essay that will be the assessment at the end of Unit 2. It is important for students to be able to follow the development of a theme through the novel in order for them to understand the work and the author’s intent in writing it. Being able to share their understanding of the novel through an analytical essay is a powerful skill that will also be the reward for their close reading of the novel and the informational texts that helped them to understand the time and place of Salva and Nya’s challenges. Writing about what they read is enjoyable for students, especially if they have become engaged with the text and want to share their understanding with an audience. Lessons 10–14 will follow a similar pattern of having students look at components of a literary analysis essay and work to prepare for writing their own.
  • In this lesson students start filling out the Odell Education resource called Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet (provided here in supporting materials and also available as a stand-alone document on and graphic organizer is to help students find the details that will best support their claim/thesis in their essay. The first row helps students select details or events in the novel that were important in the survival of one of the main characters in A Long Walk to Water. Filling out the second row helps students practice explaining the meaning and significance of the details they choose. The work to complete this organizer will help them to plan and write their essays in lessons 15–16. Students will complete the organizer in Lesson 13.
  • You will model filling out the first row of the organizer for students. In your example, use the survival factors that help Nya meet challenges. Students will be writing about Salva only, but the method and information will be similar for both.
  • In advance: Read the Essay Prompt and think about how it connects to the learning targets in this lesson, as well as the mid-unit assessment students just completed. 
  • Look ahead to Lesson 14 in order to familiarize yourself with the NYS Grade 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation rubric (found on page 14 of New York State Educator Guide to the 2013 Grade 7 Common Core English Language Arts Test) so that you can help students prepare to meet the criteria for writing a quality essay. 
  • Post: Learning targets. 



factors, claim

  • End of Unit 2 Assessment Prompt: A Long Walk To Water Essay (one per student) 
  • Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet (adapted in collaboration with Odell Education; also see generic stand-alone document on and (one per student)
  • Document camera
  • Survival anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Half-sheet of paper for exit ticket (one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task: Introducing Learning Targets and Connecting to Mid-Unit Assessment (5 minutes)

  • As students enter the classroom, ask them to write down the learning target for today on the top of a sheet of paper they will use during the class. Ask them to circle the key word(s) in the target.
  • Focus students whole group. Ask a student to read the learning target for today and give the key word(s) he or she circled. They may circle textual evidence. If so, confirm that the words are key to this target and clarify what they mean if needed.
  • If students also circle factors, point out the meaning of this word as “one of the elements contributing to a particular result or situation.” Examples: We couldn’t have the picnic because of several factors; we forgot the food, it was raining, and the car broke down,” or “Literacy is one of the main factors that prepare someone to be ready for college and a career.” If the students do not circle factors, discuss and clarify the word anyway—it is the focus of the essay prompt they will get today.
  • Ask students: 

* “How does this learning target relate to the mid-unit assessment you did in the last class?” 

  • Listen for responses like: “We had to pick out challenges, and this is asking us to think about how the characters survived those challenges.”

  • Using entrance/exit tickets allows you to get a quick check for understanding of the learning target so that instruction can be adjusted or tailored to students’ needs during the lesson or before the next lesson. 

B. Introducing Essay Prompt (5 minutes)

  • Say to students: “Remember, we have been thinking about the question of how individuals survive in challenging situations and looking specifically at Salva and Nya in South Sudan. Today we will focus a bit more on a specific question you will be writing about.”
  • Give each student a copy of the End of Unit 2 Assessment Prompt: A Long Walk to Water Essay. Point out the word factor and how it is used in this prompt.

* Essay Prompt: Focusing Question: “How do individuals survive challenging environments in A Long Walk to Water?” 

  • After reading the novel and accounts of the experiences of the people of Southern Sudan during and after the Second Sudanese Civil War, write an essay that addresses the theme of survival by answering the question: What factors made survival possible for Salva in A Long Walk to Water? Support your discussion with evidence from the novel and be sure to explain your thinking about how this evidence relates to a factor in Salva’s survival. 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Discussing the Prompt (10 minutes)

  • Emphasize to students that in order to write a good essay, it is very important that they fully understand the prompt. Have students meet with one of their Discussion Appointment partners and follow these directions:
  1. What does this prompt mean to you?
  2. Write the prompt in your own words on your prompt sheet.
  3. On the prompt sheet, list the things you will need to do in order to get ready to write your essay.
  • As the students work, circulate and listen to see that they understand that they must decide what the survival factors are and gather information about survival factors to use in their essays 
  • In the last minutes of this segment, cold call a few pairs to see what they have. Be sure that all pairs have the prompt and list written down. Before students leave their partners, remind them to thank their partners for good work.

  • Mixed-ability grouping of students for regular discussion and close reading exercises will provide a collaborative and supportive structure for reading complex texts and close reading of the text. Determine these groups ahead of time.

B. Introducing the Forming Evidence-Based Claims Graphic Organizer (10 minutes)

  • Make the transition to this work segment by saying: “Now that you understand the prompt, we need to begin to gather the information you will need to write a good paper.”
  • Distribute a copy of Forming Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer. Display the document using a document camera.
  • Tell students that this graphic organizer will help them get clear on what details really struck them about the novel and why: What claims do they want to make about what they read? In other words, what statements can they make to show that they have analyzed the text and can explain its significance? Point out that this is a skill students have been practicing a lot in their other four-column graphic organizer throughout Unit 1 and the first part of Unit 2. They will use this new graphic organizer to help them begin to sort and sift some of those details in order to write a more formal essay. 
  • Model for students how to use this graphic organizer. Think aloud: “I see the essay prompt question at the top, and it looks like I need to put in some details from the story of Salva and Nya that relate to the prompt question.” Ask: 

* “Where can I get some details to fill this in?” Then, look at the Survival anchor chart and say, “Oh, we have collected a lot of details related to survival on our chart. I think I will choose ________ because it shows a 
time when Nya had to survive something dangerous.” 

  • Write the detail and the page reference on the model Forming Evidence-Based Claims organizer you are displaying.
  • Ask students to give you two other details/quotes that would show survival factors and add those to the organizer.
  • Emphasize that paying attention to details is a part of reading closely, which students have practiced a lot. Here, they are in effect thinking again about the details in order to prepare to write. Continue to reinforce how interrelated reading and writing are: You must have read carefully in order to have strong details to analyze in formal writing. Students have built a lot of expertise about Salva, Nya, and issues related to survival; now is their chance to begin to pull all that great reading and thinking together to share with others.

  • Graphic organizers and recording forms provide the necessary scaffolding that is especially critical for learners with lower levels of language proficiency and/or learning, and they engage students more actively. 

C. Completing the First Row of Forming Evidence-Based Claims Graphic Organizer (10 minutes)

  • Tell students that you have shown them how to find good details to support the prompt. Now they need to go ahead and fill in their organizers with the details and quotes that they think would be good to show how Salva survived in A Long Walk to Water.
  • While students are working, circulate and be sure that all are able to find appropriate examples of survival factors. 
  • Support students in:

* Using the anchor charts (Survival and What Happened to Salva/Nya?) to get examples 

* Using their Reader’s Notes and Gathering Textual Evidence graphic organizer for examples as well

* Using quotes to support their examples and page numbers for the quotes

  • When the time is up, ask students to save their organizers in whatever type of organizational folder or binder they are using. Tell them that they will be filling out the rest of this sheet in a few days so that they can plan for their essays.

Closing & Assessments


A. Exit Ticket: (5 minutes) 

  • Give students a half-sheet of paper for their exit ticket responses. Post the following exit ticket questions on the board or on a document reader: 

* What does the prompt ask you to discuss in your essay?

* What do you need to get ready to write your paper about the prompt?

  • Tell students they do not have to copy the questions. They only need to number their answers according to the question they are answering.




  • If you did not finish putting important details, quotes, and page numbers on the Forming Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer, finish Row 1. 

Note: Collect the exit tickets. However, these tickets are not intended to be graded. Rather, use them as formative assessment data to help you determine if all students have a clear idea of what they are supposed to do to prepare to write a paper using the prompt.

Before the next lesson, read through the NYS Grade 6–8 Expository Writing Evaluation rubric. In Lesson 11 you will share a model essay with students and should try to align the discussion of what makes the model essay effective with the criteria from the NYS rubric that students must meet in their own essays.

Supporting Materials


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