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ELA G8:M1:U2

Case Study: Why do people flee home?

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In Unit 2, students will build knowledge about refugees’ search for a place to call home. They will read informational texts that convey the universal themes and experiences of refugees across various times and cultures. This study will draw students’ attention to the challenges refugees face when they are fleeing and finding home. As students continue to move through the novel, they will focus on how particular incidents move the story forward and reveal aspects of Ha’s character. Ha will be analyzed as a case study of a refugee who is faced with challenges that represent the universal refugee themes of fleeing and finding home.

For their mid-unit assessment, students will read an informational text and analyze one refugee’s experience of finding home.

Unit 2 culminates in a formal literary analysis essay in which students will explain the significance of the novel’s title and how it relates to the universal refugee experience and the challenges Ha faces as a refugee.


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

  • How do critical incidents reveal character?
  • What common themes are universal to the refugee experience?
  • 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 and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below. 


Texts to buy

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

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

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Refugee Writing on the Journey
by Karim Haidari
Bosnia: The Children of War
by Colin Woodard
I Escaped the Taliban
by Kristin Baird
A Place of Her Own
by Andrea Faiad
Welcome to Sarajevo
by Skipping Stones
Town Mouse and Country Mouse
by Rachel Lehr
Meet the Kurds
by Vera Saeedpour
People without a Land
by Scholastic Update
Peace Patrol: U.S. Troops Will Stay at Least Another Year in Tense Bosnia
by Current Events
Hard Times in Sarajevo: Cold Weather Comes Early to Bosnia’s War-Torn Capital, Bringing More Hardship, Death
by Current Events


Optional Activities


Invite recent refugees to the United States who can speak about the experience of coming to a new country. This is an opportunity for students to better understand Ha’s experiences. 
Seek out professionals or volunteers who support refugees in local centers. This is an opportunity for students to learn about the challenges and needs of refugees in their locale, and the local supports that attend to these needs.


Visit a local center for helping refugees acclimate to the United States.
If there is a local museum that has exhibits on Vietnam, consider taking students to help them learn more about where Ha came from.




  • With Social Studies: Collaborate on a study of refugee issues in “finding home” in the local community or state of New York. 

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