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ELA G8:M1:U3

Culminating Project: Free Verse Inside Out and Back Again poems

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In Unit 3, students will draw upon their study of the universal refugee experience to write two research-based poems that reflect the “inside out” and “back again” aspect of a refugee experience. Students will collaborate in research teams to research the experiences of refugees of a specific culture. They then will draw upon the research and their study of the novel and the informational texts to write two poems.

Students will gather the strongest evidence from informational texts in order to answer specific Who? Where? and Why? questions, and these answers will then be used to write an “inside out” poem, which is about a fictional character who experienced real events students learned about in their research. This “inside out” poem will establish the time, place, and reason for fleeing home. As students prepare to write this poem, they will return to the novel to study a poem for its craft and structure as well as word choice and figurative language. Students’ writing of the poem will also be supported through the use of a poem graphic organizer.

The mid-unit assessment is students’ best first draft of this poem. Students then draft their “back again” poem, aligned with the students’ individual interpretation of informational text and their own background knowledge and experiences. They receive peer critique on both poems to ensure they are setting their poem in a particular scene to give the details and information they are including an appropriate context. Students then write a best draft of their two revised poems and present them to peers from other research teams. This serves as the final performance task, which centers on NYSP12 CCSS RI.8.1, RI.8.2, W.8.3a, b, d, W.8.4, W.8.5, W.8.7, W.8.9, W.11b, L.8.1, L.8.2, and L.8.6.


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

  • What common themes unify the refugee experience?
  • How can we tell powerful stories about people’s experiences?
  • Authors select a genre of writing to fully engage the reader.
  • Characters change over time in response to challenges; this will be shared through the use of statistics and working through the review of the individual poems. 

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies 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


ELA G8:M1:U3:L3

ELA G8:M1:U3:L4

Optional Activities

Invite poets to visit the class to describe to the students how they write poetry and to read some of their poetry for the students. 

Local libraries sometimes host poetry events. This could be a place for students to hear poetry and/or read their poetry to others.



  • Organize a forum for students to read their poems aloud for an audience, for example students could host a poetry evening, or students could read their poems to other classes in the school.
  • If technology allows, students could record their poems.

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