Lesson Plans

In Their Shoes [Workshop]: Understanding Forced Displacement Around the World

In Bangladesh, many Rohingya children are going to school for the first time. Image by Jaime Joyce. Bangladesh, 2018.

In Bangladesh, many Rohingya children are going to school for the first time. Image by Jaime Joyce. Bangladesh, 2018.

Printable PDFs/Word Documents for this Workshop: 

This workshop is available as an interactive workshop facilitated by Pulitzer Center staff! Please email us if you would like to schedule one for your class. 

Objectives:

By the end of this workshop, students will be able to... 

  • Evaluate how stories they have heard about refugees and migrants in the news compare to stories from TIME for Kids about children from three countries who are living in refugee or migrant camps
  • Explain the definition of “refugee”
  • Analyze similarities and differences between their day-to-day lives and those of the children in the reporting living in temporary housing in Mexico, Kenya, and Bangladesh 
  • Make connections with the subjects of the article, and describe the connection between political crises and affected individuals
  • Through these connections, students realize that the differences between their daily lives and those of the children in the reporting are only circumstantial

Warm-up:

1. Students observe the classroom and notice the objects and clothes, etc. in the room. What would someone looking at a picture of us learn about how we live from the objects in the room?

For students learning at home: Observe the room you’re in and notice the objects and clothes, etc. in the room. What would someone looking at a picture of you and your family or friends learn about how you live from the objects in the room?

1. Students look at this collection of images [PDF] and notice…

  • What do you see? 
  • Where do you think they are?
  • What do you learn about them from the image?

2. The children in the images are refugees. What is that?

  • What is its definition?
  • Legal definition: A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group (UNHCR)
  • What experiences do you associate with that word? What do you think these children have gone through as refugees?

3. Individually, students fill out the warm-up worksheet titled "In Their Shoes, Fleeing to the United States." [PDF]

  • As a class, go over the directions: 
    • Students read the information sheet introducing them to Akon and Laer's story and about their families' decisions to flee their home. 
    • Draw and color what their emergency suitcase would look like in the space provided.   

Now, let’s hear from the children themselves about what their lives are like. One way that people can share their stories with others living far away is through a journalist. Jaime Joyce, a journalist with TIME for Kids and a Pulitzer Center grantee, reports from Kenya, Bangladesh, and Mexico on what life is like for children like Njema, Amena, or Elizabeth. Here is a video where students can meet Jaime and find out why she went to report in these places. 

Class-wide Reading and Discussion: 

Use “popcorn” or another class-wide technique to read "Kids of Kakuma" by Jaime Joyce for TIME for Kids,  which explores the lives of children in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

For students learning at home: educators can use this presentation [PDF] to read the article as a class.

Discuss as a class: 

  1. According to the story, why did Njema and Rose leave their homes in South Sudan? 
  2. What do they bring with them, and what do they leave behind?
  3. What information does the article provide about what life is like for children who are refugees in this place?
  4. What surprises you about what life is like there?
  5. Think about your everyday life — what might you have in common with students like Njema and Rose? What might be different?
  6. Go back to the picture of Njema and Rose's school. What new information do we have about them?

Now, let’s hear from a few more children living in temporary situations around the world. Half of the students will travel to Bangladesh to meet Amena, and half will go to Tijuana, Mexico to meet Elizabeth: 

Group Reading and Discussion:

In two groups, students read either "A Safe Place to Learn and Grow" or "Holding on to Hope" by Jaime Joyce. 

Group 1: Individually or in pairs, students read this PDF with excerpts of reporting about children in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The excerpts are from the project "A Safe Place to Learn and Grow" — including the stories "Safe in School" and "Painting their Story" by Jaime Joyce for TIME for Kids.

For students learning at home: One option is to use ‘breakout’ rooms in Zoom, Google Meet, or another similar platform for this, with two groups and a facilitator in each group. To read as a group, here is the reporting in presentation form [PDF] (it is also possible to replicate the first group-reading exercise if that would be easier for the students). 

With a partner or the wider group, students discuss the following questions: 

  1. Why did these children leave their homes in Myanmar?
  2. What information does the article provide about what life is like for children in this place?
  3. What surprises you about what life is like there?
  4. How does Amena’s life compare with Rose and Njema’s?
  5. Think about your everyday life — what might you have in common with students like Amena?

Group 2: Individually or in pairs, students read "Holding on to Hope" by Jaime Joyce for TIME for Kids about children in migrant camps in Tijuana, Mexico.

For students learning at home: One option is to use ‘breakout’ rooms in Zoom, Google Meet, or another similar platform for this, with two groups and a facilitator in each group. To read as a group, here is the reporting in presentation form [PDF] (it is also possible to replicate the first group-reading exercise if that would be easier for the students). 

With a partner or the wider group, students discuss the following questions: 

  1. According to the story, why did these children leave their homes in El Salvador and Honduras? If you're not sure, think back to the warm-up worksheet. 
  2. What information does the article provide about what life is like for migrant children in this place?
  3. What surprises you about what life is like there?
  4. How does Elizabeth’s life compare with Rose and Njema’s?
  5. Think about your everyday life — what might you have in common with students like Elizabeth?

Class-Wide Reflection and Conclusion: 

Now, discuss the following reflection questions as a class: 

  1. How have these children's lives changed?
  2. Who and what is helping these kids adapt to these new situations? How are they adapting?
  3. How are the experiences of children in Tijuana and Bangladesh similar?
  4. How are they different?
  5. Do the experiences of Njema, Amena, Elizabeth, or Rose remind you of the experiences of characters from movies, tv shows, or books that you know? How are they similar?
  6. What do you learn about their hopes for the future? How do they compare with yours?

Next, we’ll think about some projects that we can do together with the information that we learned from Njema, Amena, Elizabeth, and Rose. Before we do that, though, it’s important to know that by knowing their names and learning their stories, you’ve done so much already. Learning these stories, and telling people you know about what you learned, helps to build empathy and understanding for children living in uncertain conditions around the world. 

Extension Activities: 

Option 1: Journalism project (all grades)

Jaime Joyce, who wrote about the children and their schools, is a journalist. Take a second to think as a class about what a journalist does — what is their job? As a journalist, Jaime is an editor for TIME for Kids, the outlet that published the stories you read, and reports news by doing research, asking questions, and writing about what she learns. 

Now, students can take on a journalism project like Jaime’s with their class and follow the same process. She traveled far away to tell the stories you read, but students don’t have to travel far to tell the stories of refugees like Njema, Amena, Elizabeth, and Rose. 

Step 1: Research

Most communities around the country have former refugees living in them, meaning people that were refugees but have now found permanent new homes. As a class, find out what organizations are working to help refugees and displaced children and their families settle into your community. 

Step 2: Ask questions

Next, students think about what questions they could ask the newest members of their community in order to get to know them and tell their stories. Brainstorm as a class, and make a list. Some examples: Where have they come from in the world? What do they think of their new home? What is difficult, and what isn’t as difficult as they thought?  Educators could send this list to refugee resettlement agencies who would likely be willing to ask the people they aid to help your class tell under-reported stories of recently arrived refugees and migrants. 

Step 3: Writing

Once students have their answers back, it’s time to write the story. Look back at Jaime’s writing that you read — how does she structure her writing? What words does she use? Then, students can write their class's own story to help people in their community learn about each other. 

Finally, send us your class’s finished story to education@pulitzercenter.org for us to put on our website!

Option 2: Letter writing (better for fourth and fifth graders)

Now that students have learned about the lives of migrant children around the world, and reflected on how their lives compare, encourage students to think about the challenges that refugees, especially children, face

  • What are they?
  • How can you, your community, or your country help them?

With these ideas in mind, students write a letter to their representatives in Congress or state capitol, or to a community group that can take steps to support migrant children from afar. Make sure to include:

  • Details from the reporting that stuck out to students
  • Their ideas about what your community can do to support your peers in refugee camps and migrant shelters

Here is a template to get you started. Send your letter to education@pulitzercenter.org to have it published on our website!

Option 3: Create a graphic novel or picture book (all grades)

Individually or as a class, plan out and create a graphic novel or picture book depicting the journey that children make to safety in other countries when they become refugees, and what life can be like once they get there. Make sure to use both quotes from the reporting and your own words to narrate your novel.

 

Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.4.A

Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4.C

Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1.A

Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.

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