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Curriculum Level: 9-12

By Kate Wernersbach from Wake Early College of Health and Sciences

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: This lesson is designed to create awareness about UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4): Quality Education and Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5): Gender Equality through literature and nonfiction texts. For an entire unit, students will read the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, which will be supplemented with excerpts from the graphic novel, Persepolis, poetry, Ted Talks and other materials in order to study and learn more about women’s rights and access to education around the world. Timeline for the entire unit is about 4-5 weeks. Teachers may condense this unit to 5-7 days, if they limit students to only explore a few of the sources and an excerpt or two from A Thousand Splendid Suns and Persepolis. After reading and viewing these texts, students will create a piece of blackout or found poetry that represents a unit theme and at least one target from SDG 4 or SDG 5.


SUBJECT: English Language Arts


Reading Standards:

RI.2: Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

RL.2:  Determine a theme of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details.

RI.3: Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

RI.7:  Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums, determining which details are emphasized in each account.

Writing Standards:

W.3: Write narratives to develop real/imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, & well-structured events.

W.6: Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources

Language Standards:

L.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English.

L.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions, and make effective choices for meaning or style.


  • In what ways should tradition balance the needs of the past with the realities of the present? 
  • How can we progress and change while still having respect for custom and convention?
  • How can gender equality and education bring about positive change in the lives of women and the communities in which they live?


  1. Students will explore SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 5: Gender Equality through collaborative discussion and be able to make an anchor chart that represents several targets within each SDG. 
  2. Students will be able to brainstorm from the SDG anchor charts as a lens in which to analyze relevant fiction and nonfiction texts and students will be able to recognize how these SDGs are represented through these texts. 
  3. Students will be able to make connections to themes and textual evidence from the texts. 
  4. Students will be able to synthesize ideas to create their own original blackout or found poetry. 
  5. Students will be able to present their poetry to the class, explaining how their poem represents one (or both) of the SDGs



Note: This lesson could stand alone or be incorporated throughout a unit using the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns as the anchor text (or another relevant text focused on equality and education) – sample unit / pacing guide here.

Day One:

  1. Introduce Tradition and Progress unit and essential questions
  2. Introduce UN Sustainable Development Goals and specifically SDG 4 Quality Education (suggested focus Targets 4.1, 4.3, 4.5, 4.7) and SDG 5 Gender Equality (suggested focus Targets 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.5)
    1. In small groups, have students create an anchor chart for each of the targets within these two SDGs. Student handout available here.
    2. Assign one target per group and have them brainstorm and list issues, examples, problems, solutions etc. that they think fit under this target (they can also use images and symbols)
      1. Option to let them use the UN website or other resources to help them brainstorm, or just brainstorm ideas without researching
    3. Have each group share their ideas for each target
    4. Modification: if you don’t have enough groups for all the targets, then just select a few targets to focus on.
    5. Extension activity: when creating their poster, have them connect ideas to the essential questions

Days 2-4:

  1. Watch and analyze one (or more) Ted Talks related to women’s issues and educating women
    1. Ted Talk Worksheet – can use this worksheet for note taking and to guide their discussions about the Ted Talk(s)
    2. Ted Talk: Dare to Education Afghan Women (2012) – Shabana Basij-Rasikh
    3. Ted Talk: My Daughter, Malala (2014) – Ziauddin Yousafzai 
    4. Ted Talk: Empower a Girl, Transform a Community (2018) – Kakenya Ntaiya
    5. Ted Talk: Educating Women in Afghanistan (2017) – Shabana Basij-Rasikh
  2. Read a selection of the poems listed below and/or excerpts from Persepolis and/or A Thousand Splendid Suns – this could be jigsawed or students could read several chapters and answer the same question from the Ted Talks: How are the ideas of tradition, progress, gender equality, and/or education represented in the TEDTalk? Cite 2 pieces of evidence from each chapter. They could also make connections to the TedTalk.
    1. Suggested chapters for Persepolis (see resources for some background about the graphic novel):
      1. “The Veil” – pages 3-9
      2. “The Sheep” – pages 62-71
      3. “The Trip” – pages 72-79
      4. “The Jewels” – pages 87-93
      5. “The Key” – pages 94-102
      6. “Kim Wilde” – pages 126-134
      7. “The Dowry” – pages 143-end
    2. Suggested chapters for A Thousand Splendid Suns 
      1. Part 1 – Mariam’s Story
        1. Chapters 1, 3, 7, 8, 11
      2. Part 2 – Laila’s Story
        1. Chapters 16, 18 (second half especially), 21, 23, 24
      3. Part 3 – Mariam and Laila
        1. Chapters 29-31 (best together), 33, 36, 39, 42, 47
      4. Part 4 
        1. Chapter 51
    3. Poem: “Kabul” by Saib-e-Tabrizi and Worksheet
      1. If reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, there are 3 discussion questions that connect the “Kabul” poem to the two main characters of the novel: Mariam and Laila
    4. “Because I am a Girl, I Must Study” Poem – website  
  3. Note: If you have not covered theme/thematic statements, it might be a good idea to teach and/or review during this lesson.

Days 5-7:

  1. Culminating assessment: Blackout or found poetry
    1. Students will use their knowledge about SDG 4 & 5 and the texts they explore to create blackout poetry or found poetry to portray one (or more) of the themes related to gender equality, power of education, tradition and/or progress as it pertains to women’s issues, power and corruption, and/or man’s inhumanity.
    2. Blackout/Found Poetry Assignment
      1. Black Out/Found Poetry Project Rubric





Create Blackout Poetry. (n.d.). Just Add Students. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from

460 Poetry for Middle School ideas in 2022 | teaching, forms of poetry, poetry. (n.d.). Pinterest. Retrieved 

October 15, 2021, from

Historical Context of ‘Persepolis’. (2013, May 24). the University of Warwick. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from

Kakenya Ntaiya: Empower a girl, transform a community. (2019, April 15). TED. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. (n.d.). Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from

Phillips, T., & Humphreys, D. (2019, June 24). The History of Blackout Poetry. Redacting Words Since the 

1700s |by Offbeat Poet| Offbeat Poetry. Medium. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from

Poem – “Because I Am A Girl, I Must Study”. (2007, March 12). WUNRN. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from

Satrapi, M. (2004). Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (M. Satrapi, Trans.). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Dare to educate Afghan girls. (2013, February 11). TED. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from

Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Educating women in Afghanistan. (2017). TED. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from

THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved November 15, 2023, from

Ziauddin Yousafzai: My daughter, Malala. (2014, March 24). TED. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from

Women’s UN Report Network (2023, January 6). [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from