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Curriculum Level: K-5

By Holly Kolarova from Clear Creek Elementary

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: Students will review a picture book and an informational text about Malala Yousafzai and identify what factors forced Malala’s family to become refugees.

Students will identify UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are relevant to Malala’s situation, including quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), reduced inequalities (SDG 10) and peace justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

Some of our students in our school and community are migrants or refugees. We will define these concepts and review any misconceptions, and value the experiences that students would like to share. Picture books and non-fiction texts provide background information to support EC and ESL readers.


SUBJECTS: ELA and Social Studies


4th grade ELA, ELD, social studies standards

Digital Learning: 

GLOBAL COLLABORATOR 7. Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

7d. Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

RI.4.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

RI.4.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

W.4.2: Write informative /explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly

ELD STANDARD 2: English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Language Arts.

ELD STANDARD 5: English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Social Studies.


  • What is a refugee? What is an asylum seeker?  Is a migrant always an asylum seeker?
  • What factors push a refugee from their home country or to a different area of their country?
  • What are the pull factors to entice refugees to the new country or area?
  • What challenges do refugees face in their home country and in the new country/area?
  • As we work towards positive change for refugees and other displaced persons, how can we use our understanding of the SDGS to connect global and local resources, organizations, and people?


  1. Students will be able to use digital tools to explore information in regards to refugees.
  2. Students will be able to retell what happened and why, when reviewing historical texts such as historical fiction picture books and nonfiction texts.
  3. Students will be able to integrate information from a historical fiction book and a nonfiction text to create an informative/explanatory text to present information and action tasks in regards to refugees.


  • Picture book about Malala Yousafzai, For the Right to Learn  by Rebecca Langston-George.
  • 4th grade nonfiction article “Malala Yousafszai” on Readworks
  • Websites for exploring the definition of refugee, current statistics regarding refugees, and the specific UN SDGs referenced in this lesson plan.

 Day 1
Utilizing a KWL chart, teacher and students will collectively discuss and write down what they think a is a refugee. Do any students have a personal connection as a refugee or knowledge of a family/community member that is a refugee?

Students will also brainstorm what they would like to learn about refugees. Adding to this chart, students will (with teacher modeling) add information and details that we learn from our texts each day.

Students create posters for a gallery walk with pictures and brief information about famous refugees that the students may know of from contemporary times. Teachers may use this website for reference: Famous Refugees reading passage

In addition, this video may be used to introduce famous persons who were refugees: Famous Refugees video

Ask students if their perspective of refugees changed after reviewing examples of famous refugees.

Discuss how refugees are often portrayed as persons who are poor and need help, which make some citizens fear that they will be a drain on a country’s resources. They are not often seen for their talents and assets that they bring to a new country.

Day 2 

Building Background Knowledge

Review the videos: What is a Refugee-UNHCR and Where do Refugees Go?.

Another video provides a window into the life of a young refugee. This video allows students to hear a first person perspective of an actual refugee that is a young person like themselves.

Add a student-friendly definition of refugee to the Learn section of our KWL chart. Compare this definition to the Know section originally completed at the beginning. Were the students’ definitions of the word refugee accurate or did the group need to make changes?

To understand the differences between migrants and refugees, students will also review What is a Migrant?-UNHCR.

Students will turn and talk to discuss the difference between the two and report to the whole class.

Scaffolding if necessary: Compare and contrast the two groups using these sentence frames stems and vocabulary.

Discuss what countries refugees are coming from and under what circumstances.

This is a global crisis and the displacement of persons is not by their choice.

Brainstorm with students: what war is currently occurring that has forced people to flee their homes, cross international borders, and become refugees? Where are these individuals going? (Ukraine)

Review the website by Save the Children: What is a Refugee.

Review statistics on the Save the Children website. Identify the countries on a world map. Identify the reasons for leaving their country such as: war, persecution, violence, and climate change.

Day 3 

Discuss with students that we will read about a famous refugee named Malala Yousafzai. Ask students if they know about this person and what information they can share.

Read or view the video for the book For the Right to Learn

  • Identify the country that Malala is from on a map. Discuss the reasons for Malala leaving her country.
  • What were the cultural expectations for girls in Malala’s country? (To cook and keep house, not go to school)
  • What was the danger for Malala to speak out in favor of the education of girls?
  • What details show that she was dedicated to the right for girls to go to school?
  • What dangers did Malala face when she continued to seek an education? (Violence)
  • Why was Malala’s family forced to leave their home? (The War-Pakistan Army fought the Taliban).
  • Where did they first settle? (Refugee camps within their country)
  • Malala did return to her home, but then who attacked Malala and why? (Taliban wanted to silence her).
  • Describe her journey out of the country. What challenges did she face?
  • What obstacles did she encounter in the new country?  What details show that she struggled as a refugee?
  • Would you stand up for your right to go to school even if it meant you faced violence or death?
  • Add any relevant information to the Learn section of the KWL chart.

Day 4 

Review of the picture book read previously.

Read the informational text about Malala Yousafzai on Readwork: (Free for educators, but they may need to create an account). The resource will read aloud as well.


  • What did Malala do after she recovered from her injuries? (Continued to speak out about the right for girls to receive an education in her home country and in the world).
  • What has she done to help females in other countries? (Started a foundation and is a spokesperson).
  • What awards has she won and why? (The Nobel Peace Prize).
  • Add any additional relevant information to the Learn section of the KWL chart.

Barriers to Girls Education and/or Girl Rising: Educate Girls, Change the World

View Barriers to Girls Education on Plan International Canada’s website.

  • What are the 5 barriers to girls’ education? (Gender inequality, Violence, Child Marriage, Washrooms, Poverty)
  • Which barriers did Malala experience?  (Lead students to Gender Inequality, Violence, and Poverty)
  • Add any relevant information to the Learn section of the KWL chart.

Day 5 

Informative text/Explanatory text writing.

Review our KWL chart. What did we think we knew about refugees? What did we wonder and what did we learn? Did we change any thoughts or ideas or predictions from our original Know section? Did we answer our wonder/want to know questions?

Using our information gathered on the KWL chart, have students write an informative essay about Malala.

Teacher models the structure of an informational text as needed.

Paragraph 1 – Introduce Malala Yousafzai

  • Where is she from?
  • Describe her life before leaving her country.
  • Provide a definition of refugee.

Paragraph 2 – What factors forced Malala and her family to leave their country as a refugee. Focus reasons on the following topics:

  • Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Poverty
  • Violence

Describe the journey from her home country to another country.

Paragraphs 3 and 4 will be added after reviewing Global Goals on Day 6

Day 6

Students will be able to identify and explain the SDGs. Reviewing the following educational websites about the SDGs, students will identify which goals were relevant to Malala’s situation.

Which SDGs apply to Malala’s situation? Fill in the following UN SDGs chart (Refugee and UNSDG factors). (Teacher directs students towards SDG 4, 5, 10, and 16)

Reviewing student essays (first 2 paragraphs), continue with Paragraphs 3 and 4 based on Global Goals discussed.

Paragraph 3 – How will meeting or advancing the SDGs help the lives of persons like Malala in Pakistan?

Paragraph 4 – Why do you think we need to support the SDGs? How can we make a difference in the lives of refugees in our community and across the world?

ASSESSMENT: review of written informative text response rubric (written response rubric). Teachers will utilize the feedback form to differentiate which skills to provide mini-lessons in large or small groups.

Students revise and publish their written essay.

LEARNING EXTENSION: Students will talk with people at home or in their communities about refugees-their own experiences, what they have learned through these lessons, or their opinions. Students are encouraged to have these interactions in their native language and present the information with their peers in the classroom.

Review that June 20th is World Refugee Day. Brainstorm how your school can raise awareness of the needs of refugees around the world and right in your community. What action task can your group create?


  • paper and pencils
  • markers
  • chart paper
  • book or video of picture book
  • link or copy of informational text
  • computers for website links


CARE USA. (2012, December 28). Girl rising: Educate girls, change the world. [Video]. YouTube.

International Rescue Committee. (2017, Jan 9). Famous refugees.

Langston-George, R., & Bock, J. (2017). For the right to learn: Malala Yousafzai’s story. Capstone Press

Read Aloud with Mrs. Wilson. (2021, March 10). For the right to learn – Malala. [Video]. YouTube.

Plan International. (n.d.). Girls’ education. Girls’ Education.

ReadWorks. (n.d.). Malala Yousafzai.!articleTab:content/

Save the Children. (n.d.). What is a refugee? important facts and figures about refugees. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from

theirc. (2018, September 1). Famous refugees. [Video}. YouTube.

UNHCR. (2017, October 23). Who is a refugee? [Video]. YouTube.

United Nations. (2017, August 18). Sustainable development goals: Improve life all around the globe. [Video]. YouTube.

World’s Largest Lesson. (2022, April 21). ‘we the people’ for the global goals.

World’s Largest Lesson. (2022, September 8). World’s largest lesson animation: Part 1.

World’s Largest Lesson. (2017, May 10). World’s Largest Lesson – Emma Watson Introduction | Global Goals. [Video]. YouTube.

World’s Largest Lesson. (2018, September 10). World’s Largest Lesson part 3 – English | Global goals. [Video]. YouTube.