A Long Way Gone Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'A Long Way Gone' is the memoir of Ishmael Beah's life before, during, and after serving as a child soldier. This unit plan will help you guide high school students through the ups and downs of his life and engage them in literary analysis.

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

The devastating, yet hopeful, story of Ishmael Beah's life as told from in this memoir is an emotional one to read, much less teach to high school students. This unit plan will help you guide students on the journey through pre-reading activities that build background, discussion questions that spur meaningful conversations, and project options that solidify learning.

Before Reading

Historical Context

In order to fully grasp this memoir's events and themes, students must have a clear understanding of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Use this Blood Diamond Lesson Plan to introduce the events related to this war. Later in the book, Beah is rescued by UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund), an arm of the United Nations. Provide students with a frame of reference on the organization using this United Nations Lesson Plan. In addition, you may want to explore some newspaper or magazine articles that were written during the time period to give students a comprehensive view.

Building Background

Before launching into the memoir, review these Essential Questions for A Long Way Gone. They are separated into sections for before, during, and after reading. Planning ahead for which questions you will focus on can help you prepare the remaining elements of the unit. In addition, providing a few of these questions to students at the outset can serve as an excellent baseline assessment. You can then revisit the questions at the summation of the unit to see how their insights have transformed.

Providing students with an anticipation guide is a great method for grabbing their attention and keeping them focused on the material. It can also serve as an excellent baseline and summative assessment tool. Use this Anticipation Guide for A Long Way Gone with your students to engage them in the material. In addition, incorporate these A Long Way Gone Pre-Reading Activities to further develop their background knowledge and get them engaged in the themes and events they will encounter.

During Reading

Autobiography and Memoir

This autobiographical work can be considered a memoir. It's important for students to understand the characteristics of this genre. However, it doesn't necessarily need to be introduced before launching into the book. By utilizing these resources during reading, you will have clear examples from the text to help students understand more deeply. Use this Autobiography Lesson Plan to introduce the overarching concept of autobiography. Follow up with this Memoir Lesson Plan to zoom in on the specific characteristics that make this particular work a memoir. Utilize these Autobiography Activities to get students engaged and interacting and broaden their experience with the concept. In addition, consider utilizing a timeline graphic organizer that students can add to as they read.

Reading Response

It's essential, especially with a book this emotionally provocative, to provide students with adequate time and guidance for in-depth discussions of content and theme. Use these A Long Way Gone Discussion & Analysis Questions to spur student thinking and guide their conversations. The questions can also be used as formative assessments. Consider utilizing some of the questions as a discussion guide and others as prompts for written responses.

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