Escape From War

We've paired the compelling story of an 11-year-old Syrian refugee with a moving poem about the importance of hope.

By Kristin Lewis

Learning Objective: Students will identify key details in a text that help them understand the life of a refugee; they will make connections between an article and a poem. 

Lexile: 700L, 570L
Guided Reading Level: T
DRA Level: 50
Topics: Social Issues,
video (1)
Audio ()
Activities (9)
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (2)
Answer Key (2)
video (1)
Audio ()
Activities (9) Download All Activities
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (2)
Answer Key (2)

More About the Story


key details, vocabulary, close reading, text features, author’s craft, main idea, inference, interpreting poetry, synthesizing, explanatory writing 

Complexity Factors


The text provides information about the refugee crisis in the Middle East and tells the story of a Syrian family affected by it.


The family’s story is told in chronological order. The article zooms out in some sections to give facts about broader issues relating to refugees.


Mostly short, clear sentences; some figurative language

Knowledge Demands 

Some familiarity with the Middle East will aid comprehension. 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Introduce Vocabulary (10 minutes)

  • Distribute the vocabulary activity. As a class, find the highlighted words and discuss their meanings in the sentences they’re in. Have students write definitions in the activity. (Refer to the Whole-Issue Glossary for assistance.) 
  • Highlighted words: refugees, charities, necessities, remote, intends

Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

  • Review the definition of refugees from the vocabulary activity. Then ask students to read the headline, subheads, and captions, looking for the word. Ask: What do you think this article is about? What do you think it will teach you about refugees? 
  • Have students look at the large photo on pages 16 and 17. Ask: Based on this photo, why do you think Dania’s family and other Syrian families have become refugees?

Set a Purpose for Reading (2 minutes)

  • Call on a student to read aloud the Up Close box for the class. 

Note: Before or during reading, students might ask why there is a war in Syria. You may want to explain that the war started in 2011 between the Syrian government and Syrian people who wanted more freedom. Now, several different groups are fighting the government, and some are fighting each other.

2. Close Reading

Read and Unpack the Text (45 minutes, activity sheet online)

Read the articles as a class. Then put students in groups to answer the close-reading questions.

Discuss the critical-thinking question as a class.

“Escape From War”

Close-Reading Questions

  • Why do you think the author describes Dania as a “regular kid like you”? How do the photos support this statement? (author’s craft/ text features) The author probably wants readers to relate to Dania as they would to any of their friends. The photo of Dania on page 16 and the one of her at school on page 19 make it easy to imagine Dania as a girl who could be in your class. 
  • Why did Dania’s family flee Syria? (main idea) They fled because a war was going on. Bombs were exploding around them. It became too dangerous to stay in Syria. 
  • What is a refugee camp? (key detail) A refugee camp provides refugees with a place to live, food, and other things they need.
  •  In the second paragraph on page 18, reread the passage that starts “They are wealthy families . . .” Why do you think the author includes this description of refugees? (inference) She probably wants readers to understand that refugees are all different kinds of people from different backgrounds, but they are just like anyone else. 
  • What was Dania’s new home like? Why was she “luckier than most”? (key detail) Her new home was a small garage that had running water but no heat. She was “luckier than most” because she had escaped a dangerous war zone and wasn’t living in an overcrowded refugee camp.
  • Why couldn’t Dania go to school at first? (key detail) There wasn’t enough room in Lebanon’s schools for all the refugees the country had taken in. 
  • Why do you think Dania was thrilled to be able to go to school? (inference) Dania had enjoyed school in Syria, and she wanted to continue her education. Also, going to school probably gave her something to do that seemed normal while the rest of her life was in turmoil. 
  • Reread the section “Life Goes On.” What might Dania’s quote tell you about her? (inference) Dania’s desire to be a doctor and treat poor people for free suggests that living through hard times has made her want to help others who face difficulties. She has found a goal to dream about. 

Critical-Thinking Question

  • Answer the question at the bottom of the poem on page 19: How does this poem connect to Dania’s life as a refugee? (synthesizing) The main idea of the poem is expressed in the lines “Sadness is not forever. But let hope be.” This connects to Dania because her life as a refugee has sad and difficult parts. She had to leave her home and friends to live in a small, cold garage in a different country. She couldn’t go to school at first. Yet she has the hope that things will get better. She eventually got to go to school, and she dreams of becoming a doctor and helping poor people. 
  • Look at the photos on page 18 and read the caption. Based on what you read in the article and poem, what might you say to the children in the photos if you had a chance? What might you ask them? (text features/synthesizing) Answers will vary. Students might suggest that they would tell the children to remain hopeful and things will get better. They might ask the children what their lives are like or what they need.


3. Extension Activity

Show a Video

Use our video “Behind the Scenes: Escape From War” as a third text. In it, author Kristin Lewis discusses the article. Distribute the video activity and have students complete it in small groups.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Have students read the lower-Lexile version of the article as they listen to the lower-Lexile audio version. Then have them respond to only the first question in the writing prompt. 

For Advanced Readers

Guide students to do research about the 2016 Olympic Refugee Team. Have them explore the stories of the athletes and their accomplishments at the Olympics.

For ELL Students

Use the poem to teach new vocabulary to ELL students. Focus on one or two verses and have students create picture glossaries of words, such as waves, moon, and fog. Your can also review preposition use in rushing in and tumbling out.