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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

“Everyone in the world should read this book . . . We should read
it to learn about the world and about what it means to be human.”
—Carolyn See, The Washington Post Book World



Unit Overview
This unit is designed around the true story of a child soldier refugee from the Sierra Leon. Students will read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. In addition to reading the book, students will study and learn about the devastating wars that have used and are still using children as soldiers. We will learn about the effects this has on the children and what happens to them once they escape from the war. I am using Youtube videos about child soldiers, news articles, Kony 2012, and Blood Diamond as complimenting resources to teach my unit. This issue is extremely important because the war in africa is still going on today. Child soldiers are still being used today. I plan to spend three weeks in order to get through the book at a reasonable rate, but still have time to digest and discuss the memoir with my students. My goal for this unit is to raise awareness about what is happening around us. As the final project, Students will have the opportunity to create different ways to take action or raise awareness about the issue.

*This unit should be taught in the eleventh or twelfth grade classrooms because of the mature content of the memoir.


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a memoir written by Ishmael Beah. Published in 2007, this book provides a firsthand account of the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.[1] Beah was forced to run away from attacking rebels in Sierra Leone at the young age of 12; he was then forever separated from his direct family. He wandered his war-filled country and was then forced to join an army unit, which brainwashed him into believing in only large guns and blood. By thirteen, he had experienced incidents that others may not have to deal with throughout their entire lives. At the age of 16, however, UNICEF removed him from the unit and gave him a chance to be forgiven and to be loved once more. With the help of some of the staff he was able to forgive himself for everything he had done and to finally move on. He was then given an opportunity to teach others about the hell he was forced to endure. He traveled the United States teaching people about the devastating and unforgettable things that he was forced to encounter and the things that millions of kids all over the world still have to encounter today.- Wikipedia.


Syllabus:

Week 1:
  • Monday: Begin the unit with a hands on activity. After, hand out A Long Way Gone and a journal. The journal is meant for the students to write in while reading the story. This will be a way to keep track of the students to insure reading, and as an assignment. The journal will ultimately be used as a part of the final project. Assign pages 1-29 to be read by Tuesday.
  • Tuesday: 10- minute journal write with a prompt, followed by an open discussion about the reading. Start the timeline. The timeline translates chapters into storyboards or cartoons; in groups, students draw the most important scene in the chapter (or chapters assigned for homework) and explain its importance and action. This is a way to keep track of the events happening in the memoir. It will go around the room like a game board (kind of like monopoly) Like this or this. Everyday that the students have assigned reading, we will update the timeline. Homework: read 30-57
  • Wednesday: Discussion. Timeline. What role does the government play? Where is the government while this is happening? Journal prompt at the end of class. Homework: read 58-88
  • Thursday: Timeline. Why use children as soldiers? What were you doing at age 12? watch video. “What would you do day?” Could you imagine going through this at that age? What were you doing at age 12? Assignment: have the students (in groups of 4-5) come up with a multimedia project (or a different type of project) comparing and contrasting Ishmael’s life at age 12 with their lives when they were 12. Students will have Friday to work on it in order to present in class on Monday.
  • Friday: Work on multimedia project with groups. Prepare to present on Monday. Homework: read 89-137

Week 2:
  • Monday: Presentations. Homework read 138-166
  • Tuesday: Journal entry. Up to date discussion. Update timeline.
  • Wednesday: Perspective day. Rebel in class activity. I come to class wearing a red bandana dressed as a rebel. They students together have to figure out how to end the war against the rebels. Basically just a question and answer game, or it could be a pretend interview with a rebel. I would still be dressed as part of the LRA and my students could interview me about the war in Africa. Homework: read 167-192
  • Thursday: Journal entry. Timeline. Discuss rehabilitation of child soldiers. What works, what doesn’t.
  • Friday: Assign and talk about final project* due Friday. Allow students to get into groups and brainstorm ideas about what they want to do as their final project. Homework: finish the memoir. pages 193-218

Week 3:
  • Monday: Students will have finished the book. Last journal entry before they turn them in to me. Group discussion in the form of the Yarn “Game” (I wouldn’t exactly call it a game, but whatever). All the desks are in a circle, and a ball of yarn is to be tossed from one student to the next, letting the yarn form a web in the center of the circle. The way the game is played is that one student starts by telling the class what he/she liked or even didn’t like about the memoir, and then tossing the ball to any random student, while still holding on to their end of their yarn. The student who it is being thrown to has to then tell the class what they liked or didn’t about the memoir, building off of the last person’s response. And so on, until everyone in the circle has had a chance to talk about the memoir. It should look like this
  • Tuesday: History about the war, where the war is today. Watch Kony 2012
  • Wednesday and Thursday: Watch Blood Diamond.
  • Friday: Present final projects.

*Final Project: Students will think up their own way in which they intend to spread awareness about the war in Africa and the use of child soldiers. Examples include news letters, public service announcements, multimedia projects, videos, websites, fundraisers, etc. Students will be graded on comprehension of the material discussed throughout the unit, the use of A Long Way Gone or other texts we covered in class that they see fit, creativity, and an overall understanding about the war in Africa today.





  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7 Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


Unit Plan designed by Dayna Krushlin.
Dayna.R.Krushlin@wmich.edu