How to Teach a Novel Study Unit on A Long Walk to Water

How to Teach a Novel Study for A Long Walk to Water

         The novel, A Long Walk to Water, is a grade-level novel in my middle school. Even though I teach struggling readers, I feel it is important that they are exposed to this heartwarming story of perseverance and hope.

         A Long Walk to Water is a novel written by Linda Sue Park. It is a unique novel in that part of the story is fictional and part of it is nonfiction. Salva Dut, from the Dinka tribe, lives in Sudan, Africa where there is an ongoing war over religion in Southern Sudan. At school one day, rebels come into the village and his teacher tells them all to run away to avoid being killed or forced to join their army. His story tells his tale of survival and how he eventually made it to America.

Linda Sue Park's novel on the life of Salva Dut in Sudan

         Nya is a fictional character from the rival tribe, Nuer. Her storyline tells of different perils of Sudan. Her days consist of walking half a day to a pond where she retrieves water to bring home to her family. After a meal, she then makes a second trip for water. Water is scarce, but it also is not clean. Her storyline brings this to our attention when her little sister gets very sick and they walk three days to the closest medical clinic. One day, things start to look up when strange men come to the village with mechanical equipment.

         The story ends with a twist that merges both storylines and leaves your students realizing that people, no matter their conditions, are capable of incredible things.

         Hopefully, my review does this book justice and you can see why I feel so strongly about reading it with my students. As engaging as it is, it can be difficult for my students to understand so before I start the novel, I introduce it through a few different prereading activities. The setting of the novel is completely foreign to my students who grow up on Long Island but central to the storyline, so it is very important for me to frontload with different activities that will allow them to gain some background knowledge on what the conditions are like. 

How to Go about Teaching Such an Incredible Novel...

My great Grandmother's Gourd FREE Activity to pair with A Long Walk to Water

My Great Grandmother’s Gourd: This picture book gives students a sense of the setting, climate, and culture of Sudan. In this paired text FREEBIE, students will be given vocabulary terms and two worksheets that will assess comprehension and connect to the novel. Students will walk away with a greater understanding of how people interact with one another in Sudan.

Webquest Activity: This activity is great to use with your students BEFORE teaching the novel, however, there are benefits to also using with during the novel. The WebQuest links will expose students to the author, Sudan, and Salva’s journey. Using Google maps to explore and see real pictures of the geography of Sudan, Africa, gives students a better understanding of the conflicts and problems they are dealing with. 

Students gain background knowledge of Africa, the author and main characters using an internet scavenger hunt

Chapter Organizers: Depending on how much time I have to teach this unit, will determine which materials I will use. A packet that contains guided reading questions is helpful to use when we have time to delve into making predictions and drawing conclusions from the text. Other times, I will use these chapter organizers. Graphic organizers that allow students to quickly summarize important plot events, conflicts, and details from both Salva and Nya’s storylines. Students can use these organizers for upcoming assessments or use for a culminating project.  

Assess student comprehension through the use of graphic organizers

Flipbooks: Available in both digital and printable forms, help to quickly and effectively summarize character traits from Nya and Salva, setting, conflict and theme. My students love flipbooks because it is a way for them to quickly and effectively summarize information. They also like them because they can use them as a review. I like that it is an authentic way to review the story elements with students. Being able to use an engaging novel helps to assess their knowledge of both concepts.  

Reinforce learning of theme, characters, setting, conflict and resolution

Review Game: I use this game throughout my teaching of the novel. Students are assessed four times throughout the novel. Each of those assessments has a review game component. At a middle school level, it can be difficult to engage kinesthetic learners. I grab opportunities to get my students up and out of their seats. This game has them do that. It also switches up my normal review games like Kahoot or Quizizz. I like to vary my teaching style as much as possible. 

kinesthetic learners love trashketball review games to get them out of their seats

Assessments: As stated above, students are assessed several times throughout the novel. Assessments include multiple choice, short answer, and extended response questions. In addition to a traditional assessment, my units include project ideas, an essay on theme and a one-pager assignment. Typically, I would not use ALL of the assessments with the students but pick and choose. Some years, I choose to skip some of the chapter quizzes as it can hold up the story. Depending on the class, I instead give them the essay on theme at the end of the story and one pager activity. Often, I find that these alternative assessments can give me a better understanding of the student than traditional assessments do. 

A Long Walk to Water One Pager Assessment

These are some examples of the incredible one-pagers that my students created. If you would like to use this with your students, simply join my mailing list below to get your free copy. 

A Long Walk to Water One Pager FREEBIE

Alwtw one pager freebie pin
Want to use this with your students? Simply subscribe to my newsletter to gain access to this and other cool freebies.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

No comments

Back to Top