The Breadwinner

Students explore the Taliban's influence on the Middle East through the lens of human rights in the book The Breadwinner, and practice narrative writing by rewriting scenes from other point of views.

Unit Summary

In this unit students explore the Taliban influence on the Middle East through the eyes of multiple young women. In the core text, The Breadwinner, students experience how the Taliban presence in Afghanistan drastically altered Parvana and her family’s life. Students will be challenged to think about what constitutes basic human rights and the way in which the Taliban violated the human rights of many Afghanistan citizens. Students will also be challenged to think about women’s rights, especially in regard to education and freedom, and how both were constantly at risk under Taliban rule. Finally, students will realize that a positive attitude, dedication to family, and drive to be self-reliant can help people survive, and thrive, in the worst of situations. In the second part of the unit, students read about the experiences of real children living in Afghanistan after the Taliban left. Through those experiences, students explore how education and women’s rights are still restricted in Afghanistan and grapple with what it will take to create a society where women have access to the same basic freedoms as men. In the last part of the unit, students meet Malala Yousafzai and analyze how her positive attitude and drive help her fight for women’s rights in Pakistan despite facing incredible challenges and threats. Over the course of the entire unit, it is our hope that students will build a deeper understanding of the importance of women’s rights and access to education around the world, particularly in the Middle East. 

As readers, this unit builds onto unit one by pushing students to compare and contrast characters and analyze character point of view at an even deeper level. Students will be challenged to close read the text, make accurate annotations, and quote accurately in order to develop theories about key characters in and across texts. In this unit, students will also begin to use informational texts, particularly memories and first-person accounts, to help build a deeper understanding of fiction texts. The focus for informational reading is similar to the focus for fiction, and students will analyze how the point of view influences the way in which events are described.

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  • Vocabulary Package
  • Fluency Package
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Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit with videos and short readings that cover:

  • Key standards
  • Essential questions
  • Text complexity
  • Monitoring student progress
 

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

  • Book: The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2015)   —  710L

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How can family relationships and dynamics influence a person's actions? 
  • How did the Taliban regime impact life for residents of Kabul? 
  • Feminism advocates for women's rights and equality of the sexes. What can be done to improve women's rights and equality in both Afghanistan and Pakistan? 
  • How can one person impact a community? 

Writing Focus Areas

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Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Write sentences with subordinating conjunctions 
  • Use appositives 
  • Edit for inappropriate shifts in verb tenses

In this unit students continue to work on crafting compound and complex sentences. Students practice using a variety of subordinating conjunctions, especially when responding to daily Target Tasks. Students also learn how to use appositives, particularly when writing topic sentences. Additionally, students begin to notice and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tenses. ​​​​​​

Paragraph-Level Focus Areas

  • Use single-paragraph outlines to brainstorm cohesive paragraphs 
  • Craft a variety of topic sentences 
  • Elaborate on supporting details by varying sentence structure
  • Write concluding sentences 

In this unit students build on to what they learned in unit one. Students continue to draft cohesive paragraphs with strong topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences. Over the course of the unit students learn various strategies for elaborating on supporting details, including using subordinating conjunctions and appositives. ​​​​​​

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm a logical sequence of events
  • Use description to develop experiences, events and characters
  • Use precise words and phrases to describe character actions and feelings

In this unit students write multiple narratives as a way of building a deeper understanding of the text. With all narratives, students work on brainstorming a logical sequence of events, using description and precise words.

Related Teacher Tools:

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Read smoothly and with accuracy. 
  • Use proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage. 
  • Read with a rate appropriate to task and purpose.

For the first half of the unit, the main focus is on reading with appropriate expression and phrasing to match the interpretation of the passage. A key part of this is reading character dialogue in a way that matches the mood/feelings of the characters. In the second half of the unit, the focus is on reading narrative nonfiction with the proper intonation and rate. While written in a style similar to fiction, expression, phrasing and pace may vary.

Teachers should plan to do fluency checkpoints at several points throughout a unit. Have students grade themselves or a friend on the Reading Fluency Rubric. If a student scores a 2 or lower on any of the sections, we offer some ideas for additional fluency instruction and support in our Fluency Assessment Package.

At the end of each unit, teachers should assess each student using the unit’s fluency assessment found in the Fluency Assessment Package. This assessment is quick. Teachers should plan to pull students one-on-one to do this while the rest of the class is independently reading or writing.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Prepare for discussion. Students learn how to prepare for academic discussions. 
  • Elaborate to support ideas. Students provide evidence or examples to justify and defend their point clearly.
  • Use vocabulary. Students use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share their thoughts. 

In this unit students predominantly show understanding of the text through academic discourse. Through a range of one-on-one, group and teacher-led tasks students grapple with the deeper meanings of both core texts. Since this is the first unit of the year, students will learn how to follow rules for discussions and how to come prepared. This will be reinforced through oral language protocols referenced in the unit. 

Students at this point will also be in the beginning stages of articulating ideas and participating in conversations. As noted in our Guide to Academic Discourse (below), when students first participate in discussions the focus should be on helping students clarify and share their own thoughts. Later students will be able to engage with the thinking of others, but to do so they need to be able to clearly articulate their own ideas.

Vocabulary

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Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.

Text-based

anxious brutality ceased civilians corruption cower decency defy depressed deprived decreed forbade haven ignorant illiteracy immune impoverished insanity intimidate invasion menacingly obscenity refuge refugee relented resentful restrictive sensible smuggle sulking vital vulgarity

Root/Affix

-ful -ible -ous -tion ill- im-

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

With Fishtank Plus, you can download the Fluency Package for this unit, which includes a unit-specific fluency assessment passage and additional tools to help monitor and support students’ reading fluency. Download Sample

Lesson Map

1

  • The Breadwinner — Author's Note and Forward

    RL.5.3

Describe what inspired Deborah Ellis to write The Breadwinner and what she hoped to accomplish.

2Essential Task

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 1

    RL.5.1

    RL.5.3

Describe the setting of The Breadwinner and what it is like where Parvana lives. 

3

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 2

    RL.5.3

Analyze how the author characterizes Parvana and how the author develops characterization.

4

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 3-4

    RL.5.3

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.2

Analyze how Parvana, Mother, and Nooria respond to Father’s disappearance and how their responses help build a deeper understanding of character. 

5

Narrative Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.6

    W.5.3

    W.5.3.a

    W.5.3.b

    W.5.3.d

Rewrite a section of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.

6Essential Task

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 5-6

    RL.5.3

    RL.5.6

Compare and contrast Parvana’s, Nooria’s, and Mother’s responses to Parvana dressing as a boy and how their responses help to build a deeper understanding of character.

7

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 7-8

    RL.5.3

    RL.5.6

Analyze the ways in which Parvana has taken on her father's role. 

8

Narrative Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.6

    W.5.3

    W.5.3.a

    W.5.3.b

    W.5.3.d

Rewrite sections of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.

9

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 9-10

    RL.5.3

    RL.5.6

Explain why Shauzia says that some people wouldn’t mind being dug up and if that makes their actions justifiable.

10

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 11-12

    RL.5.3

    RL.5.6

Describe Shauzia’s and Parvana’s plans for the future and why they both want different things.

11

Narrative Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.6

    W.5.3

    W.5.3.a

    W.5.3.b

    W.5.3.d

Rewrite sections of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.

12

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 13-14

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

    L.5.2.c

Defend if Parvana was right to be losing hope and what advice you would give her.

13

  • The Breadwinner — Ch. 15

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

    L.5.2.c

Debate if it is naive of Parvana to hope that things will get better and if hope is a useless emotion in a time of war and oppression.

14

2 days

Narrative Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    W.5.3

    W.5.3.a

    W.5.3.b

    W.5.3.d

    L.5.1.c

    L.5.1.d

Rewrite sections of The Breadwinner from another character’s point of view.

15Essential Task

Discussion & Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.2

    W.5.9

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.6

Determine the themes in The Breadwinner and explain how different characters respond to the major themes by using key details from the text to determine theme.

16

Discussion

  • The Breadwinner

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.6

Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from The Breadwinner. 

17

Writing

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.9

    W.5.1

    W.5.1.a

    W.5.1.c

    W.5.1.d

Write a paragraph to answer a unit essential question.

18

  • Kids of Kabul — Faranoz and Shabona

    RI.5.3

    RI.5.6

    L.5.3.b

Explain if Faranoz and Shabona share the same point of view on a woman’s right to education and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.

19

  • Kids of Kabul — Zuhal and Palwasha

    RI.5.6

Explain if Zuhal and Palwasha share the same point of view on how to improve women’s rights and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.

20

  • Kids of Kabul — Sara and Sigrullah

    RI.5.6

Explain if Sara and Sigrullah share the same point of view on how to improve women’s rights and what events or experiences have shaped their points of view.

21

Discussion & Writing

  • Kids of Kabul

    W.5.1

    W.5.1.a

    W.5.1.c

    W.5.1.d

    W.5.9

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.6

Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from Kids of Kabul. 

22Essential Task

  • I Am Malala — pp. 44–55, 60–65

    RL.5.3

    RL.5.6

Explain what terrorism feels like and how Malala’s point of view compares to others’ in the unit.

23

  • I Am Malala — pp. 69–80

    RL.5.3

    RI.5.6

Describe how the author characterizes Malala and her family and how the author develops that characterization.

24

  • I Am Malala — pp. 117–130

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

    RI.5.6

Defend if “Targeted” is the best name for the section. 

25

  • I Am Malala — pp. 157–164, 186–193

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

    SL.5.6

Pick three or four words that best describe Malala and defend why. 

26

Discussion

  • The Breadwinner

  • I Am Malala

    RL.5.3

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.6

Defend if Malala is or is not an ordinary girl by stating a claim and supporting the claim with evidence from the text and videos. 

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Discussion

  • Kids of Kabul

  • I Am Malala

  • The Breadwinner

    RL.5.2

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.1.a

    SL.5.1.b

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.6

Debate and analyze unit essential questions using details from all three core unit texts. 

28

Writing

  • Kids of Kabul

  • I Am Malala

  • The Breadwinner

    W.5.1

    W.5.1.a

    W.5.1.c

    W.5.1.d

    W.5.9

    L.5.1.a

    L.5.2.b

Write a paragraph to answer a unit essential question.

29

4 days

Writing

  • Kids of Kabul

  • I Am Malala

  • The Breadwinner

    W.5.1

    W.5.1.a

    W.5.1.c

    W.5.1.d

    W.5.9

Write a magazine article that informs readers about a key theme from the unit by stating a claim and providing evidence from the entire unit. 

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Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.5.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.5.1.a — Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.

  • L.5.1.c — Use verb tense to convey various times, sequences, states, and conditions.

  • L.5.1.d — Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.

  • L.5.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.5.2.b — Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.

  • L.5.2.c — Use a comma to set off the words yes and no (e.g., Yes, thank you), to set off a tag question from the rest of the sentence (e.g., It's true, isn't it?), and to indicate direct address (e.g., Is that you, Steve?).

  • L.5.3.b — Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.5.3 — Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

  • RI.5.6 — Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.

  • RI.5.9 — Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.5.2 — Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

  • RL.5.3 — Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

  • RL.5.5 — Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.

  • RL.5.6 — Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

  • RL.5.9 — Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.5.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.5.1.a — Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.

  • SL.5.1.b — Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.

  • SL.5.2 — Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

  • SL.5.6 — Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.

Writing Standards
  • W.5.1 — Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information

  • W.5.1.a — Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.

  • W.5.1.c — Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., consequently, specifically).

  • W.5.1.d — Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

  • W.5.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

  • W.5.3.a — Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

  • W.5.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

  • W.5.3.d — Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.

  • W.5.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Spiral Standards

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L.5.1

L.5.2

L.5.4

L.5.4.b

L.5.5

L.5.6

RF.5.3

RF.5.4

RL.5.1

RL.5.10

RL.5.4

RL.5.5

SL.5.1

W.5.10

W.5.4

W.5.5

W.5.6