Making Peace with Chaos: The Realities of Refugee Experiences

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Standards for this Guide

Read Making Peace with Chaos in the Magazine


There are 65.3 million refugees on earth today, even more than there were after World War II [source] While it is important for students to be aware of this staggering number and understand the conditions that created it, it is just as crucial that they comprehend the refugee experience on an individual level. Teachers can facilitate this process by using personal stories that humanize the statistics.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Making Peace with Chaos,” which contrasts stereotypes about refugees to the realities of refugees’ lives in Portland. Students will use the essay as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of refugees, displacement, immigration, belonging, and the American Dream.


Standards met through this curriculum

Learning Outcomes/Essential Questions

Students will:

  1. Use textual evidence to analyze refugee experiences.
  2. Explore issues related to refugees, displacement, immigration, belonging, and the American Dream, while demonstrating their ELA and history/social studies skills through reader response, discussion, and/or writing.

Essential Questions:

  1. Who benefits and who suffers from particular immigration policies and why?
  2. What role do stereotypes play in our understanding and treatment of one another, and how can we challenge these stereotypes?
  3. Who exactly is a refugee, and who gets to decide when we use this term?
  4. Why is it important to share and understand the stories of refugees, and how might these stories shape the ways in which we live and relate to one another?
  5. What are the obstacles and opportunities that people experience based on their refugee/immigration status, and how can we best address these obstacles to create more equal opportunities for all?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

Levels 1, 2, 3, 4

For more information on DOK, see DOK Slide Wheel


Iraq facts and map

Malaysia facts and map

Libya facts and map

Tibet (China) facts and map

Nepal facts and map

Mexico facts and map

Somalia facts and map


Computers/devices with which students may produce and publish their writing (optional)


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Writing Scoring Guides

SBAC Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

Social Science Scoring Guides

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Russian)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Russian)


  1. Review all resources and decide which components you will include and how many lessons to allot for this curriculum. (Note: Almost every component can be used as a stand-alone piece or combined with other components.)
  2. Read and take notes on the “Making Peace with Chaos” essay.
  3. Review and prepare your chosen handouts.
  4. Decide what formatting and length specifications, and writing process steps, you will require if you decide to use the writing assessment.
  5. Preview and prepare optional extensions.

Reading Strategies

  1. Model and instruct students to use the AVID® Marking the Text: Social Studies strategy as they read the article.
    1. Before reading, number the paragraphs. (A paragraph begins at any break in the text, even if it is not indented.)
    2. While reading, circle key vocabulary, dates, names, places, events, and important numbers/statistics.
    3. After reading, go back and re-read sections, underlining evidence, facts, descriptions, and cause-and-effect relationships.
  2. Additional option:
    While reading, pause at various places and model the think-aloud strategy to demonstrate comprehension/summarization of the text.
  3. Model and employ the Learn-Read-Discuss strategy:
    1. Introduce major concepts of this curriculum using the warm-up. Ask students to use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss and process these concepts using the warm-up questions.
    2. Students read article (using teacher’s designated strategies).
    3. Students engage in individual reflection, then small- or large-group discussion, synthesizing information from the warm-up and article.
  4. You may choose to give advanced readers the SOAPS Text Analysis handout for tracking the author’s argument and purpose during their reading. Students’ observations using this strategy can be incorporated into later lesson steps, such as discussion and writing responses.

Instructional Plan

  1. Introduction:
         Tell students that they will complete a warm-up activity to help them better understand the essay they will read (Listen-Read-Discuss strategy). Lead students through steps of the warm-up.
  2. Vocabulary (optional differentiation):
    Vocabulary words and phrases/concepts:
    1. Refugee (¶1 and throughout)
    2. Persecution (¶3)
    3. Epidemic (¶5)
    4. Displacement (¶16)
    5. Dalai Lama* (¶19)
    6. Asylum (¶29)
    7. Biometrics (¶30)
    8. Compliance (¶30)
    9. Visa (¶38)
    10. Sponsorship/sponsored (¶51/52)
      1. Frontload vocabulary and concepts from the essay prior to reading. Provide definitions or ask students to look up and record definitions on their vocabulary charts. (Note: The starred* vocabulary term is a proper noun that may not be found in a traditional English dictionary. You may choose to discuss and illustrate this term, or ask students to research this term online.) As an alternative, delay adding definitions until after reading, and ask students to use context to determine preliminary definitions as they read.
      2. Ask students to identify and circle vocabulary words in the essay as they read.
      3. After reading, review and clarify vocabulary words, and ask students to complete a vocabulary chart for each word.
  3. Reading:
         Present the notes chart handout and model how students should take notes as they read. After introducing the reading strategies you will use, read the essay with students or ask them to read silently. If reading aloud, pause to review, synthesize information, and model note-taking at various points during the reading process. After reading, conduct an informal assessment of comprehension by reviewing students’ notes in a think-pair-share or mini-discussion format.
  4. Reader response:
         Lead students through the “Reader response” instructions and give them time to review the text and work on their answers. Consider using a think-pair-share format or conduct a class discussion to review the questions.
  5. Spoken or written post-assessment:
         Share with students whether you will use a spoken or written format for this assessment. Review the instructions on the discussion/writing assignment handout, and give students time to review and prepare notes on the essay and any additional texts you might assign or ask them to research.
         For a written response, share what scoring guide you will use and give students additional instructions on response length and format. Set up instructional time to include each step of the writing process, including publishing and sharing if you choose, and any additional scaffolds and writing strategies.
         For discussion/Socratic Seminar, share the discussion rubric and give students additional instructions on discussion expectations and format. Set up instructional time to include discussion preparation, the discussion itself, and de-briefing after the discussion. You may want to have students turn in their notes for a writing portion of the overall discussion grade.


ELL and SPED Supports: Scaffolded assignment options, vocabulary, reading strategies

TAG Extensions: Leadership opportunities during discussion and/or Socratic Seminar, “A Return Passage,” “Whose State Is This?”, “The Problem with the Immigration Problem,” additional resources and related reading

SOAPS text analysis handout to use during reading

Assessment/Student Performance Tasks

  1. Reading notes/reader response and discussion (Formative)
  2. Spoken or written post-assessment (Can be used as formative or summative)

Additional Resources/Related Reading

Refugee Experience in Teen Literature Reading List

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (United Nations Refugee Agency)


U.S. Visa and Executive Order 13780 Information:


U.S. Asylum Law:

Optional Extensions

“A Return Passage”

“Whose State Is This?”

“The Problem with the Immigration Problem”