Refugee by Alan Gratz Teaching Ideas

Activities to do with the Novel Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz is a book your students will beg to keep reading. Three stories are twined together. Told in alternating chapters, one story builds to a cliffhanger. The chapter ends leaving the reader on edge. The book continues with the next story, and [You guessed it.] builds to a cliffhanger. This repeated pattern continues throughout the novel making it a real page-turner.

The three stories contain accurate details about three important events in history – Hitler’s Germany, Castro’s Cuba, and Assad’s Syria.

Hitler’s Germany

Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1938 Germany when Hitler’s Nazis are sending Jewish people to concentration camps. One night a group of Adolf Hitler’s “storm troopers” break into the Landau family’s home and take Papa away…

Castro’s Cuba

Isabel is a Cuban girl living in 1994. Fidel Castro rules Cuba. Riots are breaking out in the streets. Citizens are going hungry. Isabel’s father is targeted by the police because he is caught leaving Cuba. Violence breaks out in Havana when they run out of food. Isabel’s papi becomes angry and throws a bottle. Papi is saved from being hit by a policeman because Luis, Iván’s older brother who is also a policeman, stops him. Papi decides they must leave Cuba that night, so he won’t be sent to jail…

Assad’s Syria

Mahmoud lives in Aleppo, Syria. His family is forced to flee when his apartment building is bombed. The sidewall of Mahmoud’s apartment building blows away. He takes Waleed, his younger brother, and Hana, his baby sister, out of the building while their mother gathers up needed possessions. They meet their father in the street. He tells them it is time to go to Germany…

What do these stories have in common? Will everyone be able to safely escape? Read Refugee to find out.

Refugee by Alan Gratz Activities

Refugee Book Unit Samples

Refugee by Alan Gratz Novel Study

You will find the following in this novel study sample:

  • Vocabulary Practice
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-3 
  • Constructed Response Question for Chapters 1-3

Teaching Idea #1  – The Book Trailer 

Refugee by Alan Gratz Character Trait Activity

Scholastic makes great book trailers. This short video is no exception. First, show the short video. Next, students complete a chart based on the details provided in the video. Students will most likely need to watch the video a second time to catch all the details.

This is a great hook activity to build interest before starting the novel. Completing the chart will also help students remember the main characters, settings, and their biggest conflicts. With three stories, this can be confusing. 


This free activity helps students compare the three main characters. It also gives you a sample of what the constructed response questions look like in the unit. In this activity, students answer four questions.

  • What is the year?
  • Where does the character live?
  • Why must s/he leave?
  • Where is s/he going?

Three Google Slide files are provided. By clicking the first button and saying “Make a copy” to my Google Drive, you will receive a full-colored version of the chart for students to complete in their Google Drives. The next version is a backline copy that can be printed and distributed to students. The final file is the answer key for this activity.

Teaching Idea #2  – Boom Learning Decks 

Refugee by Alan Gratz Novel Study on Boom Learning

Boom Learning is a great option if you are looking for a paperless way to hold students accountable. You can check out Refugee here.


Teaching Idea #3  – On the Web

Refugee Novel Study Teaching Ideas

Try Syrian Escape Route. This SmartBoard activity was published by BBC. It allows students to make choices. —- What route should you take? How do you spend your money? What items do you take? —- The site also includes real stories of survivors.

Alan Gratz Website


Teaching Idea #4  – Refugee Video Summary

See the product that inspired this post.

Refugee Novel Study

Refugee Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.  

Gay Miller

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