When Stars are Scattered Activities

When Stars are Scattered Activities

If you want a great introduction to graphic novels, try When Stars are Scattered. This remarkable book was co-written by Omar Mohamed, whose story is told, and Victoria Jamieson, well-known author of the Newbery Honor Award Winner Roller Girl

When Stars are Scattered Book Summary

The story begins with the narrator (Omar) and his younger brother (Hassan) walking through the refugee camp from Block A3 to A2. This is not a safe thing to do. The week before some big kids took their pants and shoes when they left their neighborhood block. Once they reach Block A2, Hassan is liked by everyone. He waves, talks to donkeys, and collects fruit for the goats. The boys have lived in the refugee camp of Dadaab for 7 years in a tent across from Fatuma who is like a foster mom.

Omar doesn’t go to school because he must care for Hassan who doesn’t talk and has seizures. They spend their days playing at the building pit pretending to be home in Somalia.

Salan, a community leader, comes by to talk to Omar. After several visits, Omar learns that Salan wants him in school. Salan makes school possible for Omar by arranging for Fatuma to care for Hassan during the day. Salan also talks with the principal and arranges for Omar to start school in the 5th grade. When Omar worries about leaving Hassan, he goes outside and talks to one star that brings him comfort like it is from a distant memory. Omar doesn’t hear an answer from the stars – just the sounds of hyenas…

Activities for When Stars are Scattered

When Stars are Scattered Novel Study Samples

When Stars are Scattered Novel Study

Grab your novel study samples including vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed response writing prompt.

You can get the free book unit sample by clicking the button.

Teaching Idea #1 – Inspirational Passages

Inspirational Passages

Activity #1

Maryam’s poem at the end of When Stars are Scattered is powerful. It pulls together many of the themes taught in the story and gives the book its title.

Discuss the meaning of the poem.

What does the poem tell you about Maryam’s voice?

Have students write their own poems following Maryam’s example.

This handout includes all ideas and printables from this post.

Activity #2

Have students compare and contrast Maryam’s poem to Michael’s lesson in Chapter 8. You can get this handout plus other teaching ideas by clicking on the button above.


Now imagine yourself as one of those stars. Your light is bright and shines for millions of miles. Now open your eyes, and open them wide. Look at your friends sitting all around you. Throughout your life, people may shout ugly words at you. Words like, “Go home, refugee!” or “You have no right to be here!” When you meet these people, tell them to look at the stars, and how they move across the sky. No one tells a star to go home. Tell them, “I am a star. I deserve to exist just the same as a star. How do I know? Because here I am. I am here. The proof is in the stars.

Teaching Idea #2 – Creating a Graphic Novel Chapter

Creating a Graphic Novel

Have students create a chapter to add to the end of When the Stars are Scattered.

Step 1 – Decide on the Content of the Chapter.

Some ideas include:

  • What happened to Omar and Hassan after reaching America?
  • How has Dadaab changed since Omar left?

Step 2 – Research the Selected Content.

Before Victoria Jamieson could tell Omar’s life, she had to interview him.  Students will need to gather information as well. This can be done through the “Afterword” of When Stars are Scattered, Internet Interviews, or through YouTube videos.

Step 3 – Write a Narrative for your Graphic Novel.

Teachers may divide the content up into sections before beginning. For example, Small Group A will write about this detail, and Group B will write about this detail.

Another option is to brainstorm the narrative as a whole class and then divide the content into sections.

Step 4 – Plan how to have Cohesion Frames.

Plan how the characters and backgrounds created by different students will be cohesive.

  • Plan clothing colors and styles.

Step 5 – Create Drawings.

Have students draw characters and backgrounds on plain white copier paper without text bubbles or boxes. Be sure all students turn their pages in the landscape direction.

Step 6 – Turn Paper Drawings into Digital Files.

Turn the drawing into digital images. The easiest way to do this is by taking pictures. If you have access to scanners, that is a great option as well.

Step 7 – Have Students Add Text on Top of their Drawings.

Open a Google Slide presentation. Adjust the slide size to 11 by 8.5 inches (landscape direction). Upload the digital image as a background. Have students add text bubbles and boxes on top of the image.

Step 8 – Download the image as a PNG. 

Once all text is added to the page, download the Google Slide as a PNG file.

Step 9– Putting Frames Together

Have students work in small groups to create graphic novel pages by opening up a new Google Slide presentation. Change the slide size to 8.5 by 11 inches (portrait direction). Upload 3 to 4 student images to the slide and arrange them in story order.

Step 10 –  Putting Pages Together

Class pages can be put together to form the chapter. These can be displayed in printable or digital formats.

Teaching Idea #3 – When Stars are Scattered Author Video

This video is from the Read, Write, Draw from Home Series by Penguin Middle School. Omar reads the first chapter. Victoria Jamieson provides a writing tip and shows how she draws. Students will find her drawing tips really interesting.

Teaching Idea #4 – Videos

This is the official book trailer by publishers Penguin Middle School.

This is the playlist for the audio version of the book. Barbara Beam reads the entire book while viewers can see the book illustrations. Highly recommend.

Teaching Idea #5 – When Stars are Scattered Resources on the Web

If you are using the full cast audio version of When Stars are Scattered, you should visit Penguin Random House’s Meet the Cast page.  See the face behind each voice.

Check out this Educator’s Guide from Penguin Classroom. This 12-page resource includes comprehension and discussion questions by chapter. This is a great teaching tool to incorporate into your novel study.
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When Stars are Scattered Novel Study

When Stars are Scattered Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.  

Gay Miller

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