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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for The Kite Runner Include:

After 9/11, most Americans could name one thing they knew about Afghanistan: the Taliban. The Taliban came into power in Afghanistan in 1996, and they remained in power until 2001. What many people don’t realize, however, is that Afghanistan was not always ruled by extremists; in fact, they were once a free people with a constitution, and the women had rights equal to those of men. Once Osama bin Laden and the Taliban took over, much of that went away.

Khaled Hosseini recaptures the beauty of Afghanistan, and in particular the city of Kabul, in his novel The Kite Runner. He narrates the troubled journey of a man named Amir, who is haunted by his past and the ghosts of his sins. The novel takes place as a flashback, with Amir remembering his childhood best friend Hassan, and the terrible thing that broke them apart. The novel is not only a history of Afghanistan before the Taliban took over, but it is also a story of redemption. Throughout the novel, Hosseini explores important themes and ideas, including the complications of friendship, the dangers of prejudice and discrimination, the search for redemption, and betrayal.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan

The Kite Runner focuses heavily on the disparities between ethnic groups in Afghanistan, especially between the Pastuns and Hazaras. It is the prejudice against Hazaras that leads to much of the ridicule and abuse that Hassan suffers throughout the novel, and creates an inner conflict for Amir that wracks him with guilt and a crisis of conscience.

A great resource that can be utilized for teaching this novel is distributed by Amnesty International.

In Appendix 1 of the above guide, the ethnic groups and their percentages in Afghanistan are broken down for students to get a better sense of the demographics of the country, especially in regards to Amir and Hassan who are Pashtun and Hazara, respectively:


A note about Sunnis vs. Shi’ites: The Sunnis and Shi’te split came soon after the prophet Muhammed’s death, when there was dispute over who should be his successor. The Sunni faction felt it should be someone in Muhammed’s direct bloodline, and in particular his father-in-law Abu Bakr; the Shi’ites believed that Muhammed appointed his cousin Ali, who was married to his daughter, before his death. Because of the split between these two groups, many of their beliefs and interpretations of the Koran differ even today, although they both agree on the core tenets of Islam. The majority of the world’s Muslim population are Sunnis.


Kite Flying and Kite Running in Kabul

Kite flying and running in Afghanistan was an important tradition to the people until it was banned by the Taliban in 1996. It was not only a competition, but a matter of honor and distinction for the competitors, and their runners. Young boys from all over Afghanistan, and particularly in Kabul, would spend care and time designing their kites and embedding glass into the tar wire, to cut their competitors’ kites down out of the sky. When the kite falls, runners set out after the kite. The person to find and retrieve the kite gets to keep it, so the running becomes a competition as well. Typically the last kite to fall is the top prize for the runners. The tradition has made a comeback after the fall of the Taliban, with thousands of kites flying in competitions over cities in Afghanistan each year.

Kite Running in Afghanistan

Example

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Essential Questions for The Kite Runner

  1. What is redemption? What does redemption offer people?
  2. Is redemption possible? What kinds of redemption do we see in society today?
  3. What impact do war and violence have on the people who live through it?
  4. What kinds of decisions can lead to guilt?
  5. What is betrayal? How can a person betray a friend?
  6. What kinds of characteristics define a good friend? A bad friend?
  7. Why is it important to stand up against discrimination and prejudice?

The Kite Runner Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Kite Runner Summary


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



The Kite Runner Plot Diagram Example

Exposition

The novel begins in 2001, with the narrator, Amir, alluding to a phone call he received from his father’s friend Rahim Khan. He recalls something that happened in 1975, back when he lived in Afghanistan with his father, his father’s servant Ali, and Ali’s son Hassan. Ali and Hassan are Hazaras, and Amir is Pashtun. Baba, Amir’s father, is a successful businessman, and Amir never quite feels like he can live up to Baba’s expectations for him. He sees an upcoming kite tournament as a chance to make Baba proud.


Conflict

Hassan is the best kite runner in Kabul, and doggedly loyal to Amir. Amir is slightly jealous of Hassan’s athletic abilities and his father’s kindness to him. Amir likes to read and write, but Baba has no patience for such things. Amir wins the tournament, and Hassan goes to run the final kite. When Amir goes to search for him, he finds him in an alley with Assef, a local bully who idolizes Hitler. He watches as Assef rapes Hassan, but he is too afraid to intervene.


Rising Action

Amir is ashamed for not helping Hassan, and avoids him. Eventually, he frames him for stealing and while Baba forgives him, Ali and Hassan leave anyway. In 1981, Baba and Amir flee the fighting in Afghanistan for California, where Baba works at a gas station. Amir graduates high school, and meets and marries Soraya, the daughter of a formerly powerful general. Baba dies of lung cancer, Amir becomes a writer, and Amir and Soraya discover they cannot have children.


Climax

In June 2001, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan telling him that there is a way to be good again. Amir returns to Afghanistan to discover that Hassan had a son who is now orphaned after Hassan and his wife were killed. He also learns that Hassan is Baba’s son, his half-brother. Sohrab has been taken by Assef, who is now a Taliban official, and he is being sexually abused. Amir confronts Assef, who beats him viciously until he is saved when Sohrab shoots Assef in the eye with his slingshot.


Falling Action

Amir escapes with Sohrab, who is named after Hassan’s favorite story as a child, Rostam and Sohrab from the Shahnama. Farid brings him to a hospital in Peshawar. Initially, Rahim Khan told Amir that there was a couple who ran an orphanage in Peshawar who would take care of Sohrab, but he soon discovers that no couple ever existed. Rahim Khan was in poor health and has probably passed away. Amir takes Sohrab to Isalamabad, where he finds that Sohrab is withdrawn and afraid of being abandoned.


Resolution

Amir and Soraya agree to bring Sohrab to America, but they are stonewalled by the American embassy because there is no way to prove Sohrab is an orphan. Amir tells Sohrab he might have to go back to the orphanage, and Sohrab attempts to commit suicide. When Sohrab recovers, Amir delivers the news that Soraya’s uncle can get him to America. They arrive in California, and Sohrab remains silent until they go kite-flying one day. Amir offers to run Sohrab’s kite,”a thousand times over,” echoing Hassan’s own words to him.


Plot Diagram for The Kite Runner

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Kite Runner.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Plot Diagram Template

Example

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Character Map Graphic Organizer for The Kite Runner


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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Use a character map to help track the different characters that are discussed in The Kite Runner.


The Kite Runner Characters Example

Amir

  • Physical Traits: Ethnic Pastun; dark hair and eyes; not athletic

  • Character Traits: Loves to read stories and poetry; makes up his own stories; becomes a writer; guilty and ashamed; desires the love and respect of his father; gets carsick; fearful and timid

  • Quote

    “I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan – the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past – and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. In the end, I ran.”


Other characters included in this map are: Hassan, Baba, Ali, Assef, Soraya, Rahim Khan and Sohrab.

Character Map for The Kite Runner

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in The Kite Runner and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "Cultural" or other appropriate tabs to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Traits, Character Traits, and a Quote.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


Blank Character Map

Example

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Literary Conflict Student Activity for The Kite Runner


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflict. Have your students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict them using the Storyboard Creator. In the storyboard, an example of each conflict should be visually represented, along with an explanation of the scene, and how it fits the particular category of conflict.

Literary Conflict in The Kite Runner

MAN vs. MAN

Assef tells Amir that he will have to fight him to earn Sohrab’s freedom. He slips on his infamous brass knuckles and proceeds to beat Amir almost to death, until Sohrab brings the fight to a halt by aiming his slingshot at Assef and demanding him to stop. When Assef lunges for Sohrab, he shoots his eye out with the slingshot, and Sohrab and Amir are able to escape.


MAN vs. SELF

After witnessing Hassan’s rape but being too scared to step in, Amir avoids Hassan out of shame and guilt. He eventually tries to get Hassan to hit him with a pomegranate, in a desperate attempt to get Hassan to show some anger towards him so that he can assuage his guilt. But Hassan refuses to throw anything back at Amir, and eventually takes a pomegranate and crushes it against his own forehead.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

Assef, an older boy who is a racist and a sociopath, corners Amir and Hassan and pulls out his brass knuckles to beat Amir because Amir is friends with Hassan, a Hazara. Amir thinks to himself that Hassan is not his friend; he is his servant. The thought of admitting that a Pashtun is friends with an Hazara is unforgivable in Amir’s social circle.


Literary Conflict in The Kite Runner

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in The Kite Runner.


  1. Identify conflicts in The Kite Runner.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs Student Activity for The Kite Runner


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Complications of Friendship

The primary theme in the novel The Kite Runner is the complications of friendship, as evidenced through Amir and Hassan’s relationship. Amir sees Hassan as his servant, not as his friend, and doesn’t realize his mistake until later in life. Hassan, on the other hand, idolizes Amir, and will do anything for him even if it means he gets in trouble for it. While Amir tries to sever their friendship by framing Hassan for stealing, Hassan maintains his affection for Amir through letters, which Rahim Khan delivers to Amir when he returns to Afghanistan. Amir also saves Hassan’s son, Sohrab, in order to make up for his betrayal of Hassan and their friendship.


The Dangers of Prejudice and Discrimination

Another important theme in the novel The Kite Runner is the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. Assef and others specifically target Hazaras in Kabul for their ridicule and intimidation. Assef taunts Ali, calling him Babalu, or boogeyman. He threatens to beat up Amir because he is friends with Hassan. Later, the Taliban specifically target the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, resulting in a bloody massacre. In 2000, the Taliban execute Hassan and his wife Farzana because they are living in Baba’s old house, a mansion, and they are Hazaras, whom the Taliban officials claim are all “thieves”.


The Search for Redemption

An additional primary theme throughout the novel The Kite Runner is Amir’s search for redemption. Wracked by guilt and shame over his fear and unwillingness to help Hassan as he was being assaulted by Assef, he is unable to deal with his emotions and eventually frames Hassan for stealing in an attempt to get rid of him. It works. When Rahim Khan contacts Amir in 2001 about there being a “way to be good again”, Amir knows he must do what Rahim is asking of him. Amir’s search for redemption brings him back to Afghanistan, where he discovers the truth about his connection to Hassan, and where he resolves to save and adopt Sohrab, Hassan’s son.


Betrayal

A final important theme in the novel The Kite Runner is betrayal. Amir is haunted by the fact that he did not help Hassan in the alley, and further betrays him by framing him for stealing. Baba betrayed Ali, his best friend and servant while growing up, by fathering Hassan with Ali’s wife Sanuabar. Sanaubar betrays Ali and Hassan by abandoning them shortly after Hassan’s birth, but later she comes back to Hassan and asks for forgiveness, and even helps raise Sohrab. After saving Sohrab and promising to bring him back to the United States with him, Amir thinks he might have to send him back to the orphanage in order to adopt him. Sohrab sees this as a betrayal, and attempts suicide. Amir realizes that he can never go back on his word with Sohrab again.


Motifs, Imagery & Symbols

Kites

An important symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is the kites. The kites are a matter of honor and pride, for both the kite fliers and the kite runners. The winter tournament is an opportunity for Amir to finally impress his father, who so often seems to feel ashamed of Amir. Hassan’s kite running instincts make him the best in the city, but his running of the last kite to fall in the fated contest leads to his assault and humiliation. The kites are banned shortly after the Taliban take over, taking away the tradition from the city of Kabul. Kites are what finally bring Sohrab and Amir together, however, back in the United States. It’s the first time Sohrab smiles since being adopted by Amir and Soraya.


The Story of Rostam and Sohrab

An important recurring motif in the novel The Kite Runner is the story of Rostam and Sohrab. As young boys, Hassan delighted to listen as Amir read stories to him, in particular the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the Shahnama. The story details a legendary fighter who fights his son on the battlefield, but neither man knows the true identity of the other. Rostam eventually kills Sohrab, and then discovers that Sohrab is his son. This story echoes Hassan and Amir, who don’t know they are brothers, and Amir rids himself of Hassan by framing him for stealing. By the time Amir discovers Hassan’s identity years later, Hassan is dead. Hassan loved the story so much that he names his son Sohrab.


Sohrab

Another important symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is Sohrab himself. Sohrab becomes a symbol and a driving force for Amir in his search for redemption for what he did to Hassan. While Amir can’t save Hassan, and he discovers their relation too late, he can save Sohrab from the hands of Assef. Giving Sohrab a chance at a new life in America, and a permanent, safe home is a way that Amir can make up for his betrayal of Hassan. Sohrab also takes the place of the child Amir and Soraya can never have.


The Brass Knuckles

Another symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is the brass knuckles used by the violent and sadistic Assef. The brass knuckles are first introduced at the beginning of the novel when Assef almost beats up Amir for hanging out with Hassan, a Hazara. Later when Amir goes to rescue Sohrab from the Taliban, Assef says that he has to earn Sohrab’s freedom. He takes out the brass knuckles and proceeds to beat Amir nearly to death, until Amir is saved once again by a little boy with a slingshot.

Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Kite Runner

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Kite Runner. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Kite Runner you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Template: Theme

Example

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Create Your Own Kite Storyboard Project for The Kite Runner

The designing of a kite for a kite flyer is incredibly significant: the kite flyer may spend days working on his kite, ensuring that it is both structurally sound and visually beautiful or intimidating. Throughout the novel, students may find themselves connecting with some of the key themes and characters. This is an opportunity for the students to create a visual element that connects the novel to their own lives. Students can design their kite and panels in a storyboard using our Storyboard Creator. The assignment is as follows:


Design your own kite to show a challenge that you’ve overcome in your life, and the people who have helped you along the way.


Panel 1: The Challenge or Problem

In the first panel, design a visual representation of a particular problem you’ve faced in your life. In the description box below, describe the situation.


Panel 2: The People Who Have Helped You

In the second panel, design and place Storyboard That characters that depict the people who helped you resolve your problem or challenge. Describe how they helped you in the description box below.


Panel 3: The Solution

Discuss how you overcame your problem or challenge, and the outcome, and depict this visually in your third panel.


Panel 4: The Lesson

Visually depict the lesson you’ve learned from this situation in the fourth panel. Describe your lesson below the panel.


Cell 5: Title Cell

Place the title of your project in the cell. Write your name in the description box below.


Cell 6: The Tail

Connect to the book. We all have problems and situations we’ve had to overcome. What advice would you give to Amir to help assuage his guilt over his betrayal of Hassan? Write it here, and create a kite tail for your kite.



Completed Example Project for The Kite Runner


Cell 1: Panel 1A problem I have faced this year is my parents’ divorce. It’s been really hard on my brothers and me, and my parents fight a lot over us.
Cell 2: Panel 2The people who have helped me a lot through this experience are my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jimmy. They let me come over when I am feeling overwhelmed, and they help me with my homework.
Cell 3: Panel 3My parents’ divorce is still ongoing, but I’ve been able to come to terms with it through counseling, and by sitting down and telling them how their fighting hurts us. My Aunt and Uncle helped me with deciding what to say to them before I sat down to talk to them about it.
Cell 4: Panel 4A lesson I’ve learned from this is to ask for help when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ve also learned not to try to take on other people’s problems and disputes; I should focus on making sure that I am doing well in school, being captain of my soccer team, and making sure that my brothers have someone to talk to.
Cell 5: Title CellMy Kite
Cell 6: The TailSome advice I would give to Amir to help him assuage his guilt over Hassan is to remind him that he was just a kid, and his father perpetuated the unfair treatment between him and Hassan. By keeping their blood connection a secret, he let Amir believe that Hassan was just a servant, and his constant criticism of Amir did not help the situation. The fact that Amir helps Sohrab is a huge sacrifice and a brave decision. I believe Hassan would be pleased by Amir now.

Create Your Own Kite Storyboard Project for The Kite Runner

Example

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Vocabulary Lesson Plan for The Kite Runner


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from The Kite Runner. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


The Kite Runner Vocabulary

  • nemesis
  • sultan
  • redemption
  • namaz
  • atone
  • adversary
  • prudence
  • absolve
  • inshallah
  • melee

Vocabulary in The Kite Runner

Example

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Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Kite Runner by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose five vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



5 Word Vocabulary Template

Example

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•   (English) The Kite Runner   •   (Español) El Volador de Cometas   •   (Français) Le Cerf-volant   •   (Deutsch) Drachenläufer   •   (Italiana) Il Cacciatore di Aquiloni   •   (Nederlands) De Vliegeraar   •   (Português) O Corredor de Pipa   •   (עברית) רודף העפיפונים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) عداء الطائرة الورقية   •   (हिन्दी) पतंग उड़ाने वाला   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Бегущий за Ветром   •   (Dansk) The Kite Runner   •   (Svenska) The Kite Runner   •   (Suomi) Leijan Lennättäjä   •   (Norsk) Drageløperen