Activity Overview

There are many themes, symbols, and motifs present throughout the novel Refugee. Students can explore them by identifying a few and creating images and captions depicting examples from the text. Students can explore this by identifying a theme, symbol or motif themselves or, in an “envelope activity”, being given one or more to track throughout their reading. Then in this activity, students can create a storyboard illustrating the examples of that theme from the text.

Examples of Themes in Refugee

  • War
  • Trauma
  • Holocaust
  • Oppression
  • Coming of Age
  • Injustice
  • Cruelty vs. Kindness
  • Apathy vs. Empathy
  • Hope vs. Despair
  • Family
  • Displacement
  • The Refugee Experience
  • Invisibility
  • Journey to a Better Life
  • Social Justice
  • Sacrifice
  • Cultural ties

Examples of Symbols and Motifs in Refugee

  • Boats
  • Isabel's Trumpet
  • Cell Phone and Technology
  • The Yellow Jewish Star
  • Water
  • Manana/Tomorrow
  • religion
  • prayers
  • Funeral customs
  • clave/Cuban music
  • dictators
  • "just doing my job" / relinquishing responsibility

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols or motifs found in Refugee. Illustrate each symbol and write a short description below each cell.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the themes, symbols, or motifs from Refugee you wish to include and type them in the title box at the top.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent each symbol using appropriate scenes, characters and items.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.
  5. Save often!

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-8

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/6/6] Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/5/1] Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Create a storyboard that identifies symbolism in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Identify Symbol(s)
All symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story.
Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or are incorrectly identified as significant symbols.
No symbols are correctly identified.
All examples support the identified symbols. Descriptions clearly say why examples are significant.
Most examples fit the identified symbols. Descriptions say why examples are significant.
Most examples do not fit the identified symbols. Descriptions are unclear.
Storyboard cells clearly show connection with the symbols and help with understanding.
Most storyboard cells help to show the symbols but some storyboard cells are difficult to understand.
Storyboard cells do not help in understanding the symbols.

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