Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai9780061962783

Inside Out and Back Again is a New

York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor

Book, and a winner of the National Book

Award! Inspired by the author’s

childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam

after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating

to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut

novel told in verse has been celebrated

for its touching child’s-eye view of

family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has

only known Saigon: the thrills of its

markets, the joy of its traditions, and the

warmth of her friends close by. But now

the Vietnam War has reached her home.

Hà and her family are forced to flee as

Saigon falls, and they board a ship

headed toward hope. In America, Hà

discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.” An author’s note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà’s story. (From Goodreads)

Amazon | Goodreads

Topics: family, coming-of-age, Vietnam War, refugees, food

Suggested Age Level (Native Speakers): 8 – 12 years

Suggested ESL Level: Low-intermediate

This Guide: I’ve broken this book down into six ~45 page sections, which is perfect if you

teach in a 7/8 week intensive program, or would also be good for one half of a full semester. For each section, this guide contains: suggested vocabulary words, comprehension questions, writing activities, and research/extension activities. There is also a previewing section and a section for helpful links and cultural references.

Click here to view this teaching guide on Gumroad


A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean


A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

“My name is Cally Louise Fisher and I haven’t spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn’t always make things happen, however much you want them to.”

When Cally Fisher sees her dead mother, real as anything, no one believes her. So Cally stops talking – what’s the point if no one is listening?

The only other living soul who sees Cally’s mum is a mysterious wolfhound who always seems to be there when her mum appears. But without a voice, how will Cally convince anyone that her mum is still with them, and how will she ever persuade her Dad that the huge silver-grey dog is their last link with her?

An outstandingly assured debut novel from a sparkling new talent. (From Goodreads)

Amazon | Goodreads

Topics: family issues, death, dealing with loss, dogs, friendship

Suggested Age Level (Native Speakers): 8 – 12, or grades 3 – 7

Suggested ESL Level: Low-intermediate or a very motivated/advanced elementary level class

Notes: I would suggest using this in the first half of the semester (if you teach during a regular school semester), as it’s a fairly easy book. The writing is simple, there aren’t very many cultural or topical references that students may have difficulty with, and the themes are fairly universal and understandable. This book is an easy way for students to get started with reading novels in English.

Use this link to download the reading guide PDF: A Dog Called Homeless Reading Guide

If you liked this lesson plan and have used it in class, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi so I can continue creating free content!

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I started thinking about ideas for this blog about 4-5 months ago. My intention was to create and publish ESL-centered literature lesson plans and reading guides. Since then, life has gotten in the way and I’ve been unable to publish anything. However, I am currently working on finishing up my first reading guide for this blog, and hope to publish it sometime this week!

So before that comes out, let me tell you a little about this blog. I currently teach ESL to international students at a large, American university. I’ve been teaching for about 6 years now, including student teaching time during graduate school. This year, my department hired a bunch of new teachers straight out of their graduate program, and I kept thinking back to my own first year of teaching. I had only a BA and a TEFL certificate – no pedagogy knowledge or classroom experience. I was terrified for the first month of teaching, and constantly scrambling to put lesson plans together.

Additionally, this year, I ended up taking an overload of classes, which meant a lot less time to prep for lesson plans. Teaching my reading class’ novel ended up sorting of falling by the wayside. I tried to look up teaching guides for this novel on the internet to sort of ease the lesson planning load, but the only guide I found for the novel was completely centered on the American K-12 setting – it involved common core standards and relied on a level of cultural knowledge that my ESL students just wouldn’t have. Therefore, I decided to start writing my own reading guides for ESL students and teachers.

Basically, my goal for this blog is to help those first year ESL teachers, or any ESL teachers who find themselves suddenly having to teach a novel with no prior experience. I want teachers to be able to find a ready-made reading guide to their chosen novel on this website – then, they can pretty much plug and chug!

Each guide, at the minimum contains an introduction to the book along with a suggested class level, suggested vocabulary words, comprehension questions, writing activities, and extension/research activities. You can pick and choose which parts you want to use or which parts work for your teaching style. Most comprehension questions can be turned into quiz questions, and writing assignments and extension activities can be done as homework or in the classroom, either as individual work or group work. The reading guides are just the basics – it’s up to you to decide how to use them! All the reading guides, activities, and links are free for anyone to use…I don’t believe in putting teaching materials behind a paywall. Teaching is tough enough as is without having to pay for materials!

Thank you so much for reading and using this blog! I don’t have an email for the blog just yet, but if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments :]