Inside Out and Back Again – Lesson Plans [Free PDF]


The “Inside Out and Back Again – Lesson Plans” are designed to introduce students to the award-winning novel by Thanhha Lai, promoting language development through engaging activities and discussions. This ESL lesson plan aims to explore the themes, characters, and historical context of the novel while enhancing vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing skills. “Inside Out and Back Again” provides a rich literary landscape for ESL learners to delve into, fostering critical thinking and cultural awareness in the process.

Vocabulary Building


A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Culture Shock
The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
(in the context of immigration) The process by which a person or a group’s language and/or culture come to resemble those of another group.
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Contextual Usage

1. **Refugee**: The protagonist in the novel is a refugee who fled Vietnam during the war.
2. **Immigrant**: Many immigrants faced numerous challenges when adapting to their new home country.
3. **Culture Shock**: The character experiences culture shock upon arriving in the United States due to the vast differences from her homeland.
4. **Assimilation**: Throughout the novel, there are examples of assimilation as characters try to adapt and fit into their new surroundings.
5. **Resilience**: The story highlights themes of resilience as characters overcome hardships and build new lives in unfamiliar environments.

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ESL Warm-up Activity

To set the stage for the “Inside Out and Back Again” lesson, initiate a warm-up activity by providing students with a series of images depicting different cultural practices, landscapes, and daily life in Vietnam. Ask students to observe the pictures and note down any words or emotions that come to mind as they view each image. Encourage them to share their thoughts with the class and discuss how these visuals relate to immigration, cultural adaptation, and resilience – key themes found in the novel. This activity not only captures students’ attention but also serves as a segue into exploring the contextual background of the story.

Main ESL Lesson Activities

Vocabulary Activity: Word Webs

Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with a set of vocabulary words related to immigration, culture, and resilience. Ask them to create word webs using the provided terms, including synonyms, antonyms, and related concepts. Encourage students to discuss the significance of each word within the context of the novel and share their findings with the class.

Listening Activity: Audio Journal Entries

Play selected audio clips where characters from “Inside Out and Back Again” narrate their experiences as immigrants. After listening, organize a group discussion for students to reflect on the emotions conveyed in these journal entries. Prompt them to compare these emotions with those of modern-day immigrants who share similar journeys.

Roleplay Activity: Cultural Exchange Simulation

Assign students different roles representing characters from various cultural backgrounds within the novel. Task them with engaging in a cultural exchange simulation where they discuss traditions, values, and challenges faced upon immigrating to new environments. Encourage open dialogue and improvisation based on character perspectives.

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Reading and Writing Activity: Poetry Composition

Guide students through crafting their own poems inspired by themes in “Inside Out and Back Again.” Provide examples of various poetry forms such as haiku or free verse for inspiration. After composing their poems individually or in pairs, facilitate a poetry slam session where students can share their creations while considering feedback from peers.

ESL Homework Assignment

For homework, instruct students to conduct independent research on real-life stories of immigrants or refugees who have resettled in the students’ local community or elsewhere. Students should compile their findings into a brief report highlighting the challenges, triumphs, and cultural adaptations experienced by these individuals. Encourage them to draw parallels between these accounts and the themes presented in “Inside Out and Back Again.” Additionally, assign students to draft a reflective journal entry expressing their thoughts on how these real-world experiences align with the novel’s narrative.



Throughout the “Inside Out and Back Again – Lesson Plans” lesson, students delved into themes of immigration, cultural adaptation, and resilience as portrayed in the novel. Engaging activities such as word webs, listening to journal entries, roleplaying cultural exchanges, and composing poetry allowed them to explore these themes in depth.


Encourage students to reflect on how their understanding of these themes has expanded through the lesson. Prompt them to consider how the language elements encountered in the novel have enriched their comprehension and communication skills. Encouraging students to apply this newfound knowledge in their daily language development reinforces the practical application of ESL learning strategies.

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Why this topic is great for ESL learning

“Inside Out and Back Again – Lesson Plans” offers a valuable platform for ESL learning as it delves into real-world experiences of immigration, assimilation, and resilience. The themes presented in the novel provide students with a deeper understanding of cultural diversity, fostering empathy and critical thinking. Moreover, the language used in the novel allows students to expand their vocabulary, improve comprehension, and develop writing skills within meaningful contexts. By exploring these themes, students gain insights into global issues while honing their language abilities.