Workshop Resources

Below is a list of fiction and nonfiction texts you can use with your classes when teaching about the Middle East or when discussing terrorism. Keep in mind that the grade level recommendations below may not mean a book is or is not appropriate for your students, you as the teacher are the best judge as to what works are best for them. Remember, even if these texts are not a regular part of the curriculum you can still use them to enrich the pre-existing curriculum!

Fictional Novels – Middle East:

  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini:
    • Summary: Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, but Hassan, his servant and companion, is a Hazara, a despised caste. This book deals with the tragic events which lead Amir to abandon his friend, and how Amir journeys back to his homeland to try to right the wrongs of his past.
    • Grade Level: 9th and up, due to mature content (1 particular scene)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini:
    • Summary: Born a generation apart and with different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the dangers around them, they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will alter the course of their lives and of the next generation.
    • Grade Level: 10th and up, due to mature content
  • Wild Thorns, by Sahar Khalifeh:
    • Summary: A Palestinian named Usama returns from working in the Gulf to support the resistance movement. His mission is to blow up buses transporting Palestinian workers into Israel. Usama is shocked to discover that many of his fellow citizens have adjusted to life under military rule. Despite uncertainty, he sets out to accomplish his mission … with disastrous consequences.
    • Grade Level: 10th and up
  • Men in the Sun, by Ghassan Kanafani
    • Summary: This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani offers the reader a gritty look at the agonized world of Palestine and the adjoining Middle East.
    • Grade Level: 10th and up
  • The Secret Life of Saed: The Pessoptimist: A Palestinian Who Became a Citizen of Israel, by Imil Habibi
    • Summary: Originally written in 1974, this novel blends fantasy and realism to tell the story of a Palestinian who changes from an informer for Israel to a supporter for the beliefs of the people of Palestine.
    • Grade Level:  9th and up
  • A Sky So Close, by Khedairi Betool
    • Summay: In this coming of age novel, a girl, the daughter of an Iraqi father and an English mother, finds herself caught in a number of cultural conflicts during the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf War
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Zed, by Rosemary Harris
    • Summary: Captured by Arab terrorists when he was seven, a young teenage Lebanese/British boy must come to terms with his memories and experiences.
    • Grade Level: 7th and up

Memoirs/Nonfiction – Middle East:

  • I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
    • Summary: I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
    • Grade Level: 7th and up
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi
    • Summary: Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
    • Grade Level: 10th and up
  • Funny in Farsi, by Firoozeh Dumas
    • Summary: In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of the country. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since. This hilarious memoir chronicles the American journey of Dumas's engaging family, and Dumas’ own culture shock and growth.
    • Grade Level: 7th and up
  • Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
    • Summary: This unique memoir in comic strips is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution;; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, by Sandy Tolan
    • Summary: This is the moving story of a house in Ramla, the Palestinian and then Jewish families that live there, and the relationships between them.
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Children of Israel: Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories, by Laurel Holliday
    • Summary: From 1948 until the present, Palestinians and Israelis remember their childhoods.
    • Grade Level: 6th and up

Other Literature

These works do not have a direct connection to the Middle East, but may relate to the concept of terrorism. Teachers may make connections to the Middle East when teaching these works.

  • Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare
    • Summary: Caesar has returned from war, and rumor has it that he is to be crowned king. A group of Roman senators begin to fear he will become king, and plot to kill Caesar to prevent this. The plan succeeds, but backfires, and governmental upheaval occurs. Teachers could discuss whether or not the senators could be considered “terrorists”, and could discuss modern examples of governmental upheaval (such as that which is occurring in the Middle East)
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • 1984, by George Orwell
    • Summary: This dystopian work describes a future society controlled by the all-powerful “Big Brother”.  Teachers could analyze the situations discussed which led to this society, and connect the situations described to terrorist activity and other modern conflicts.
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton
    • Summary: G.K. Chesterton's 1908 masterpiece, The Man Who Was Thursday, is a metaphysical thriller, and a detective story filled with poetry and politics. Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. He infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and becomes 'Thursday', one of the seven members of the Central Anarchist Council. This novel presents an excellent historical perspective on terrorism in the early 20th century.
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    • Summary: In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a soap opera. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds.
    • Grade Level: 7th and up
  • The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad
    • Summary: Mr Verloc, the secret agent, keeps a shop in London's Soho where he lives with his wife Winnie, her infirm mother, and her idiot brother. When Verloc is involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory things go disastrously wrong.
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
    • Summary: Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, dark, anarchic genius, and, (some would say), terrorist.  
    • Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
    • Summary: When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace as he seeks to understand his father’s death.
    • Grade Level: 8th and up


“Terrorism in Literature”, by John Utz.

“Literature from the Modern Middle East: Making a Living Connection”, by Allen Webb

Books about the Middle East: Selecting and Using Them With Children and Adolescents, by Tami Craft Al-Hazza and Katherine Toth Bucher.

Socratic Seminar

Socratic seminars are named for their embodiment of Socrates’ belief in the power of asking questions, prize inquiry over information and discussion over debate.   Socratic seminars acknowledge the highly social nature of learning and align with the work of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and Paulo Friere.

Elfie Israel succinctly defines Socratic seminars and implies their rich benefits for students:

The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions.  Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.  They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly. (89)

Strategy in Practice 

  • Choosing a text:  Socratic seminars work best with authentic texts that invite authentic inquiry—an ambiguous and appealing short story, a pair of contrasting primary documents in social studies, or an interesting section of a novel.
  • Preparing the students: While students should read carefully and prepare well for every class session, it is usually best to tell students ahead of time when they will be expected to participate in a Socratic seminar. Because seminars ask students to keep focusing back on the text, you may distribute sticky notes for students to use to annotate the text as they read.
  • Preparing the questions:  Though students may eventually be given responsibility for running the entire session, the teacher usually fills the role of discussion leader as students learn about seminars and questioning.  Generate as many open-ended questions as possible, aiming for questions whose value lies in their exploration, not their answer.  Elfie Israel recommends starting and ending with questions that relate more directly to students’ lives.
  • Establishing student expectations:  Because student inquiry and thinking are central to the philosophy of Socratic seminars, it is an authentic move to include students integrally in the establishment of norms for the seminar.  Begin by asking students to differentiate between behaviors that characterize debate (persuasion, prepared rebuttals, clear sides) and those that characterize discussion (inquiry, responses that grow from the thoughts of others, communal spirit).  Ask students to hold themselves accountable for the norms they agree upon.
  • Establishing your role:  Though you may assume leadership through determining which open-ended questions students will explore (at first), the teacher should not see him or herself as a significant participant in the pursuit of those questions.  You may find it useful to limit your intrusions to helpful reminders about procedures. Resist the urge to correct, relying instead on other students to respectfully challenge their peers’ interpretations or offer alternative views.
  • Assessing effectiveness: Socratic seminars require assessment that respects the central nature of student-centered inquiry.  The most global measure of success is reflection, both on the part of the teacher and students, on the degree to which text-centered student talk dominated the time and work of the session.  Reflective writing asking students to describe their participation and set their own goals for future seminars can be effective as well.  Understand that the process of gaining capacity for inquiring into text is more important than “getting it right” at any particular point.
  • Resources Matrix - DOCX
  • Socratic Seminar Observation Checklist - DOCX


Socratic Seminar

A Socratic seminar is simply a forum where we as a class will have an in depth discussion of a text.  In our case, we will be focusing on the short story, “Like a Winding Sheet”, by Anne Petry and will be comparing it to Native Son.  During a Socratic seminar, I (Ms. Hicks) will sometimes ask questions to keep conversation going, but, ultimately, where the conversation goes is up to YOU.  Below are some of my expectations for the seminar:

  • All students participate a minimum of 3 times (I will be keeping track).
  • ONE students speaks at a time.
  • No side conversations take place.
  • Students are respectful and civil to each other.
  • All comments are related to the text of text-related themes.
  • Students take initiative in asking thoughtful questions and responding to other’s comments.

I will be grading this activity this way:

Close Reading Evidence for “Like a Winding Sheet” _____________ 10 points

Completion of pre-discussion questions ______________ 10 points

Participation in Socratic Seminar _________________ 15 points

To receive full points in the Socratic Seminar I need to see . . . .

- Minimum of 3 times speaking

- Speaking clearly and confidently

- Listening to other’s responses and taking what your classmates have said into account as you speak.

- Showing evidence of preparation

- Showing evidence of a clear understanding of the text

- No side conversations or talking while other students are talking

- No irrelevant comments

Based on what I’ve seen in the smaller class discussions we’ve had so far, you all are brilliant, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!!

RAFT Writing Strategy

The more often students write, the more proficient they become as writers.  RAFT is a writing strategy that helps students understand their role as a writer and how to effectively communicate their ideas and mission clearly so that the reader can easily understand everything written.  Additionally, RAFT helps students focus on the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the topic they'll be writing about. By using this strategy, teachers encourage students to write creatively, to consider a topic from multiple perspectives, and to gain the ability to write for different audiences. Developing a sense of audience and purpose in writing, in all communication, is an important part of growth as a writer.

RAFT assignments encourage students to uncover their own voices and formats for presenting their ideas about content information they are studying.  Students learn to respond to writing prompts that require them to think about various perspectives:

  • Role of the Writer: Who are you as the writer? A movie star? The President? A plant?
  • Audience: To whom are you writing? A senator?  Yourself? A company?
  • Format: In what format are you writing? A diary entry? A newspaper?  A love letter?
  • Topic: What are you writing about?

Strategy in Practice

  • Explain to your students the various perspectives writers must consider when completing any writing assignment. 
  • Decide on an area of study currently taking place in your classroom for which you could collaborate with the students and write a class RAFT.  Discuss with your students the basic premise of the content for which you’d like to write, but allow students to help you pick the role, audience, format, and topic to write about.  
    • For instance, if students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird, you may have students respond to the issues in the story as various characters to different audiences in multiple formats.
  • Have a class think-aloud to come up with ideas for the piece of writing that you will create as a group.  Model on a whiteboard, overhead projector, or chart paper how you would write in response to the prompt.  Allow student input and creativity as you craft your piece of writing.
  • Give students another writing prompt (for which you have already chosen the role, audience, format, and topic) and have students react to the prompt either individually or in small groups. It works best if all students follow the same process so the students can learn from the varied responses of their classmates.
  • Choose a few students to read their RAFT aloud.  Have a class discussion about how each student created their own version of the RAFT while using the same role, audience, format, and topic.
  • As students become comfortable in reacting to RAFT prompts, give students a list of options for each component and let them choose their role, audience, format, and topic.
  • Students may eventually choose a role, audience, format, and topic entirely on their own. 


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