How to Teach A Long Walk to Water

Are you wondering how to teach the novel, A Long Walk to Water with grades 4, 5 6 students? Here are some ideas to incorporate into your A Long Walk to Water unit. 

This novel, written by Linda Sue Park, describes Salva Dut’s journey as he goes from refugee to savior in Sudan, Africa. It is a heartwarming story of perseverance and hope. It is a unique novel in that part of the story is fictional, and part of it is nonfiction. 

A Long Walk to Water takes the story of two rival tribes and shows how they can come together for a common goal. 

Teaching A Long Walk to Water can be difficult for students to understand, so introduce it through a few different pre-reading activities before starting the novel.
In addition, the novel’s setting is entirely foreign to most students who grow up in the United States, so frontloading with different activities will allow students to gain some background knowledge on the conditions. 

How to Teach A Long Walk to Water to Your Students

My Great Grandmother’s Gourd:

This picture book gives students a sense of Sudan’s setting, climate, and culture.

In this paired text FREEBIE, students will be given vocabulary terms and two worksheets that will assess comprehension and connect to the novel. Students will walk away with a greater understanding of how people interact with one another in Sudan.

Webquest Activity:

This activity is great to use with your students BEFORE teaching the novel; however, there are benefits to also using with during the novel.

The WebQuest links will expose students to the

  • author,
  • Sudan, and
  • Salva’s journey.

Using Google maps to explore and see real pictures of the geography of Sudan and Africa gives students a better understanding of the conflicts and problems they are dealing with. 

Chapter Organizers: Depending on how much time I have to teach this unit will determine which materials I will use. A packet containing guided reading questions is helpful when we have time to delve into making predictions and drawing conclusions from the text.

Other times, I will use these chapter organizers. Graphic organizers allow students to quickly summarize important plot events, conflicts, and details from Salva and Nya’s storylines.

Students can use these organizers for upcoming assessments or use them for a culminating project.  

Review Activities for Your A Long Walk to Water Unit

using review while teaching a long walk to water

Review Activity:

Available in both digital and printable forms helps to quickly and effectively summarize character traits from Nya and Salva, setting, conflict, and theme while teaching A Long Walk to Water.

My students love flipbooks because it is a way for them to quickly and effectively summarize information. They also like them because they can use them as a review for an assessment.

I like that it is an authentic way to review the story elements with students. Being able to use an engaging novel helps to assess their knowledge of both concepts.  

To make sure students understand the plot of A Long Walk to Water, this game keeps students engaged throughout all chapters of the novel study.
Students are assessed four times throughout the novel. Each of those assessments has a review game component.
Engaging kinesthetic learners at the upper elementary and middle school levels can be challenging. Grab opportunities to get students up and out of their seats. This game has them do that. It also switches up my standard review games like Kahoot or Quizizz to vary your teaching style as much as possible. 

Assessing Student Knowledge of Your A Long Walk to Water Unit


While reading A Long Walk to Water, it is a good idea to assess students several times throughout the novel.

Assessments include

  • multiple-choice,
  • short answer,
  • and extended response questions.

In addition to a traditional test or quiz, units include

  • project ideas,
  • an essay on the theme,
  • and a one-pager assignment.

Typically, I would not use ALL of the assessments with the students but pick and choose which will work best. I decided to skip some of the chapter quizzes for some years as they could hold up the story.

Depending on the class,  assign a thematic essay or a one-pager activity.

Often, I find that these alternative assessments can give me a better understanding of the student than traditional tests or quizzes show. 

If you are teaching A Long Walk to Water this year with your students and would like READY-MADE materials at your fingertips, check out my novel study that has everything you need to teach your students about character, plot, setting, and theme to your upper elementary and middle school students. 

These are some examples of the incredible one-pagers that students created.
If you would like to use this with your students, please join my mailing list below to get your free copy immediately. 

A Long Walk to Water One Pager FREEBIE

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