The Boy At The Back Of The Class – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

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Onjali Rauf’s The Boy At the Back of the Class is a must-read for teaching the next generation about resilience and empathy.

Not only does it ignite conversations around complex topics such as displacement, home loss, trauma and refugees, but its uplifting story will also empower students to stand up for what they believe in.

If you’re looking for ideas on using this novel in your classroom, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for an overview of our planning guide – perfect for teachers who want to create engaging lessons that bring ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ off the page and into life!

Related: For more, check out our article on The Great Gatsby  here.

The Boy At the Back of the Class

The Boy At the Back of the Class Storyline

It tells the story of nine-year-old Ahmet, a refugee from Syria who is living in London. He finds it difficult to adjust to his new school and make friends, but eventually, he begins to build relationships with his classmates.

They come together when they learn that one of their schoolmates, Javid, is being detained by immigration and facing deportation.

To help free him, the children devise a plan that involves writing letters to people in positions of power and organizing a petition.

Their efforts prove successful, and Javid is eventually released from detention. Ahmet realizes that no matter how small you are, even a single voice can make a difference in the world.

Related: For more, check out our article on The Machine Gunners – Planning Overview here.

1Introduction to the StoryIntroduce students to the book and its themes. Establish understanding of the context.Read aloud the first chapter. Discuss first impressions and predict themes. Create a word wall with key vocabulary.Participation in discussion. Vocabulary quiz.
2Character AnalysisExplore the characters and their relationships.Character mapping activities. Role-playing exercises to explore character perspectives.Character description worksheets. Role-play performance evaluation.
3Themes and MotifsIdentify and discuss the central themes and motifs in the text.Group discussions on themes like friendship, refugees, and acceptance. Identify motifs in the text and their significance.Written reflection on themes. Presentation on motif analysis.
4Narrative StructureUnderstand the structure of the story and the author’s craft.Analyze the plot structure. Identify narrative techniques used by the author.Plot diagram completion. Short essay on the author’s narrative technique.
5Empathy and PerspectiveDevelop empathy and understand different perspectives.Write diary entries from the point of view of different characters. Discuss how different characters might feel in certain situations.Peer assessment of diary entries. Group discussion participation.
6Creative WritingEncourage creative expression related to the story’s themes.Write an additional chapter or an alternative ending to the story. Create a poem or a piece of art inspired by the book.Creative writing piece. Artwork or poem presentation.
7Cross-Curricular ConnectionsMake connections with other subjects such as geography, social studies, and current events.Research the countries of origin of refugees. Discuss current events related to the story’s themes.Research project presentation. Current events summary.
8Reflection and ReviewReflect on the reading experience and review key learnings.Group discussions on the impact of the story. Create a poster summarizing the book’s messages.Poster creation and presentation. Participation in final discussion.

This table provides a structured overview for planning lessons around the book “The Boy At the Back of the Class,” outlining a weekly focus, objectives, activities, and assessment methods to engage students with the text and its themes.

The Main Themes of The Boy At the Back of the Class


The story revolves around Ahmet’s journey as he makes friends and struggles to adjust to his new school. As his friendships deepen, they rally together to help free Javid from detention, a testament to friendship’s power.

Immigration and Refugees

Ahmet is a Syrian refugee living in London who is facing difficulty adjusting to life there. Throughout the story, we see how refugees are treated differently by others and how difficult it can be for them to assimilate into their new home.

Power of One Voice

The children realize that a single voice can make a difference in the world, even if they are small. We see how their efforts, such as writing letters and organizing a petition, pay off and lead to Javid being released from detention.

Related: For more, check out our article on The Dam By David Almond – Planning Overview here.

Characters in The Boy At the Back of the Class


Ahmet is a nine-year-old Syrian refugee living in London and trying to adjust to life there. At first, he struggles to make friends at school, but eventually, he builds relationships with his classmates. His story revolves around his journey as he learns to connect with others and understand the power of one voice.


Javid is another student at Ahmet’s school who has been detained by immigration and faces deportation. He is why Ahmet and his classmates come together – they realize the injustice of Javid’s situation and devise a plan to free him from detention.

Mrs Khan

Mrs Khan is the teacher at Ahmet’s school, who notices that he is struggling more than most students and encourages him to open up about what he’s going through. She helps him feel welcome in his new home, teaching him English words and sharing stories about her upbringing as a Pakistani immigrant in England.

Ahmet’s Struggles in Adjusting to Life in London

Language Barrier

Ahmet needs help understanding and speaking English, making communication difficult. This isolates him from his classmates, as he has a different level of knowledge of their conversations.


Being away from his family and familiar culture means Ahmet feels alone while transitioning to living in London. He has difficulty settling into the school routine and making friends with his peers.


On multiple occasions, Ahmet is made aware of how others view him as a refugee. He is treated differently due to his background and immigration status. He believes that if people knew more about him, they would be kinder and more accepting of him.

Resilience and Character Development

  1. Discuss the importance of developing connections with others. Encourage students to find ways to reach out and make meaningful relationships, especially in difficult situations.
  2. Explore how a person’s circumstances can affect their ability to form connections and build trust with others. Ask students how they think Ahmet felt while adjusting to his new life in London, away from his family.
  3. Talk about the power of one voice and how individuals can influence collective action for change – point out how Ahmet’s classmates came together to help Javid.
  4. Discuss topics such as empathy, respect, strength and courage – encourage students to reflect on these traits by considering Ahmet’s journey throughout the book.
  5. Examine themes such as discrimination, immigration and cultural identity – ask students why they think it is essential to stand up for what is right even when faced with adversity.

Lesson Plan 1 – Exploring Cultural Identity


Students will explore themes such as immigration, cultural identity and discrimination.


Copies of the book The Boy at The Back of The Class, paper and pens/pencils.


Give students a brief introduction to the story and its main characters. Ask them their initial thoughts about refugees’ opportunities and struggles when moving to a new country.

Read chapter one aloud with students, pausing at points to discuss critical ideas as they arise. Encourage students to consider why Ahmet would feel lonely during this transition period.

Distribute copies of the book or assign readings for homework, depending on how much time is available in class. Instruct students to write two or three sentences summarizing each chapter they read and any connections they make to their lives.

Once all students have finished reading, meet in large or small groups to discuss their findings – ask questions such as “How did Ahmet’s culture shape his experience?” and “What does it mean to identify with a culture?”.

Conclude the lesson by asking students to brainstorm ideas for positive actions to respond to discrimination or prejudice against cultures different from ours.

planning a writing unit

Lesson Plan 2 – Building Connections with Others


Students will learn the importance of developing meaningful relationships with others and discuss how this can be done, particularly in difficult situations.


Copies of The Boy at The Back of The Class, coloured markers/crayons/coloured pencils, poster paper or whiteboard/chalkboard for brainstorming activity (optional). Procedure:

  1. Begin by having an open discussion on connections among people — ask questions such as “Why is it important to build relationships?” and “How can we reach out to those around us?”
  2. Share examples from literary works like The Boy at The Back of The Class — talk about how Ahmet found comfort when his peers stepped up during Javid’s detention scene and in other moments throughout the book when they were there for him despite their differences in background etc.
  3. Divide students into small groups and assign each different group aspects from the book related to building connections, such as exploring language barriers or overcoming adversity together — instruct them to create drawings that encapsulate these themes within their assigned sections, then exchange artwork with each other (optional).
  4. Be sure that each student has had a chance to share their artwork before concluding the lesson — lead a discussion on what was learned from creating artwork together in small groups and ways that these messages can be applied outside of class time (e.g., forming clubs etc.).

Lesson Plan 3 – How We Can Take Action For Change


Students will examine how one voice can influence collective action for change and discuss possible strategies for making meaningful impacts on society through individual efforts.


Copies of The Boy At The Back Of The Class, news articles/statistics related to current issues requiring action (optional).


1. Start by discussing concepts such as activism — ask questions like “What does it mean when we say someone is taking action for change? And why do you think it is important?”

2. Point out examples from literature, like Ahmet’s classmates coming together for Javid’s freedom—explain how this shows how one person can have an impact on broader society

3. If necessary, provide information/articles related to global/local issues that require action—show students how they too can make contributions even if they are only individuals

4. Assign students tasks like researching organizations involved that are tackling similar causes or creating short presentations on solutions They believe could fix current problems

5. Wrap up by asking everyone what actions and steps They believe should be taken moving forward—allow time for freeform sharing if desire

6. As a final activity, divide the class into pairs so each student must explain one thing He takes away from a lesson before ending the day.

Website Resources

Having journeyed through the compelling narrative of ‘The Boy At the Back of the Class’, it’s clear that this novel holds immense potential for classroom learning, isn’t it? Its themes of resilience, empathy, and social justice resonate deeply, offering a springboard for meaningful conversations among students.

Our planning guide aims to unlock this potential, providing teachers with innovative ideas to bring these themes to life.

Imagine your students reading about displacement and trauma and engaging in debates, discussions, and projects that foster a deeper understanding of these issues. Wouldn’t that be an enriching learning experience?

In conclusion, Onjali Rauf’s ‘The Boy At the Back of the Class’ is more than just a novel—it’s an opportunity to educate the next generation about global issues empathetically and empoweringly.

With our planning guide, we hope to support you in creating lessons that are as engaging and impactful as the book itself. After all, isn’t the goal of education to illuminate minds while touching hearts?

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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