The Journey – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Let’s take a virtual journey together, shall we? What if I told you this journey could have transformative effects on all your students? Well, it can – and that’s why our destination today is The Journey by Francesca Sanna.

This captivating picture book does more than tell a gripping story of a young immigrant’s voyage for safety – it is an essential teaching tool for helping students understand the human experience and build empathy.

With the proper guidance from you, teachers, it’s sure to create meaningful learning moments that will stay with your classrooms long after you turn the last page.

In this blog post, we’ll give you an overview of how to plan for using The Journey effectively in your lessons.

Related: For more, check out our article on Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe.

The journey

Outline of “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna


  • Introduce the main character, a mother and her two children.
  • Set the scene of their home country, which has become unsafe due to war and conflict.
  • The family decides to leave their home and embark on a journey to find safety.

The Journey Begins

  • Describe the family’s journey through different landscapes.
  • Highlight their challenges, such as hunger, exhaustion, and danger.
  • Show how the mother tries to keep her children safe and calm amidst the chaos.

Meeting Other Refugees

  • The family meets other refugees who share their stories of fleeing violence and persecution.
  • They form bonds with some individuals, while others are too traumatised or scared to connect.

Arrival in a New Country

  • After a long and treacherous journey, the family finally arrives in a new country where they hope to find safety and start a new life.
  • However, they are met with suspicion and hostility from some locals who view them as outsiders or even criminals.

Settling In

  • Despite these challenges, the family begins to settle into their new surroundings.
  • They make friends with other refugees who have also found sanctuary in this new place.
  • They also encounter kind-hearted locals who offer support and assistance.


  • The story ends optimistically as the family begins to rebuild their lives in this new country.
  • However, there is an underlying sense of sadness for all that they have lost along the way.
  • The story serves as a reminder of the resilience of refugees and the importance of empathy and understanding towards those forced to flee their homes.

Main Themes and Characters in “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna


The Refugee Experience

  • This is the central theme of the story. “The Journey” explores what it’s like to be a refugee, forced to leave your home due to war or persecution and embark on a dangerous journey in search of safety.
  • The story highlights refugees’ challenges, such as hunger, exhaustion, danger, and discrimination.


  • The mother is the main character in the story. She is a strong and determined woman who does everything she can to keep her children safe during their journey.
  • The story emphasises mothers’ sacrifices for their children, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Empathy and Understanding

  • “The Journey” also touches on themes of empathy and understanding towards refugees.
  • It reminds us that refugees are people like us who have been forced to flee their homes due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • The story encourages readers to put themselves in the shoes of refugees and imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind.



  • The mother is a strong, brave character who prioritises her children’s safety.
  • She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect them from harm, even if it means risking her own life.


  • The two children in the story represent innocence and vulnerability.
  • They rely on their mother for protection and guidance throughout their journey.

Other Refugees

  • Throughout their journey, the family meets other refugees who have also been forced to flee their homes.
  • These characters represent resilience and solidarity among refugees.


  • Finally, there are also locals in the story who represent both kindness and hostility towards refugees.
  • Some locals offer support and assistance, while others view refugees with suspicion or fear.


“The Journey” by Francesca Sanna encourages empathy and understanding towards refugees in several ways:

  1. Humanising Refugees: The story portrays refugees as people forced to leave their homes due to war, persecution, and violence. It shows they have the same hopes, dreams, and fears as anyone else.
  2. Depicting the Refugee Experience: The story shows the many challenges refugees face during their journey, such as hunger, exhaustion, danger, and discrimination. This helps readers understand why refugees need our support and compassion.
  3. Encouraging Perspective-Taking: “The Journey” encourages readers to put themselves in the shoes of refugees and imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind. This perspective-taking can help build empathy and understanding towards refugees.
  4. Highlighting Resilience: Despite all the challenges they face, the refugees in “The Journey” show remarkable resilience and strength of character. They band together to support and create a sense of community despite their difficult circumstances.

Teaching Opportunities

“The Journey” by Francesca Sanna is a rich text that offers several opportunities to teach literary devices. Here are some examples:

  1. Symbolism: The journey itself can be seen as a symbol of the refugee experience. The physical and emotional challenges the characters face on their journey represent the refugees’ struggles in real life.
  2. Imagery: The story is full of vivid imagery that helps to create a sense of place and emotion. For example, the illustrations of the dark forest, stormy seas, and barbed wire fences all contribute to the mood and tone of the story.
  3. Foreshadowing: There are several instances of foreshadowing throughout the story, such as when the mother tells her children to keep their eyes closed during a dangerous part of their journey. This creates suspense and tension for readers.
  4. Characterisation: The characters in “The Journey” are well-developed and complex, offering opportunities for teaching characterisation techniques such as direct and indirect characterisation.
  5. Theme: As mentioned earlier, “The Journey” explores themes such as motherhood, empathy, understanding, resilience, and survival. These themes can be analysed using literary devices like symbolism or imagery to deepen students’ understanding of how they are conveyed in the story.

Imagery in The Journey

Imagery is an influential tool authors use to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind and evoke emotions. In “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna, imagery plays an essential role in creating the mood and tone of the story.

For example, the dark forests the family travels through are described as “endless” and “mysterious,” creating a sense of danger and uncertainty.

The stormy seas they cross are depicted as violent and unpredictable, adding to the feeling of peril. The barbed wire fences that they encounter symbolise imprisonment and oppression.

All these images contribute to the story’s overall mood of fear, desperation, and uncertainty. Readers can feel the tension building as they turn each page, wondering what new obstacle will appear next on this treacherous journey.

Additionally, imagery creates moments of hope and beauty amidst all this darkness. For example, when the family reaches a city where people speak their language and offer food and shelter, it is described as a “paradise.”

This momentary relief from their struggles creates a palpable joy for both characters and readers.

Overall, the imagery in “The Journey” contributes significantly to its mood and tone by creating vivid mental pictures for readers while also conveying complex emotions such as fear, hopelessness, relief, or joy.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: Teaching Literary Devices in “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna


Students will be able to identify and analyse literary devices such as symbolism, imagery, foreshadowing, characterisation, and theme in “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna.


  • Copies of “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Graphic organizers for literary analysis (optional)


Introduction (10 minutes):

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students if they have ever heard of or experienced a challenging journey.
  2. Introduce the book “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna and explain that it is a story about a family’s journey to escape their war-torn country.
  3. Preview the literary devices discussed in the lesson: symbolism, imagery, foreshadowing, characterization, and theme.

Reading & Analysis (30 minutes):

  1. Distribute copies of the book to students and ask them to read silently.
  2. As students read, ask them to annotate any examples of literary devices they find in the text.
  3. After reading, lead a class discussion where students share their observations and evidence of literary devices used in the story.
  4. Use chart paper or graphic organisers to record student responses.

Extension Activities (20 minutes):

  1. Ask students to work in small groups to analyse one literary device in the story (e.g., symbolism).
  2. Provide each group with a different page or section of the book where that device is used and ask them to identify how it contributes to the mood and tone of the story.
  3. Have each group present their findings to the class.

Conclusion (10 minutes):

  1. Summarise what was learned during this lesson about how authors use literary devices to create mood, tone, and meaning.
  2. Please encourage students to look for examples of these devices when independently reading other texts.
  3. Remind students that understanding these devices can help us become better readers and writers.


Assess student understanding through observation during class discussions and extension activities. Alternatively, provide a written assignment where students analyse one specific literary device used in “The Journey” using evidence from the text.

Website Resources

  1. The Teaching Couple – This web page on TES provides a 5-week writing unit for teaching “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna to students in Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11). The lesson plans include learning objectives, a starter activity, a main activity that involves reading and discussing the book, and a complete task. It also suggests additional activities for follow-up work. The unit of work is designed to help students develop empathy, critical thinking, and creative writing skills. Link:
  2. Amnesty International UK provides a free downloadable book and activities pack for teaching “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna to children aged 4-11. The pack includes lesson plans, discussion questions, creative writing prompts, and art activities that explore themes of migration, displacement, and refuge. Link:
  3. Walker Books Australia offers a range of classroom ideas and resources for using “The Journey” in literacy lessons with students aged 8-12. These include comprehension questions, character analysis worksheets, visual literacy tasks, and creative writing prompts. Link:
  4. Children’s Library Lady is a website that provides book reviews and teaching resources for children’s literature. Their page on “The Journey” summarises the book’s plot, discussion questions, vocabulary exercises, and links to related resources such as videos and refugee articles. Link:


In conclusion, The Journey by Francesca Sanna is more than just a captivating picture book. It’s a transformative teaching tool that can deeply impact your students’ understanding of the human experience and their ability to empathize with others.

With careful planning and thoughtful guidance, you can create unforgettable learning moments that will resonate with your students long after they’ve closed the book.

Remember, as educators, we have the power to take our students on incredible journeys, both literal and figurative. So, let’s embark on this journey together and watch as our classrooms become spaces of empathy, understanding, and growth.

FAQs: The Journey as a Teaching Tool

1. How can I use The Journey in my classroom?

You can use The Journey as a springboard for discussions about immigration, empathy, and the human experience. It’s also an excellent resource for teaching narrative structure and visual literacy.

2. What age group is The Journey appropriate for?

While The Journey is a picture book, its themes are universal. It can be used effectively with a wide range of age groups, from primary school students to teenagers.

3. How does The Journey help build empathy?

The Journey tells the story of a young immigrant’s voyage for safety. By sharing this story with your students, you’re providing them with a window into someone else’s experiences, which can help foster empathy and understanding.

4. Can The Journey be integrated into other subjects?

Absolutely. The Journey can be incorporated into a variety of subjects, including social studies, language arts, and even art classes for discussions on illustration and storytelling.

5. What kind of activities can I plan around The Journey?

The possibilities are endless. You might ask students to write their own stories of a journey, create artwork inspired by the book’s illustrations, or research and present on current immigration issues.

Remember, the goal is not just to read the book but to use it as a tool to spark meaningful conversations and learning opportunities.

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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