Lesson Plans

Finding Home: A Year in the Life of Syrian Refugee Families

Image courtesy Lynsey Addario. Greece, 2017.

Image courtesy Lynsey Addario. Greece, 2017.


Students will be able to:

  • refer to details and examples from the TIME Magazine project “Finding Home” in order to compare and contrast how they imagine a home with the ways that three Syrian women imagine a home
  • integrate information from two multimedia pieces from TIME in order to write and speak about options for responding to the refugee crisis in Europe
  • integrate multimedia information to develop a full understanding of how war has impacted the lives of three Syrian families and identify how each media type contributes to their understanding


This lesson explores a project called “Finding Home.”

1. On your own, or with a partner, use the table below to describe what you imagine when you think of a home. Prepare to share and compare your responses with the class:

A home looks like... A home sounds like... A home smells like... A home feels like...

ex: a kitchen table with four chairs





2. Reflect on the following questions and then share your responses with the class:

  • What does a place need to be a home?
  • Why might someone need to leave their home?
  • Have you ever had to leave your home? Why? How did that feel?

Introducing the Lesson:

“Finding Home” is a true story about four families who have to leave their homes because they have become refugees.

1. Discuss: What is a refugee? What can cause a person to become a refugee?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a "refugee" is defined as, “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” The three families we meet in “Finding Home” are refugees from Syria, a country in the Middle East. Syria has been fighting a civil war (a war in which two or more groups fight one another within the same country) for the last seven years.

2. Discuss: How might your life change if a war started in your country? If fighting was happening in your backyard, how could that impact your daily life? At what point would you decide to leave?

Afraid for their lives, millions of Syrians had to quickly leave their homes to move to other cities. Millions more had to leave Syria and try to find homes in neighboring countries. They are seeking asylum, which means that they want to be allowed to stay in the new country legally.

3. Examine the graphic from TIME below. How many people are leaving Syria to get away from the war? Where are they are going to seek asylum? Take two minutes to discuss with a partner: Should countries be required to grant asylum to refugees? If yes, why and under what circumstances? If no, why not?

TIME, 2015.

TIME, 2015.

TIME, 2015.

TIME, 2015.

TIME, 2015.

TIME, 2015.

The graphics above were created in 2015. As of December 2017, the number of Syrian refugees was closer to 5.4 million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Today, we are going to learn more about the lives of three of those refugees, and their families, by reading and viewing excerpts from the story “Finding Home.” The story was published in TIME Magazine by journalists Aryn Baker, Lynsey Addario, and Francesca Trianni. They spent a year researching the story and used writing, video and photographs to tell the stories of the people they met.

4. As you explore the true stories in “Finding Home,” listen for the following:

  • How do the people in the story describe the places they live?
  • What do they say they want in a home and how does that compare with what you said makes a home?

Introducing Resource 1: “Children of No Nation”

“Finding Home” introduces us to four women who are pregnant when they are forced to leave Syria. They are in Greece when when the story begins.

1. Read the following paragraph from the first article in "Finding Home," for an introduction:

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees have given birth in Greece this year, and since September, TIME has followed four of them….Through video, social media, photography and the written word, TIME will spend the next year documenting the babies' first year of life. Wrapped in donated blankets and secondhand onesies, they will likely spend at least the first months of their new lives in hastily built refugee camps that offer little protection from winter's freezing temperatures and summer's swarms of mosquitoes. They are between worlds. In a world teeming with unknowns, about the only thing certain in their lives is that they probably won't see their parents' home country until they are adults, if ever.

2. Before reading more excerpts from this article, consider the following:

Why do you think the story was titled “Children of No Nation”? What do you think the story will be about?

What might a pregnant woman, or a mother with a new baby, want in a new home?

3. Watch the following video to get introduced to the story:

4. Your teacher will divide the class into three groups, and you will be assigned the story of Taimaa, Illham, or Nour. In your group, or on your own, read your assigned excerpt of “Children of No Nation” to meet one of the three women who the journalists follow in “Finding Home.” As you read, use the table below to track details about what this woman thinks of when she thinks of “home.”

What details surprise and/or interest you? What is home like for these women and their families now? What do they hope home will look like in the future?






Taimaa Abazli, 24, holds her new baby Heln in their tent at the Karamalis camp in Thessaloniki. Image by Lynsey Addario for TIME. Greece, 2016.

Taimaa Abazli, 24, holds her new baby Heln in their tent at the Karamalis camp in Thessaloniki. Image by Lynsey Addario for TIME. Greece, 2016.

"When I was young, I expected to have a happy life, with a nice house, and to get an education," says Taimaa, who worries that her 2-year-old son is starting to think that a tent is his real home. "I didn't expect any of the things that are happening to me. It's an ugly life."

Think of a refugee, and you might picture someone destitute, living on the fringes of an already disorganized society, perhaps someone who was homeless or even stateless to begin with. But the Syrian refugees in Greece are by and large middle-class and well educated. They're accustomed to first-world medical care. Many had good jobs and nice homes before war tore their country apart, sending them fleeing.

Taimaa Abazli, a former music teacher, is so defeated by what appears to be postpartum depression that she says she doesn't even care where she goes, as long as "it's not here." Greece, already one of Europe's poorest countries, has some 60,000 refugees now awaiting settlement.

5. After reading, discuss the following:

  • What details stood out to you from the excerpts?
  • What do you learn about the places Nour, Taimaa, and Illham live?
  • How does the way they imagine “home” compare to the way you imagined “home” at the start of the lesson?

Introducing Resource 2: “Heln’s First Year

Now we are going to look at what happened to Taimaa in the year following the excerpt you just read. This time, the journalists from TIME Magazine tell the story in a different way. While you explore this multimedia story, consider the following:

  • Where do Taimaa and her family go as they search for a home? What does it look like in those places? How do they feel in those places?
  • What questions did the journalists choose to ask? What images and video do they share?
  • Why do you think the journalists choose to tell Taimaa’s story this way?

1. As a class, explore the story. Pairs of students can take turns reading Taimaa and Francesca’s text message exchanges out loud, or on their own.

TIME, 2017.

TIME, 2017.

2. After viewing the full presentation, discuss the following questions as a class:

  • What new information have you learned about Taimaa and what her life is like? Reference details from the multimedia story.
  • What do learn about her personality? What do you learn about what she wants for a new home?
  • In what way(s) is Taimaa telling her own story in “Children of No Nation” and in “Heln’s First Year”?

3. As a class, make a list of all the types of media (video, photos, etc.) used in “Heln’s First Year.” Discuss the following in pairs, or as a full class:

  • What is the unique contribution of each type of media to the story?
  • Do you think most news stories you read/watch take a year to report? Why do you think these journalists chose to report on this story for a whole year?


Option 1: Imagine that you could use text messages, photos and videos to follow Illham and Nour’s lives in the same way that the TIME Magazine team followed Taimaa. In small groups, or on your own, select one person to follow. Imagine that you are following that person's story as they seek a new home. Where do you think they end up? How do they get there? What is their new home like?

Create a plan for telling their stories using the table below:

What questions would you like to ask throughout the year? What moments would you like to photograph? What moments do you want to capture on video?






2. Journalists Aryn, Lynsey, and Francesca were actually able to follow Illham and Nour as well. They chose to post what they learned on Instagram. Open the “Finding Home” Instagram page and take notes on the moments that were captured with photos and video. Use the captions to find out more about how Illham and Nour were feeling, and what they were experiencing, over the course of the year. Pick 3 pictures and captions that stand out to you to share with the class. Prepare to share the following:

  • What did you learn from “Finding Home” about the experience of Syrian refugees that you didn’t know before?
  • How do Nour, Illham, and Taimaa’s homes compare to yours? How do their hopes for the future compare to your hopes for the future?
  • After reading the article, what do you hope for Nour, Illham, and Taimaa?

Note: If you would prefer, you can write your reflection as a letter to Nour, Illham, and Taimaa. Email your letter to education@pulitzercenter.org if you would like to share it with them.

Option 2:  Research organizations that work with refugees in your area and contact them to ask a staff member to speak to your class in person or via Skype. Share your ideas about what countries and individuals can do to help refugees with them to get their feedback and additional ideas. Prepare questions about their work and about refugees in your community.

Option 3: Email education@pulitzercenter.org to set up a Skype visit with a journalist who reports on refugee issues. Share your ideas about what countries and individuals can do to help refugees with them to get their feedback and additional ideas. Explore one of their stories in advance of the visit and prepare questions about it and about how they reported it. Here is an image of "Finding Home" journalists Aryn Baker and Francesca Trianni connecting with a group of teachers in New York City:

New York City teachers speak with "Finding Home" journalists Aryn Baker and Francesca Trianni from TIME Magazine as part of a professional development workshop hosted by United Photo Industries. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2017.

New York City teachers speak with "Finding Home" journalists Aryn Baker and Francesca Trianni from TIME Magazine as part of a professional development workshop hosted by United Photo Industries. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2017.

Educator Notes: 

If you are interested in connecting with the journalists who reported this story over Skype, contact us by emailing education@pulitzercenter.org.

The excerpts from "Finding Home" may be explored independently, in small groups, or as a whole class read-aloud.

The lesson is aligned with the following Common Core Standards for 4th grade:


Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.


Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.


Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.


Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

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