My Name is Sangoel

Jessica Newberry - 3rd Grade

Big image

Author and Illustrator

Written by: Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

Illustrated by: Catherine Stock

Big image

About Karen Lynn Williams

An excerpt from her website,, states that:

"Karen was born in Connecticut, and received her Master’s degree in deaf education. She has lived in Africa and in Haiti. Karen had an early dream to be one of the youngest published authors, starting a writing club at ten. However, Karen's published works came later in life, after extensive travels and family experience. Karen's ability to draw from personal experience and adapt into writing forms for all ages and interests expresses her true gift.”

About Khadra Mohammed

Khadra Mohammed is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Refugee Center. She has worked with refugees in the United States and overseas for more than twenty years. She comes from the Somalian culture, who are natural storytellers, and she began writing children's books to read to the refugee children she aided. She began to collaborate with Karen Lynn Williams when she wanted to publish her stories but was not sure how to go about it. Together her and Karen have written two books: My Name is Sangoel and Four Feet Two Sandals.
Big image

About Catherine Stock

Catherine grew up overseas because her father was diplomat. She was born in Sweden, but her family later moved to Paris, South Africa, and eventually New Orleans. She majored in Art in college and later went to a university in London to get her teaching degree. She has visited several African and European countries which have inspired her in the numerous children's books she has illustrated. She currently lives in a cottage in France, where she continues to create artwork and illustrate books. She also has a website:

Important Cultural Information

The story starts at a refugee camp in Sudan, where we meet a boy named Sangoel who is having to leave the country with his mother and little sister. Before the country of South Sudan came about, there was much war around where the border is now, and many people were forced to either stay in refugee camps or leave the country all together. This book was written in 2009, 2 years before South Sudan officially became its own country.

People who are refugees (not only from Sudan but from anywhere) often have great difficulty when they come to America. They struggle with being thrown into a completely unfamiliar culture with a new language and different way of life. Many of them even change their names to an American name in hopes of better adapting and fitting in. In the story, Sangoel is reminded of the importance of his name before he leaves his country, and so he is determined to keep his name even when the other children make fun of it. In the Dinka tribe, (which Sangoel is from), the first born son carries the name of his ancestors, so this is why his name is so important. It has been passed down for generations and will continue to be passed down when he grows up and has a son of his own.

Strengths and Awards of the Book

1. It honors and celebrates diversity
  • The main dilemma of the story is that Sangoel is trying to retain his culture by clinging to his name.
  • The children in the story make fun of him at first, but in the end they celebrate his name and therefore his culture.
  • His classmates also celebrate their names and their uniqueness; their diversity.

2. It portrays cultural accuracy and authenticity of characters

  • The main idea of refugees leaving Sudan during the fighting was definitely a reality for many of the people who lived there.
  • The authors are great at portraying the confusion and overwhelmed state of Sangoel and his family as they enter a country that is new and complete different from their homeland.
  • Readers get a real sense for how Sangoel is feeling every time his name is mispronounced or when the other children make fun of him.

3. It invites reflection, critical analysis, and response

  • Readers may be unaware of the crisis in Sudan or the many people who were forced to leave the country and come to America.
  • As a result, the reader might reflect upon their own experience in another country or even being new somewhere, and thus have a different awareness of those around them who may be from overseas.
  • Students in particular might respond to the book by striving to welcome any new students, or to go and connect with students who they may have previously ignored or made fun of because the new student was different than them.

Awards & Recognitions:

  • 2009 Smithsonian Magazine, Notable Books for Children

  • 2010 Children's Book Council, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

  • 2010 International Reading Association-Children's Book Council Joint Committee, Children's Choices

  • 2010 Maine Association of School Libraries, Chickadee Award Nominee

  • 2010 Pennsylvania Library Association, Carolyn W. Field Award, Honor Book

  • 2010 Children's Africana Book Awards, Noteworthy

  • 2010 Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), Choices

  • 2010-2011 Keystone State Reading Association, Keystone to Reading Book Award Nominee

  • 2011 Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, Nominee

  • 2011 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award, Finalist

  • 2011 Friends of the Roanoke County Public Library, Roanoke Valley Reads

  • Junior Library Guild, Selection

  • United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI), Reading List

Vocabulary and Questions


  1. refugees
  2. ancestors

Questions Before Reading:

  1. Do you know what continent this is? What do you know about Africa?
  2. What are some things you notice or observe on the book cover? What are some predictions you can make based off these observations? What do you think this book might be about? Why?
  3. How do you think the boy on the cover is feeling? Why?

Questions During Reading:

  1. What are some clues that help us figure out what refugee means?
  2. What is the "sky boat" that Sangoel is talking about? Have you ever been on one? How do you think Sangoel is feeling right now? What might he be thinking?
  3. What are some of the things Sangoel and his family are having to learn? Why do you think they have to learn these things?
  4. Has there ever been a time when someone said your name wrong or made fun of you for being different? How did that make you feel?

Questions After Reading:

  1. Have you ever moved before or been new to a school? How did that feel?
  2. What are some ways we can make new students feel welcomed?

Instructional Sequence

  1. ELF: The teacher will show an image of the continent of Africa on the SmartBoard. "Students, do any of you know what continent this is?" Call on some students for answers, then tell them the answer if they don't know. "This is Africa. What are some things you have heard about Africa?" Write student's answers on the Dry-Erase board. "Today, we are going to read a story about a little boy from Africa. His name is Sangoel."
  2. Teacher shows map of the world on the SmartBoard. "This is where we live right now, (Points to star on map that says Wichita, KS). And this is where Sangoel lives. (Points to star on map that says South Sudan). We can see that Sangoel lives very far away from where we live. You would have to fly in an airplane to get there! Sangoel is from the Dinka tribe in South Sudan. The Dinka tribe just means that he belongs to this group of people. They speak the same language, wear the same clothing, and eat the same food. Their customs are different than other tribes in Africa and also from Americans."
  3. The teacher will show an image of the book My Name is Sangoel on the SmartBoard and ask the students, "What do you see or notice about the cover of the book? Raise your hand to give answers." The teacher allows some students to share, guiding their observations to try and take them deeper. "What are some predictions you can make about the story based on the cover? What do you think this book will be about? Why? Turn and share with your shoulder partner." After 30 seconds or so, bring the class back and take some responses. "Those are all great predictions. Now look at the boy on the cover. How do you think he might be feeling? What makes you say that?" Take some responses.
  4. "Now boys and girls, before we can read this story, there are some very important words that we need to learn about first. I'm going to need 8 wonderful volunteers to help me with this part." Students will probably raise their hands, and teacher will call on 8 students that are sitting nicely and have been listening well. She might even make a point to say something like "Oh Nevaeh, you are sitting so nicely, will you come be one of the volunteers?" The teacher will give the students each a letter that will spell out the word "refugees." The teacher will show the word on the SmartBoard and ask the students with the letters to arrange themselves in the order of the word. "This word is refugees. What is this word?" Class says "refugees." The teacher then moves the students so that "r-e" is next to each other, then a space, "f-u" is together, then a space, and "g-e-e-s" is together. The teacher calls up another volunteer to be the "director." The teacher says each syllable first "This is "re," this is "fu" and this is "gees." (pointing to each group of students as she says this). The teacher then asks the "director" to point at each syllable group and ask the class to repeat it. The class repeats the syllables a few times, increasing speed each time, until the whole word is repeated fluently. "Thank you so much my lovely volunteers! Class let's give them a "Good Job Roller Coaster." (The teacher will teach the class how to do this celebration if they don't know already.) Students sit down and teacher goes to the next slide, reading the definition and sentence of refugees and having the students say the word refugees whenever it appears on the slide. The teacher also explains that the picture is a refugee camp in Africa, where people had to go to because there was war by their homes. "The little boy in our story will come from one of these camps."
  5. The teacher then moves on to the word ancestors, repeating the same process as with the word refugees, except this time picking students who did not come up the first time. Teacher quickly reviews definitions of both words and asks if students have any questions before she moves on.
  6. The teacher begins to read the story. After reading the first two pages, point out that we see the word refugee on the second page and then reread the paragraph that contains the word. "What are some clues that help us figure out what refugee means?" Take some responses and then point out the clues if they do not get them.
  7. Continue reading. On the "skyboat" page, first ask the students what the "skyboat" is that he is talking about. "Have any of you ever been on one? (Students will probably raise hands). How do you think Sangoel is feeling? What are some things he might be thinking? Turn and share with your shoulder partner." Give them a short time to share and then allow some to share with the whole class. Continue reading.
  8. Stop on the page where they are in the apartment. "What are some things that Sangoel and his family are having to learn? Why do you think they have to learn these things?" Take some student responses. Continue reading.
  9. Stop at the page where Sangoel is at school and the other kids are laughing at him. "Has there ever been a time when someone made fun of you because of your name or because of being different? How did that make you feel? Turn and share with your face partner." If students are willing to share, allow a few of them to share out. Finish reading the book.
  10. "Let's review our two vocabulary words real quick before we move on to our next activity. We are going to do something called a word sort. On this chart we have refugees on one side and ancestors on the other. I'm going to read some clues, and I want you to tell me if the clue describes refugees or ancestors." Teacher reads through the clues and when a student raises their hand to decide where it goes, that student is able to come put the clue up on the chart.
  11. "In the end, Sangoel overcame being a refugee and found a solution to his problem that helped him to keep the name of his ancestors and share it with his classmates. Now I want you to think about if you have ever moved or been new to a school or other place. How did you feel? What were your thoughts? Turn and share with your shoulder partner." Give them some time to share and then call on some student pairs to share after a minute or so. Based off of student responses, get them to think about new students coming to their school. "What are some ways we can make them feel welcomed?" Teacher writes their answers on the board.
  12. "It's so important that we make others feel welcomed when they are new, because we would want them to do the same for us. Each of you is special and unique, and you deserve to be treated kindly, including having your name said the right way. Now you are going to get a chance to tell us something about who you are. I'm going to have the teacher helper pass out some paper, and on that paper I want you to try and create your name using pictures like Sangoel did in the story. If you are not able to make pictures for your name, then draw a picture that represents you, or shows who you are. If you finish drawing, write a sentence on the back telling about your picture and why it shows who you are." Teacher gives the teacher helper blank white paper to pass out and gives students some time to work on their drawings.
  13. At this point, the amount of time they have to work on their drawings is dependent on how much time is left before the next classroom activity. If time allows, give the students a couple of minutes to present their drawings to their table group and tell why it represents themselves.
  14. To wrap up, conclude with something like, "So we can see how much of a difference it made when Sangoel was able to tell about himself to other people. We should all keep that in mind and try to welcome new students and treat others the way we want to be treated."


I was initially drawn to this book because I saw it had an African boy on the cover. Most of the students in my class are African-American, so I thought they may be able to connect with this book. I did wonder if it would still appeal to the non-African-American students, however. After reading through it, though, I felt it fit the culture of my classroom very well, because the boy in the story, Sangoel, is struggling with people not pronouncing his name correctly. Most of the children in my class have very unique and hard-to-pronounce names, so I knew they would understand and connect well to that. The book also showed much diversity in the school Sangoel attended, and there is definitely much diversity at College Hill. In the story Sangoel also played soccer, and there are many soccer players in Ms. Harper's class, so I knew they would really enjoy that piece of it. I did not realize this until afterwards, but it fit well with what they were already doing in reading, because they had just read a story about a little girl from Africa, so they already had a lot of background knowledge that helped them to better understand the story.

There were definitely some strengths as well and some weaknesses of my read-aloud presentation. I think overall it flowed well together, going from activating background knowledge, to teaching vocab, to reading the story, and finally ending with an activity that connected everything together. Making a little PowerPoint to help activate background knowledge and aid in teaching the vocab was definitely a strength as well. The students seemed very engaged the whole time and really enjoyed learning the vocab, hearing the story and doing the activity afterwards, so that was probably the biggest strength.

Next time, I would definitely need to cut down on the things I have planned to go with the story, because I did run over time by about 15-20 minutes. I was amazed how quickly the time flew by, but Ms. Harper was very gracious and allowed me to finish rather than stop at a weird time. I liked the way that I taught the vocab, but that did take a big chunk of time, so I would probably find a different way to do it next time. Putting post-it notes in the book where I wanted to ask questions would also be helpful, that way I don't keep having to look back at my paper and check which page I wanted to ask a question on. I would also probably decrease the number of questions or give them some questions to just "think about" rather than having to answer all of them out loud.

Overall, implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me to truly begin connecting to my students in ways I would not have otherwise. Many of them told stories about themselves or their families and drew pictures that showed their creativity or more about who they truly are. Without this book, I do not think that they would have been as willing and open to share as they are now, and I do not think they would be as close with each other either.