Ziba Came on a Boat

Free lesson plan, writing template and printable word-search puzzles for kids

ziba came on a boat

Best suited to:

K – Year 6

KLAs covered:

English (inferring), geography, PDH (empathy)


  • what is a refugee?
  • why do people become refugees?
  • how people feel when they have to leave their homes to seek safety and freedom in another country;
  • what a refugee’s journey on a boat with many other people looks and feels like;

Need to know:

  • lyrical text describing Ziba’s journey on the boat is interspersed with scenes from her home as she remembers the life she has left behind;
  • it’s not stated in the text but the details of her life suggest Ziba and her mother are escaping from Afghanistan;
  • the word refugee is not mentioned in the book;
  • the book ends with Ziba dreaming of the time when she and her mother will be welcomed to a new land where they will be free;
  • the illustrations are drawn with a muted palette in tones of brown and blue;
  • the book’s author is a primary school teacher in Perth, WA who has worked as a volunteer with people from the Hazara Afghan community;

Discussion Questions (before reading):

  • discuss the cover and title: what do you see on the cover? What do think the book will be about? What do you see that makes you think that?
  • what kind of story do you think this will be? Do you think it will be a funny story or a story to make you think?
  • for younger children (perhaps K – Year 2), introduce the story by telling the class that the book is about a little girl who is a refugee. Briefly discuss the meaning of the word refugee;

Discussion Questions (after reading):

  • what is happening in this story? Why are Ziba and her mother on the boat?
  • why do you think the boat is so crowded?
  • Ziba is remembering her life at home. Do you think she is happy to be leaving her home? Why or why not? How do you know?
  • turn to the 9th double-page spread and read the paragraph that begins: No longer able to attend school … Ask the children: why do you think Ziba couldn’t go to school?
  • turn to the 11th double-page spread and read the paragraph that begins: Gunfire echoed … What might have happened after the gunfire?
  • how do you think Ziba feels as she huddles in the old fishing boat with her mother?
  • why do you think Ziba’s dad is not with them?
  • ask the children if they’ve noticed any gaps in the story. What isn’t the story telling us? Turn to the 11th double-page spread and read the paragraph that begins: Gunfire echoed … Then turn the page and look at the picture of Ziba and her mother on the boat. What do you think happened after they ran away from the gunfire and before they got on the boat? Are there any other gaps in the story?
  • what did you think about the story? Did you like it? Why or why not? Which part was your favourite?
  • what do you think is the message the author wanted to convey with this story?
  • what do you think might happen to Ziba and her mum?


  • children write about their favourite part of the story and illustrate;
  • children write about how they felt when listening to the story and illustrate their work. What part of the story made them feel that way?  Why?
  • children re-tell the story using words and/or drawings;
  • sequencing activity: children retell the story using the format: First … Then … Next … Finally …
  • find Afghanistan together on a globe or on a world map. Discuss its size, relative to the size of Australia, and the fact that it is surrounded by/has borders with several other countries. If children in the class recognise or come from those countries, discuss their experiences. Does Australia have borders with any other countries? Look at the distance between Afghanistan and Australia and some of the countries that lie between them.

Years 1 – 2 

Venn Diagrams (whole class):

  • turn to the 3rd double-page which begins: She felt the cool mountain air … Read the text and discuss the image. Ask the children: what can you see? Repeat with the next two double-page spreads;
  • ask the children: how is Ziba’s life at home different to your life? Are there any similarities?
  • introduce the concept of venn diagrams by drawing two large separate circles on the classroom’s whiteboard. Ask the children if the two circles are connected. Explain that the two separate circles are like places to make two lists: the things that Ziba does at home in one and the things that we do at home in the other. With the children, begin to list the things that are different about each; (collect water from stream, live in a mud-brick house, sitting on the floor to eat, etc);
  • after listing a few things in each circle, ask if there are any things that are the same (playing with friends, helping cook dinner/set the table, eating dinner with their families). Tell the children that we can list these things in each circle or we can write them in another way;
  • draw a venn diagram on the whiteboard and explain what it is and that we use it to display information so we can easily see the similarities and differences between two things;
  • write the titles: my life and Ziba’s life above the two circles and talk the children through the process of transferring the information in the two separate circles into the venn diagram;
  • each child can copy the venn diagram into their books or onto a worksheet;

Years 5 – 6 Research Activity (computers required):

In pairs or in groups, children research Afghanistan and the war there and answer the following questions:

  • where is Afghanistan?
  • what is the geography of the country like?
  • what is the capital city of Afghanistan?
  • why has Afghanistan been an important country in the past?
  • how and when did the war in Afghanistan start?
  • the war in Afghanistan is not officially over but many of the troops from Australia and the US who were stationed in Afghanistan have been withdrawn. What is the situation like in Afghanistan today? 

Some websites for research

Your free, printable word-search puzzles and writing template

These free, printable word-search puzzles for kids are great for building and reinforcing the vocabulary used when discussing Ziba Came on a Boat. They’re especially helpful for EAL/D students.

There are three different puzzles in this file to enable you to differentiate the activity according to the learning needs of your students.

Download and print our free writing template for use with the picture book Ziba Came on a Boat here (PDF).

a flamboyance of flamingos
my name is not refugee
bee & me
lest we forget
the peace book