Lesson plan

Learning About Ilhan Omar

Sudents learn about Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the United States. First students will listen to a short, informational text, and then, using what they learned, they will create their very own biography books!
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Use this reading and writing lesson plan to introduce first and second grade students to Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the United States. First, students will listen to a short, biographical text, delving into the word meaning of terms such as "legislator," "gender equality," and "rise." Then, using what they learned from the reading as well as additional sources, children will create their very own biography books about Ilhan Omar.

Students will be able to write informative/explanatory texts.

(3 minutes)
  • Gather the students together in a circle.
  • Display a photograph of Ilhan Omar for students to see.
  • Ask the students to turn and talk to share if they have ever seen a picture of this woman before.
  • Allow the students to share out a few ideas, and clarify that the person in the photo is Ilhan Omar. Elaborate that Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the United States in 2016. Elaborate that a legislator is a person who helps make laws. Explain to students that a Muslim is a person whose religion is Islam.
  • Explain to the students that today, they will get a chance to learn more about Ilhan Omar's life.
(15 minutes)
  • Get out the book Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir and Aaliya Jaleel.
  • Display the cover of the book so students can see. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about why the author, Saira Mir, might have used the word "rise" in the title of the book, Muslim Girls Rise.
  • Allow a few students to share their ideas with the rest of the class. Turn to the first page and read the provided definition of "rise" and record it on the whiteboard.
    • rise: [verb]
      • to appear above the horizon
      • to increase in intensity
      • to attain a higher level
      • to come into being
      • to exert oneself to meet a challenge
  • Read the rest of the page, which further describes why the author used the word "rise" in the title of the book. Explain to the students that Muslim women have done many amazing things to make the world a better place and that this book teaches them about 19 of those women. Tell the students that today they will focus on Ilhan Omar.
  • Project the pages about Ilhan Omar on the whiteboard so all students can see.
  • Read the informational passage from the book aloud, and ask prompting questions to support students in thinking deeply.
  • As you read, define terms like "policy analyst" and "gender equality" in student-friendly language. Example definitions might include:
    • policy analyst: someone who helps solve problems in their community
    • gender equality: being treated the same no matter what gender you are
(10 minutes)
  • After reading the passage once, pass out the Biography: Who Am I? worksheet to each student. Project your copy on the whiteboard or wall.
  • Read the story again, this time pausing to fill out the worksheet alongside the students.
  • Encourage student participation by asking them to answer the questions in their own words, referring to the text for evidence.
  • Use information from Illhan Omar's website to fill out any information you weren't able to learn from the text.
(20 minutes)
  • Explain to the students that they will get to work with partners to create their own books all about Ilhan Omar.
  • Pass out the Biography Booklet (pre-cut and stapled) to each student and put students in partnerships.
  • Read through the directions and review the text on each page.
  • Instruct students to use the information they wrote on their Biography: Who Am I? worksheets to create their books. Encourage them to also use a variety of appropriate websites, articles, and books that illustrate the life of Illhan Omar (see suggested materials section below).
  • Remind students to use their partners as a source of support if they have any questions as they create their books.
  • Pass out coloring materials to each partnership.
  • Allow students sufficient time to create their books and rotate around the classroom to provide support as needed.


  • Challenge students to read the rest of Muslim Girls Rise with a partner and choose another person to learn about. Have them compare/contrast their findings with what they learned about Ilhan Omar.
  • Provide students with a mini-lesson prior to this lesson to learn basic facts about the way a democracy runs.


  • Have students work in a small, teacher-led group as they create their books.
  • Provide students with a mini-lesson on writing informative texts prior to this lesson.
  • Teach students a mini-lesson about Ilhan Omar prior to the lesson.
  • Collect student worksheets and booklets after the lesson and assess their ability to write a short, informative text.
(5 minutes)
  • Pair up partnerships into small groups of four.
  • Ask students to share the books they created with their peers.
  • Close the lesson by explaining that Ilhan Omar made history as the first Somali-American elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, and she continues to fight for fairness and gender equality for all.
  • Complete a quick "whip-around pass" and ask students to share out one thing they find interesting about Ilhan Omar, one thing they learned, or one thing they are still wondering.

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