The following is a reflection on Lesson 8 of the RD Program that I have started in collaboration with a classroom teacher in a kindergarten classroom at my school. Read more about the program here, as well as reflections on each lesson:
The purpose of Lesson 8 is for students to learn about the brain and disabilities. The plan for the lesson was as follows:
- Return to the idea that we all have strengths (special smarts), and that we all have challenges (things we need to work on).
- Share that some people have severe challenges in the different smarts because of a disability, and that this means they have different abilities.
- Share videos and stories of people with different abilities.
- Discuss how we can help others with severe challenges
To get started on lesson 8, we started by reminding the students that everyone has different strengths and challenges. We reminded them of their special smarts, and also that they all have smarts that they can get better at.
Next, we shared that some people have severe challenges with some of the smarts because they have what is called a disability. We explained that this means that they have different abilities, and then we connected these to the smarts. We gave the most obvious examples for the kids to understand.
First we talked about people with hearing impairments. This was a great first example! The mother of a student in the class has a hearing impairment and the student was eager to talk about her mom and her different abilities. She shared that her mom communicates by reading lips and using sign language. Through group discussion, we came to the conclusion that the student’s mother probably has a lot of difficulty with music smarts, but that she would have strengths in some of the other smarts. We also talked about people with visual impairments and how they likely have challenges with picture smarts but that they too would have strengths in other areas.
After our discussion on these specific disabilities and how they relate to the smarts, we watched a Sesame Street video about Julia, a new character on Sesame Street who has Autism.
The 10 minute video introduces students to Julia and teaches them about her challenges and how her friends help her with these challenges. The students were engaged throughout the entire video, and were able to connect her challenges to the smarts during our discussion afterwards. They understood that she probably has challenges mostly with people smarts but that other things may be challenging for her too. They were also able to guess what her special smarts might be (picture smart and music smart). Finally, they shared ideas on how they would help her if they were her friend.
This was such a great beginning to our lesson on the brain and disabilities. The students were very engaged throughout the lesson so this encouraged us to continue with it in another session.
During the next session we did a quick review of what we had learned thus far about the brain and disabilities. Next, we watched another Sesame Street video (see below), this time about anxiety. We followed this up with the book Feeling Afraid. We then talked about how people feel different when they are anxious, and how some people are over-anxious and because of this, they might have a harder time with some of the smarts like people smarts or self smarts. Again, the students participated actively in the discussion.
While we still had their attention, we decided to read another book Shelley The Hyperactive Turtle, a book about a turtle with AD/HD, and watch one more Sesame Street video about Autism (see below). They enjoyed both of these, and like with the other books and videos, it lead to great discussion afterwards.
When I did this same lesson with Group B (Grade 4), it was largely based on specific diagnoses and disabilities that exist within the group, in order to bring awareness to these and give students a platform to talk about themselves and their challenges if they wanted to.
With this group however, my goal was more to bring to the group a general awareness of disabilities and how they relate to the smarts, as well as discuss how we can support people with disabilities. Overall I feel like this goal was achieved, and as with Group B, we will continue this lesson with the group as questions arise or situations present themselves.
Read more about this program here.
Katz, J. (2012). Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. Winnipeg: Portage & Main Press.