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Lesson Plan

Inclusive Stories: Teaching About Disabilities With Picture Books

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Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Eight 50-minute sessions, at minimum
Lesson Author

Krista Sherman

Mason, Michigan


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6

Session 7

Session 8

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Begin to understand and appreciate the different disabilities found within your school by reading, discussing, and writing about them

  • Refine listening skills by attending to read-alouds, classroom discussions, small-group dialogues, and peer presentations.

  • Practice critical thinking by analyzing picture books about disabilities

  • Develop research skills using a K-W-L chart to guide them as they study a specific disability

  • Synthesize information by taking what they have learned about a specific disability and creating a picture book about this topic

  • Practice the writing process by writing, editing, and revising their own work

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Session 1

1. Read aloud from The Acorn People for about 10 minutes. Spend some time talking about the kinds of disabilities described in the book and the way the author talks about them. Questions for discussion include:
  • How do the counselors react to the campers?

  • What do you think about the language the author uses?

  • Have you ever seen a physically disabled stranger? If so, what was your reaction and why do you think you responded that way?
2. Ask students if they have ever known anyone who was disabled and if so, what kind of disability the person had and how it affected him or her. List the disabilities on the board or a piece of chart paper. Do not identify people by name when making this list or during the discussion. Once a type of disability is offered (e.g., a reading disability), encourage students to think about a different disability that falls under the same category (i.e., “We have Attention Deficit Disorder listed. What other learning disabilities can you think of?”)

3. Have any students with disabilities who are willing to share talk about their disabilities and how they are affected by them at school.

Note: If you do not have any students who are willing to share, arrange for other students or school personnel to come in to share their experiences (see Preparation, Step 2).

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Session 2

Note: Students can be divided into cooperative groups or can work independently during this session. If students work in groups, keep the groups small and try to include a disabled student in each, if possible. Partnering stronger readers with struggling readers or disabled students works well. This allows the disabled student to have a voice and to be the “expert” while also receiving the necessary support. Regardless of how you decide to group students, the steps in this session remain the same.

1. Begin by reading from The Acorn People. Questions for discussion include:
  • What do you think the acorn necklaces symbolize?

  • Do the necklaces have different meaning for the campers and the counselors? Why?

  • The campers are going to be in the water quite a bit throughout the book. What do you think the water symbolizes?
2. Tell students that they will be looking at picture books that explore different disabilities and that later they will write their own picture book with the purpose of teaching readers about children with various disabilities.

3. Give each student one copy of the Disability Book Sheet and the Picture Book Notes handout. Place the books that you have collected where students can browse and begin reading them (see Preparation, Step 1). Students should read at least two books and fill out the Disability Book Sheet for each one. Encourage students who complete two books to read more; give them more sheets to fill out for each book they are able to finish.

4. After about 10 minutes, have students stop and fill out the Picture Book Notes handout.

5. Bring the class back together and ask students to share their responses to the picture books. Questions for discussion include:
  • What did you learn about having a disability?

  • What was the main point of the book you read?

  • What did you learn about picture books?

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Session 3

Note: At this point in the lesson, you should decide whether the entire class will write about the same disability or whether students will work on different disabilities. Your decision should be based on what you think will work best for your students.

1. After reading from The Acorn People, ask students to think about how they respond to people with disabilities. Have them write about this topic in their journals for 5 to 10 minutes. Ask for volunteers to share their responses.

2. Return to the list of disabilities you created during Session 1. Ask students if they have any to add. Make sure to include common disabilities that they might not think of like being nearsighted or having asthma.

3. Have students work together to choose a disability or allow them to make individual choices (see the Note at the beginning of this session).

4. If students are all working on the same disability, ask them what picture books they read during Session 2 about the disability they chose. If no one read any, have students spend a few minutes sorting through the titles to find some. Read one of the books aloud and then work with students to take notes on the transparency of the Specific Disability Picture Book Notes handout. If students are working individually, follow the same process, but instead of using the Specific Disability Picture Book Notes handout as a transparency, allow students to complete it on their own.

5. Distribute the K-W-L Chart (see Preparation, Step 5). If this is the first time your students have encountered this strategy, have students follow along as you use the transparency you created to walk them through what they know about the disability you just discussed. If students are familiar with K-W-L, they can fill out the chart independently or in small groups.

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Session 4

Note: Depending on the topic or topics students chose, you may want to go through the websites on the Disability Research Website List and make sure they contain appropriate information; if necessary, do some additional research and add sites to the list before this session begins. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school’s computer lab. Students should have their K-W-L Charts from Session 3 with them.

1. After reading from The Acorn People, talk about how the counselors’ attitudes change as they get to know the campers. Questions for discussion include:
  • When does Ron’s attitude change?

  • How did Ron view the campers on the first day? How does he view them now?

  • What have the campers done that has surprised Ron?
2. Distribute the Disability Research Website List. Explain to students that they will use these websites to answer the questions that they generated during Session 3 on their K-W-L Chart. Remind them that they will be using the information to write a story that teaches readers about the disability. Review how to take notes and credit sources.

3. Have students research online and complete the L column of their K-W-L Chart. While students are working, circulate and offer support and guidance as necessary.

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Session 5

1. After reading The Acorn People, discuss what the disabled campers are capable of doing, especially the things that the counselors did not think that they could.

2. Introduce the book Zoom Upstream by Tim Wynnes-Jones. Tell students that this book is not about disabilities, but that they will be looking at how the author and illustrator created it as they prepare to make their own picture books. Read the book aloud, showing students the illustrations on each page.

3. When you are done reading, ask students to make brief observations about the layout, the pictures, and the amount of text on each page. Write their responses on chart paper.

4. If you have an LCD projector, use it to show students the Page by Page: Creating a Children’s Book website. If not, have students follow along on their own computers as you explore how Zoom Upstream was created. Pay particular attention to the Writing and The Pictures sections of the site. Think about activities that you have already done that mimic those of the author and illustrator, such as brainstorming, prewriting, and doing research, and point these out to students.

5. Distribute the Prewriting Sheet. Have students take 10 minutes to complete it. They should refer to the notes they took on their K-W-L Chart as well as their filled-in Disability Book Sheet and Picture Book Notes. You may also want to have the notes you took on the Specific Disability Picture Book Notes transparency available for students to look at.

6. Tell students that they are going to use their Prewriting Sheets to draft their stories in 20 minutes. Note that Wynnes-Jones said that writing Zoom Upstream was difficult, and they might find this difficult as well, but that they should try to get all of their ideas for their first draft out as fast as they can.

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Session 6

1. By now you may have finished reading The Acorn People. If not, continue reading and discussing it at the beginning of each session. On the day you finish the book, talk about the ending and the epilogue. Questions for discussion include:
  • What did the narrator learn from this experience?

  • Why do you think he shares what happened to the kids afterward? What do you think of this?
2. Give students a copy of the Picture Book Rubric and review it with them.

3. Have students begin to revise their stories focusing on ideas, organization, and voice. (Consider conducting minilessons on any areas of the writing process that you see your students struggling with while making their revisions.)

4. Make sure that students have finished revising their stories before beginning Session 7. You may assign this work for homework or provide additional time during class.

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Session 7

1. Before students begin creating their picture books, show them a variety of examples. You may use just Zoom Upstream or gather other books that illustrate stories in various ways.

2. Have students look at their finished story and think about where the natural page breaks happen. Have them identify page breaks with a slash between the sentences.

3. Once students determine the number of pages their book will include, have them create corresponding boxes on large drawing paper. Within each box, students should write the text and sketch out related illustrations.

4. Have students begin working on their final picture book. Remind them to use the picture books that they have already looked at as a guide. Students should complete their books by the beginning of Session 8.

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Session 8

1. Have students share their picture books with the class.

2. Once students have finished sharing, each student should choose another student’s book and write a letter to the author. The letter should talk about what the student enjoyed about the book and what the student learned about that disability.

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  • Informally observe students during classroom discussions to assess how well they are able to talk about different disabilities, share their ideas, and listen to each other.

  • Assess how well students are able to read and synthesize various pieces of information by looking at their completed Specific Disability Picture Book Notes handouts, Disability Book Sheets, and Picture Book Notes.

  • Collect the Prewriting Sheets and compare them to the finished picture books. How well were students able to revise their work?

  • Use the Picture Book Rubric (Teacher Version) to assess students’ completed picture books.

  • Have students share the letters they write to each other (see Session 8, Step 2), and ask them to reflect on this lesson in their journals.


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