1. Begin the lesson by talking about visible and invisible differences, those of language, religion, dress, ethnicity, gender, etc. Have students make a poster with tracings of different colored hands. On each hand, write the word, “Hello,” in a different language. Have students practice saying “Hello,” in each language.
2. Explain to students the history of special education law in the United States, ending with the fact that many classrooms now are “inclusive” classrooms, and what that means. Further explain that all students have things about them that are unique and that “disabilities” are quite often just that—something that makes a person “just a little bit different.”
3. Then, invite students to list some traits that make them unique. From that list, create a BINGO-like card with a square for each student. Write one fact from each student's list in one of the squares. Then the fun begins! Provide each student with a copy of the BINGO card. Students must ask one another if they "sleep with a stuffed lizard " or another question that relates to the information on one of the squares. When students identify the person who matches the information in a square, that person writes his or her intials in the box. Set a time limit and see who collects the most initials before time runs out. We learn some very interesting things about one another. This activity reveals commonalities and creates lively conversation.
4. Another way to encourage students to think about their commonalities and differences is to ask them, “If you could be an animal, what animal would you be? And why?” Give the students a little time to think about what animals they might like to be -- and why. I encourage them to be creative, to be different and unique. Ask students to draw their animal on a piece of paper, with the student’s name, the name of the animal, and the reason for choosing that animal. Hang the pictures in a special place in the room.
5. If appropriate, have students explore the “Understanding Kids Who Are Different” website below. Or, the teacher might do the exploring, extracting lessons and strategies for his or her students to discuss, and/or practice.
6. Ask students to explore the "Band-aids and Blackboards" web site, below, to get a sense of how children with disabilities or chronic illnesses feel about such topics as teasing.
7. Conclude the lesson by asking students to write a short paper—one or two pages—about how they think life for all students, with all kinds of needs, can be made better in their classroom.
Robinson, Debra. Portraying Persons with Disabilities: An Annotated Bibliography of Fiction for Children and Teenagers. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker Publishing, 1992.
Saying “Hello” in Many Languages
A History of Special Education
Special Education: Promises and Problems
Band-aids and Blackboards
For the Teacher
Understanding Kids Who Are Different: Teaching About Kids with Disabilities
This lesson was adapted by Averil McClelland, Kent State University, from ideas found on the Celebrate National Inclusive Schools Week website.