Lesson Plan Block 12


Block 12 (One or two lesson plans)
Learning Targets: Students will be able to:

·      Reflect on how their perspectives have changed and grown over the course of this unit in regard to understanding disability, ableism, and identity.

·      Engage in discussion that helps them understand and appreciate other people’s interpretations and reactions to shared literature.

Common Core Standards Alignment: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text.




Writing prompt:

·      Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you’ve learned in this unit about things like disability, ableism, and identity. Focus on a reading (the novel, an essay, or a poem) that had particular meaning for you and explain how it helped shape your perspective.

·      Lead a whole-class discussion of students’ responses. Point out how students’ vocabulary, attitudes, and understanding have been influenced by readings, discussion, and reflection.

Reflective activities: SHARING RESPONSES

·      Let this class period be a celebration of what students have learned. Invite each student to choose and share one of the following:

1.     A paragraph from the literary analysis paper.

2.     A response to a writing prompt.

3.     A paragraph or two from a poetry response paper.

4.     A poem.

Be sure to show affirmation for each student’s contribution.


·      Where do we go from here? Now that we know that ableism exists, now that we’ve seen perspectives from people with disabilities, we have a responsibility to make a difference. Invite students to brainstorm ways that they can get involved in making the world a more accessible place for everyone.   Consider various forms of local activism, petitions for changes to be made to the structure of the school, holding a fundraiser for an organization like Autism Self-Advocacy Network.

·      Also help students to consider ways to “read” representations of disability in other literature. If possible, use books you’ve already studied in class this year and do some informal analysis of how disability in presented in those texts.

Materials: Journals for students.
Accessibility: ·      Consider various forms through which students can share either their responses to the writing prompt or their poetry responses: reading from index cards, publishing reflections online, and sharing with partners. Some students may show their learning and reflection best through a work of visual art or a poem. This reflective time should be an inclusive, accepting, celebratory space.

*Discussions may be adapted to the form best suited for your students. You could make this discussion a “think-pair-share,” a whole class discussion, or a small group discussion. If it is a whole-class discussion, consider allowing students to participate by writing their thoughts on notecards if they would rather not speak aloud in front of all the other students.



Lesson Plan Block 1


Block 1 (One to four lesson plans)
Learning Targets: Students will be able to:

·      Understand how different bodies perceive and express themselves in different ways.

·      Collaborate to establish ground rules for safe discussion, including learning some of the language for talking about disability.

·      Respond to poetry, citing evidence from the poem that supports conclusions drawn from details.

·      Analyze a poem and portraits for both denotative and connotative meanings.   Analyze the impact of the author’s/artist’s textual or artistic choices in creating an overall effect.

Common Core Standards Alignment: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)


Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.




*Opening discussion-what is a self-portrait? (This seems like an obvious question, but invite students to consider self-portraiture as a genre and identify the key features of the genre—what must a self-portrait include? The whole body? The face?   What about just one eye or one fingernail? Why do people create them?) Talk about the sub-genre of ‘selfies’ and discuss some of its key features and the motives behind taking a selfie. **View several famous self-portraits (on the projector or as paper copies). I recommend Renoir, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. Have a discussion of what each portrait tells us about the artist. As students make statements about the artist, ask “How do you know?” and encourage them to cite details from the painting as evidence to support their claims. Follow up the discussion of the details of each portrait with an interpretation of the portrait’s overall effect. View Laura Swanson’s anti-self portraits (http://www.lauraswanson.com/#/anti-self-portraits/). Discuss the effects created by each one and have students draw conclusions, supported by details from the photographs, about what the portraits say about the artist. Be sure to include a discussion of what makes these “ANTI-self portraits.”   Then read the explanation that she wrote beneath the photos and compare and contrast how the conclusions we drew were similar to and different from her conclusions.

***Then have students create their own self-portraits. This can be as brief or as detailed an activity as you’d like. In a perfect world, there would be a variety of different media available for students to use—paint, crayon, charcoal, computers, etc. (there would also be unicorns who magically do all your grading for you). However, markers and big paper are probably more realistic for most classrooms. If students want to take a selfie with a phone, I wouldn’t dismiss this idea out of hand, but be sure to have them think through how they are going to highlight or communicate certain features of their personalities with a photograph.   Invite students to consider what the details they include show the audience about who they are. While they are working, circulate the room and ask a few of them if they’d be willing to share with and explain their portraits to the class. Those who are eager to share will likely volunteer when they see you doing this. In the follow-up discussion, invite students to (probably silently) consider what some of the differences might be between how we choose to express ourselves to the world and how other people choose to see us. Consider including the following questions:

·      Why is language important in talking about our own identities and the identities of other people?

·      What problems or issues might we face when we’re talking about people who are very different from us in one way or another?

·      What might this process of presenting our selves to the world be complicated by having a physical or mental disability?

Scaffolded learning activities: GROUND RULES

·      Creating ground rules that establish the classroom as a safe space for discussion. Using the discussion of how we perceive and express ourselves and how we perceive and talk about other people, launch a discussion of ground rules.

·      I’m guessing that you already have ground rules for discussion, so you can either add to those or make a new list for this unit. Either way, I recommend making the new/modified rules visible on a poster that you can hang up in the classroom and refer to as needed.

·      Start by discussing values. As we read, study, write, and discuss poetry, art, and fiction related to disability, what are some of the things we value? Respect, inclusion, awareness, kindness, mindfulness. Introduce students to the term “ableism” which is discrimination against people with disabilities. Invite students to participate in a discussion of the ways in which our culture privileges certain kinds of bodies and minds.

·      Invite the students to come up with the rules as informed by their own experience and by the article “Ableist Words and Terms to Avoid”. Go back to the list of values and come up with rules that reinforce our class’s values. There are many aspects of this topic for students to consider. For example, you might involve students in a discussion of using “disability first” language versus “person-first” language.

·      Here are what some of the ground rules could look like:

1)   We speak about difference in an inclusive way, not a demeaning way.

2)   We let people (in the books, in the poems, and in class) tell us and show us how they wanted to be described. We respect the terms people choose to describe themselves.

3)   We avoid making hasty generalizations or assumptions about people.

4)   We look for things we have in common (with each other and with the authors/speakers/artists we study) while valuing and respecting ways that we are different.


Asking the students guiding questions can help them arrive at some of these principles on their own.


·      Pass out copies of the Sheila Black poem “What You Mourn.”

·      Read the poem.   Invite students to read it silently first, and then aloud in small groups, each with a volunteer reader.

·      Ask students what their initial reaction to the poem was, and invite them to identify points of connection between the poem and the self-portraits and also the poem and the discussion of ground rules. (How does Black want us to perceive her? How does that differ from the reactions she describes?

·      Because this is the first poem in this unit, without knowing what instruction regarding poetic interpretation you’ve given previously, I recommend primarily MODELING the interpretive process for this first poem, checking for understanding along the way. Then when students are more comfortable with the process, they can interpret poems more independently. Also be sure to model for students how the ground rules are informing how you speak and think about this poem.

·      Model for students a paraphrase of the poem, where you write a short summary of each section of the poem in the margin. You can do this via overhead projector or docu-cam. If you don’t have access to either one, I recommend writing at least the first section of this poem on big paper and writing the margin notes so they’re visible to everyone.

·      Circle words with imagery-and-symbolism-rich connotations. Words like wedding, foreign, stones, straight, and crooked are all packed with connotative meaning. Around the words, write some of the connotations. Then start to make connections between some of the words in the poems. For example, how does Black use the words “straight” and “crooked” to play off each other in a parallel fashion?

·      Analyze the author’s attitude in the poem and point to specific textual evidence that shows her attitude.

·      Identify the shift in the poem (which is reflected by a visible space!) and explain its function to contrast her view of her body (and how she chooses to describe her body) with other people’s views of her body.

·      Return to the title and have students speculate about its significance, now that they know more about the meaning of the poem.

·      Come up with some words or phrases that highlight the poem’s central themes (be sure to differentiate “theme” from “subject”). These could be phrases like “the difficult process of shaping our own identity” or “who we are versus who people think we are”


·      Introduce the novel you’ve chosen to study for this unit by providing a brief biography of the author and an examination of its unique forms within its genre. If it’s Me Who Dove Into the Heart of the World, draw attention to the unique perspective of the narrator. Have students be on the lookout for how disabled people in the text choose to express or define themselves in relationship to how other people label them.

·      Pass out copies of “A Short History of American Disability Poetry,” by Michael Northern.

Independent application: Read “A Short History of American Disability Poetry,” by Michael Northern” and Me Who Dove Into the Heart of the World, Chapters 1-2
Materials: Projector (or paper copies of self-portraits); big paper; multi-colored markers; posterboard copies of Me Who Dove Into the Heart of the World; copies of “What You Mourn” by Sheila Black, and copies of Michael Northern’s “A Short History of American Disability Poetry”
Accessibility: ·      For the self-portrait hook activity, visually impaired students might record a description of themselves on their phones (in class or in the hall) and then play it for the class.

·      For the self-portrait activity, make sure that you have markers or crayons that are suited to a wide range of different skin tones.

·      Students with ADHD should be encouraged to move around the classroom (in hopefully non-distracting ways) especially during the self-portrait creation.

·      Students with anxiety may find this subject matter difficult to handle emotionally.   Encourage students to write notes or emails to you at the end of class that explain how they feel about what you discussed that day. Check in with these students throughout the unit, and be prepared to excuse them to a library or study hall on days when their emotions are triggered by what they read.

*Discussions may be adapted to the form best suited for your students. You could make this discussion a “think-pair-share,” a whole class discussion, or a small group discussion. If it is a whole-class discussion, consider allowing students to participate by writing their thoughts on notecards if they would rather not speak aloud in front of all the other students.

**Words in italics are part of the “accordion function” of the lesson plan, and can be eliminated, if you are pressed for time, without substantially impacting the instructional sequence. See the section titled “overview and reflection” for a full explanation of how an accordion lesson plan works, and how you might adapt this plan to your class’s schedule and needs.

***Words in bold are another element of the “accordion function.” These elements can be expanded to take up an entire lesson. Some elements will be in both bold and italics, meaning you can either expand that element to take up a lot more time or you can get rid of it entirely.