It can be difficult for students to relate with individuals with disabilities. Fortunately, Brad Gurgel, a middle school teacher from St. Peter Lutheran School in Minnesota, created a book project that provides a learning experience that goes well beyond reading and writing. Here are the simple steps for trying it with your class.
Step 1: Students read the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
Out of My Mind is about a girl named Melody, who has Cerebral Palsy. The book teaches students about the struggles that individuals with disabilities face on a daily basis — not being accepted, feeling isolated, being judged, make fun of, stared at, and more.
Step 2: Students write an essay on what they learned from the book.
The students at St. Peter Lutheran School were deeply touch by Melody's story. Here are some excerpts from their essays.
“Disabled people are strong and amazing people. I learned that they don’t like being judged by looks, they hate staring and pointing, and they like being respected and treated normal. I hope we all learn to respect them.”
“Do you ever think that it's a gift to be able to walk or talk? I think we overlook the simple gifts from God that we have. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper changed my view of disabled people.”
“I should talk to people with disabilities. People tend to not talk to people with disabilities. When Rose would even just say hi to Melody, the person with a disability, it would make Melody happy. Before inclusion classes happened, no one said anything to Melody and that made her sad. When I see a disabled person I, should say hi.”
Step 3: Write to pen pals with CP
After reading the book, your class can contact the Make Lemon Aide Foundation for CP to be put in touch with individuals with cerebral palsy. Students can then write encouraging letters to their new pen pals. This is a great exercise to put what they learned into action.
Step 4: Hold a fundraiser (optional)
If your class wants to continue the project, you can organize a Lemon Aid Stand or other fundraiser for our foundation.
Get more information.
If you haev questions on how to implement this project in your school or class, feel free to contact Brad Gurgel at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would also like to hear from other teachers about ways he can improve the project for his students.