This lesson plan is from the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council’s curriculum Promoting Respect and Inclusion Disabilities Studies Education (PRIDE). The curriculum aims to educate students about the reality of disability and people with disabilities through four units; Awareness, Disability Community Identity, Rights and Responsibilities and Accommodations and Adaptive Technology. This lesson plan on Disability Community Identity helps students explore previously unknown connections throughout history by learning about famous people in history, from Walt Disney to Frida Kahlo, who have disabilities.
- Exploring the historic and changing attitudes related to the Disability Community
- Exploring the influence of an emerging Disability Culture
- Exploring previously unknown Disability Community connections throughout history
The lesson plan is the same for middle school and high school but the resources used in the lesson plan, linked below, contain different sets of famous people depending on whether geared towards middle school or high school
- Famous People with Disabilities Resource Guide for Middle School– includes athletes, artist, celebrities, and writers
- Famous People with Disabilities Resource Guide for High School- includes business leaders, social activists, political leaders, and explorers
- Famous People with Disabilities Quiz for Middle School
- Famous People with Disabilities Quiz (Teacher’s Guide) for Middle School
- Famous People with Disabilities Quiz for High School
- Famous People with Disabilities Quiz (Teacher’s Guide) for High School
- Introduction Activity – small and large groups
- Research Activity – individual work or small groups
- Two class sessions suggested
Review the instructions below to determine which introduction activity will best match the learning styles of your students. Depending on the activity, prepare game cards or quiz worksheets as needed before the class session.
Select the quiz or game option listed below to prepare students for their research activity. The individuals with disabilities highlighted in this activity are artists, musicians, actors, athletes, and other celebrities from the past and present.
Famous People Quiz
Distribute copies of the “Famous People with Disabilities Quiz” Worksheet. Give students five minutes to connect the individual to the proper description. When time is up, read the answers in class for students to grade their own quizzes.
Famous People Game
• Option 1 – Tape one card to each student’s back. Students have fifteen minutes to move around the room and direct questions to other students in the class as they attempt to identify the name of the person on his/her card. Example: Am I a man or a woman? Living or dead? What is my job? After fifteen minutes, have a show of hands to see who identified their person. Award prizes to the students who were able to guess their famous person. Have each student in the class read his/her card aloud to the group.
• Option 2 – In a large group, have each student pick a card. The first student to pick a card responds to questions from the group until the person is revealed. This can be played with one student asking a question at a time until the group hits a certain number of questions (i.e., twenty questions). At the end of the question limit (or time limit per card), if the person has not been correctly identified, the biography information is read to the group. Depending on the size of the group, this game can also be played as teams.
Student Research Activity
Distribute the Famous People with Disabilities Resource List. Working individually, in pairs, or in small groups, students select an individual from the list to research. Students will research their assigned individual and prepare a written report or presentation. Direct students to address specific questions found on the Resource List, or assign additional questions to help students focus their research efforts.
The amount of in-class or homework time set aside for this activity should be based on the extent of the assigned research and presentation requirements. This assignment may be implemented in such a way that it provides the opportunity to focus on various research and presentation skills. When appropriate, the instructor may combine this activity with a lesson on conducting internet-based research, utilizing presentation software, etc. Some assignment product examples are listed below:
• Prepare a written report. All reports may be combined into a resource book for the school library.
• Prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class.
• Create a brochure or poster to be displayed in the school’s library.
• Create a “Famous People with Disabilities” biography web page.
Alternative Implementation Option
Change the order of the lesson plan so students conduct research first and complete one of the assignments that involve sharing the research product with the class. Then use the Famous People Quiz as an assessment tool to evaluate student learning.
Lesson Wrap-up / Follow-up
After research and presentation activities are complete, have students respond to one or more of the questions listed below. This may occur as part of a class journal assignment or as part of a small or large group discussion.
1. With which famous person did you most identify? What is his/her disability and what strategies did the person use to manage his/her disability related needs at home, school, or in a career?
2. What is the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about people with disabilities?
1. Modify this activity to have students prepare their research product for an audience beyond their classroom. Modifications to the product examples above include:
• Prepare written biographies to be used by elementary school students.
• Prepare a PowerPoint presentation for an elementary school class, or a teacher staff meeting.
• Create a brochure or poster to be displayed during a parent orientation event on campus.
• Create a web page to be linked to the school website.
2. Depending on the content area of the class, schedule a local “famous person with a disability” as a guest speaker. Examples may include a local athlete speaking to a physical education class about the training program he/she uses, or speaking to a science class about the adaptive equipment used in his/her sport.
3. In a history or social studies class, embellish this lesson by selecting individuals for report topics who fit with a particular point in history the class is studying. Facilitate class discussion or report focus questions encouraging students to make comparisons between the individuals with disabilities and the societal barriers and opportunities that may have influenced the person’s education, career, and personal life.