Overview: Free autism awareness lesson plan for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. Help neurotypical students learn about the limitations and gifts of their classmates with autism. After reviewing what autism is and how it affects behavior, students read two short stories about how to best support those who learn differently.
Subject: ELA: Reading Literature, Narrative Writing; 21st Century Skills: Social & Emotional Education
Grades: 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Duration: 1 hour
Related Concepts: Special Education, Friendship, Empathy, Character Education
Students will be able to:
- Demonstrate their understanding of autism and empathy by participating in a class exercise and answering comprehension questions for a short story about a character with autism.
Essential Questions: How does autism affect someone's behavior? How can I support a friend who has autism?
Vocabulary: autism, special needs, behavior, empathy, support
Common Core Standards Addressed:
- ELA: Reading Literature
- RL.2.1, 2
- RL.3.1, 2
- RL.4.1, 2
- Projection system
The lesson is designed for a mainstream class that may or may not include learners with autism. If a student in your class has autism, take care to keep from alienating the student from his or her peers, as a discussion on autism may make him or her feel singled out.
Ask the class if they have heard of the word autism and what they think it means. Chart correct responses on large paper or interactive white board. Explain that autism is a difference in the way the brain develops. This means that a person with autism has a different way of understanding things and communicating/expressing feelings or ideas.
Play the video What's Up with Nick? Add student observations about Nick to the class list. Encourage learners to relate experiences, if any, that they have had with someone with autism.
Tell students they will experience what it might be like for someone with autism. Choose an exercise or two from Autism Awareness Lesson Plan, #3 choices a, b, or c. After each exercise/experience, talk about what the student felt. Remind students that we each have different abilities and learning capabilities.
Read Ian's Walk or Apples for Cheyenne aloud to the class, or if you have class sets of the books, allow reading groups to read the stories themselves. Have groups work together on the comprehension questions.
Bring the class back together and review each story. How did the characters with autism need help? Who (or what) helped them? How could your class help someone with autism in the same way?
- Collect comprehension questions and assess for accuracy and understanding.
- Note student responses during the class discussions throughout the lesson.
English learners may need to watch the video in small groups with you or a paraeducator and pause the video to discuss what they understand. Make the video available for English learners (and all students) to watch as needed for review.
Pair struggling readers with more advanced readers when answering comprehension questions.
Allow advanced readers to read the stories independently before coming to class for a flipped lesson.
Review the extension activities in the reading comprehension lesson.
Have learners conduct independent research on autism in preparation for Autism Awareness Month (April), and make infographics to display in the classroom.