Sunday, September 26, 2010

Anything But Typical

When you think of diversity...
chances are you envision lots of different people with different skin colors, different cultures, different beliefs...

But in Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, we are reminded that diversity does not end with skin color or holiday celebrations. Diversity extends to those students who may have special needs too. Anything But Typical gives us a first person account of a 6th grade boy who has Autism. Jason Blake is a normal 6th grade boy in that he wants a girl friend, wants to succeed in school, and wants to keep his parents happy. However, Jason is autistic and struggles with always wondering what will go wrong next? As well as the problem of trying to fit in with all the "neurotypicals." His story revolves around a website called Story Board where he meets PheonixBird and is worried that if they ever meet in person all she will see is that he is autistic and that she won't really see who he is. A must read for teachers and an excellent choice for students to read, especially in any class with an autistic student where awareness is key.

Autism Speaks: This website is probably the most well known website regarding Autism. It includes lots of information about Autism that may be helpful or simply very interesting to you as a teacher.
Understanding Autism: This link will take you to a website dedicated to educating people about Autism. There is a wonderful powerpoint explaining the basics of Autism. This is a website you as a teacher may want to explore before reading this novel with your class so that you can answer questions students may have about Autism.

 Teachers: Here are some resources & ideas to help you to teach this novel...

Web Resources:
  • Nick News Video: This video is a segment of a Nick News special with Linda Ellerbee from Nickelodeon entitled "Kids with Autism." In this video a boy with Asperger's (on the Autism spectrum) is interviewed about what it is like to have autism. This video could be used in teaching students about autism by showing them an example of someone their age with autism.
  • Time to Listen Video: This video is from, it is a short video with some important facts about autism. It could be a good lead in to Anything  But Typical and a lesson about autism.
Key Vocabulary Words: While reading I made a list of some words that may need to be pretaught.
autism, repulsed, neurotypicals, validate, confluence, abstract, chromosome, gene, vaccines, fertilizers, hormones, fontanel, adjudicate, resonance, diphthong, schwa, digraphs, regurgitate, halogen, careens, metaphorically, lexicon, probation, irony, appendectomy, serendipity, placate, mezzanine

Before Reading: Make a KWL chart (Know, Want to Know, Learn). Ask the students what they already Know (K) about autism. After writing those items under the K, ask students what they want to know (W) about autism and put this under the W. After learning about autism and reading Anything But Typical, the class can then fill out what they learned (L).

After Reading/Writing:
  • During the novel, Jason mentions that every day a word pops into his head. He tries to figure out what this word means by connecting it to other words that he already knows. The words he mentions within the novel are: confluence, adjudicate, regurgitate, halogen, lexicon, serendipity and placate. Ask students after they have read this novel for the next few days (or for a week, or a month, or even the rest of the year) to use a classroom dictionary and find a new word that they have never heard before. Students can find this word by skimming through the dictionary or even by opening up the dictionary randomly to a page. Students should write down the word and its definition in their journal along with a relevant sentence. The students should then try to use that word during the day and if they are able to do so, write how they used it as part of their entry for that word. This activity will help students to broaden their vocabulary and realize how many words in the English language are rarely used. If you decide to make this a project that lasts throughout the whole year I would suggest using blue books for the entries, and having students put 2-3 entries per page. This blue book will become their very own dictionary of the words they have learned throughout the year.
  • Ask students to write an expository essay about Autism. Students may choose to do some research about Autism using some of the informational links I included above about Autism.
  • Ask students to write a personal reflection about how they think they would feel in a classroom if they had Autism. Encourage them to include details comparing and contrasting the way "neurotypicals" and students with Autism interact within a classroom setting.
Here's a link to a lesson plan I wrote involving Autism awareness using Anything But Typical:  Lesson

    Baskin, N. R. (2009). Anything But Typical. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
    2010 Schneider Family Book Award

    Happy Reading (& Running) =)

    Find other lessons at:

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