Grade 1: Realizing Differences


Lesson Summary

Students will learn about individual differences, special needs and special equipment while listening to and observing pictures in a read-aloud story about bears that are different from each other. Students will have the opportunity to respond orally to questions and share personal experiences. They will be able to respond to the story in a writing activity in which they will write about what makes each of them unique and complete a self-portrait to go with their written work.

Connections to Accessibility Awareness – The Big Ideas

The following accessibility messages are addressed in the activities in this lesson:

  • Some students sometimes need special assistance, equipment or technology to learn.
  • Accessibility Awareness includes information about the range of ability and individual strengths found in the classroom.
  • Students need to help develop a school culture that fosters a sense of belonging for all students.


Important Considerations for Program Planning

In keeping with the inclusive nature of accessibility and best teaching practices, lessons and instruction must provide a continuum of supports for all students, including those with accessibility considerations and/or special education needs. The front matter of all revised curriculum policy documents highlights elements to consider in planning classroom lessons and instruction, including Universal Design, Differentiated Instruction, Equity and Inclusive Education, the perspective of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, meeting the needs of students with special education needs, and the needs of English Language Learners. See the Accessibility+ hub for more information about these and related topics.

Community Connections

Connections with parents, members of the broader school community, agencies and institutions, social services, community organizations, corporations, and local businesses provide important opportunities for supporting accessibility awareness for students. Community partners can be an important resource in students’ learning as volunteers, mentors, guest speakers, participants in the school’s accessibility events or models of accessibility awareness in the life of the community. Modelling and mentoring can enrich not only the educational experience of students but also the life of the community. Schools should ensure that partnerships are nurtured within the context of strong educational objectives.

If the topic of a lesson is about disability and a child in the classroom has that disability, it is important to discuss that lesson with the child, if appropriate, and his or her parents so that planning can be respectful and strengths-based in perspective.


Curriculum Document(s)/Grade

The Ontario Curriculum , Grades 1-8: Language, 2006 (revised)

Curriculum Expectations (as stated in the Ontario curriculum documents)

Oral Communication

By the end of Grade 1, students will:

  1. Listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes


By the end of Grade 1, students will:

  1. Generate, gather, and organize information to write for an intended purpose and audience
  2. Draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informal literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience
  3. Use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expressions, and present their work effectively

Instruction & Context

Instructional Components and Context

Learning Goals

Students and the teacher will work together to create Learning Goals in student friendly language that are connected to the curriculum expectations. Co-created Learning Goals should be posted in the classroom for reference. Please see the Glossary in the Accessibility+ hub for more information.

Success Criteria

Success Criteria for each lesson will be developed by the teacher and the class based on the curriculum expectations, the students’ ability to demonstrate knowledge of content, use critical thinking processes, to make connections and to draw on personal knowledge or experience according to the nature of the activity. Co-created Success Criteria should be posted in the classroom for reference.

Please see the Glossary in the Accessibility+ hub for more information.

Differentiated Instruction and Assessment

Please refer to Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 for more information about differentiated instruction and assessment practices.


To participate fully in these learning activities, students will need:

  • to know how to sit and listen to a read-a-loud
  • to know the expectations for answering questions in turn in a whole group lesson.
  • to know how to write a sentence and the characteristics of a complete sentence (posted for reference)
  • to have experience creating sentences (This lesson may be most useful in the second half of the school year.)
  • experience in co-creating Learning Goals and Success Criteria
  • experience with pair-share activities
  • prior experience using the word wall and personal dictionaries to help them with spelling


Cane, characteristic, differences, different, feeding tube, guardian, parent, special equipment, special needs, special, unique, other terminology that might come up in discussion or from other instructional materials

This terminology should be discussed and understood to help students be able to participate in the activities in this lesson.

Materials and Equipment

Picture of a book cover for a prediction activity (see Appendix A).

Success Criteria for Writing Checklist (Appendix B)

Additional Pictures of Shoobear (Appendix C)

Book Different is Just…Different! by Karen Tompkins. Please contact the author directly to order the book at Karen Tompkins (

It is also available for interactive white board. There is a link to view the book on an interactive white board. (When you open the link the page will be blank. Use the arrows at the bottom of the link to move to the beginning of the book.)

Chart paper

Word wall

Personal dictionary

Arts and craft materials

Puppets, stuffed bears, dolls (variety of characters) to put at the drama or puppet centre

Three-dimensional solids and shapes for the construction centre

Books such as the following for the reading centre:

  • A Rainbow of Friends
    by P.K. Hallinan
  • Arnie and the New Kid
    by Nancy Carlson
  • Chrysanthemum
    by Kevin Henkes
  • I Like Myself!
    by Karen Beaumont
  • I’m gonna like me
    by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
  • It’s Okay to be Different
    by Todd Parr
  • Lemon the Duck
    by Laura Backman
  • Let’s Talk about Being in a Wheelchair
    by Melanie Ann Apel
  • My Friend Isabelle
    by Eliza Woloson
  • Special People, Special Ways
    by Arlene Maguire
  • Susan Laughs
    by Jeanne Willis
  • The Black Book of Colors
    by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria
  • The Chick and the Duckling
    by Mirra Ginsburg
  • What I Like About Me!: A Book Celebrating Differences
    by Allia Zobel-Nolan
  • Whoever You Are
    by Mem Fox
  • Zoom!
    by Robert Munsch*

* Listen to this story read aloud by Robert Munch at

Another resource that relates directly to this topic and may be of interest to some students is Differences, a colouring book from Parents Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK), 2005
Please see the Accessibility+ hub for more information about resources related to this lesson.


Whole Class Read-Aloud or Small Group Read-Aloud

This part of the lesson will focus on the following Accessibility Awareness messages:

  • Some students sometimes need special assistance, equipment or technology to learn.
  • Accessibility Awareness includes information about the range of ability and individual strengths found in the classroom.
  • Students need to help develop a school culture that fosters a sense of belonging for all students.

Minds On

  • With the whole class or a smaller group, show children the cover of the book Different is Just…Different! by Karen Tompkins. Using the picture of the cover from Appendix A, read them the title and ask them to predict what the story might be about. Encourage many responses from a variety of children. Other questions to ask about the cover to generate discussion may include:
  • What do you think is going to happen in this book? How did you figure that out? What on the cover makes you think that? What does the picture tell us about what the book might be about? What clues did you use to try to figure that out? What words do you think might be in this book?
  • What do you notice about the bears? How are the bears different? Focus the children’s attention on the specific parts of the bears. What do you notice about the bears’ feet? What do you notice about the bears’ hands? What do you notice about the bears’ eyes? What do you notice about the bears’ ears?

Record students’ ideas on chart paper.

Any of the suggested books for the reading centre or other similar books can be used for this introduction with questions adapted to suit that book.



For more information on the read-aloud strategy, please see: Early Reading Strategy: The Report of the Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario, 2003 (page 24)

  • Using appropriate read-aloud strategies for this age group, read the book to students.
  • Begin reading the story.
    • Read the first two pages and ask the children to look at the illustrations. What do you notice about Shoo Bear? Ask them if they have ever seen a hat like that. What is your favourite kind of hat? Why? (Make a connection.) Do you like things that are different?
    • Read the next page. What is in the sandwich? Do you think a bear would like this kind of food? Have you ever eaten a sandwich like that? What kind of sandwich do you like? (Make a personal connection.)
    • Continue reading the next 2 pages. Can anyone tell me what kind of shoes these are?
      When do you wear these types of shoes? Which shoes do you wish you were wearing right now? Have you ever worn these kinds of shoes before?
    • Continue reading the next 4 pages. What kinds of shoes do we see on these pages? Do you have different kinds of shoes at home? Tell us about your favourite shoes.
    • Continue reading the next 2 pages. Do you know anyone who has different needs like the bears in the pictures?
    • Continue reading the next 2 pages. Does anyone here or anyone at your house wear glasses? What do you think the cane is for?
    • Continue reading the next 2 pages. Explain the picture of the feeding tube. When children are babies, they need help eating, so someone will feed them or cut their food for them. The bear in this picture can’t swallow food at all so his parent/guardian is putting it right into his stomach.
    • Explain that some people cannot talk and use a computer or sign language to talk. Does anyone know any signs in sign language?
    • Continue reading the next 3 pages. Ask children how they are different? Is being different a good thing or a bad thing?
    • Allow for children to answer and share information with the group.
    • Ask the students – “What does this book remind you of?” Let students share their answers. Challenge answers using questions like – “What in the book made you think that?” if they do not volunteer a reason for their answer.
  • If another book is used, follow a similar process.
  • After reading the book Different is Just…Different!, ask questions like “How do you think the author (or the character) feels about being different?” “How do you think the author wants us to feel about being different?”
  • Allow students time to share how they are unique, special or different with an elbow partner using the Think-Pair-Share Strategy (See link for more information.) After the activity, invite students to share their ideas with the whole class. Record some of the ideas. Discuss possible ideas and model different kinds of sentences.
  • Ask students to write 3 – 5 sentences about what makes them unique, special or different. Develop or discuss Success Criteria for this activity. (See Appendix B for suggestions.)
  • Remind students to begin each sentence with a capital letter and finish with a period. (Because students may have little experience writing sentences, this lesson may be most useful in the second half of the school year.)
  • Choose a student to model writing their sentences for the class. Ask the student to tell the class how he or she is unique, special or different and write it on chart paper as a model for the whole class.
  • Ask students to draw a self-portrait to illustrate the ideas in the sentences they wrote about themselves.
Follow-up Ideas:
  • Use other stories from the list as read-alouds to present characters that are different or have unique characteristics.


Assessment for Learning: Are students able to listen attentively to a story read aloud to them? Are they able to contribute ideas orally and appropriately? Do students require more practice with predicting a book’s content from its front cover? Are students familiar with the terminology in the book?

Assessment as Learning: Are students engaged? Are they able to answer teacher questions guiding discussion? Are predictions realistic? Reasonable? Are they giving reasons for their ideas? Do students understand what it means to be unique, special or different? Are they able to discuss their understanding? Are they able to write about their own special or unique characteristics? Are they able to represent their ideas in a self-portrait?


Use probing questions to ensure that students understand the ideas in the Accessibility Statements for this lesson:

  • Some students sometimes need special assistance, equipment or technology to learn.
  • Accessibility Awareness includes information about the range of ability and individual strengths found in the classroom.
  • Students need to help develop a school culture that fosters a sense of belonging for all students.

Sample questions:

  • Do you know anyone who uses a wheelchair (hearing aid, braces, white cane, etc.)? Why do you think they use it?
  • Do all people have strengths? Do all people need help sometimes?
  • How can we be sure that everyone in our class gets help if he or she needs it?

Students may find it easier to understand these messages if they can relate them to their own experiences. Guiding questions might include:

  • Mathew brings a dog to school every day. Why?
  • Grandma uses a cane. Why?
  • Damien comes to school for half a day. Why?
  • Maria writes most of her stories on the computer. Why?
  • The teacher and four students in our class wear glasses. Why?
  • Why does the front door of the school have an automatic opener?
  • The class’s Ed Assistant Mrs. Buxton spends quite a bit of time working with Sandra and Peter. Why?


Teacher Reflection

  • Did the intended messages about accessibility come across in my lesson?
  • Did I incorporate student-friendly teaching strategies that support best practices that incorporate accessible methods and materials to reach as many students as possible?
  • Are the resources I selected appropriate for the grade level and varied to meet the needs of all my students? If the resources I selected presented aspects of accessibility awareness, was the perspective strength based?
  • Did I use Differentiated Instruction and Assessment to meet the varying learning styles of my students? Was I able to meet and accommodate for all of my students’ learning needs?
  • Were all my students engaged at all steps of the lesson? How do I know?
  • Were my assessment procedures fair and equitable? Have I demonstrated best practices and met the individual needs of my students? Have I accommodated in fair and equitable ways for students with special learning needs to demonstrate their understanding? Did I provide opportunities for my students to reflect on their learning to improve their work? Were the students successful? How do I know?
  • How do I ensure that the concept of accessibility is not only discussed but embedded in all conversation topics taught in the classroom?
  • How could this lesson be improved in the future?
  • How can I improve my own teaching practice to better address accessibility awareness issues?
  • Was I able to make connections or forge partnerships with parents or members of the community as part of this lesson?
  • How do I help promote accessibility awareness across my school and school board and share the results with parents and colleagues?


Appendix A

Cover picture of Different is Just…Different! by Karen Tompkins

Different is Just...Different! book cover

Appendix B (most applicable near the end of the year)

Success Criteria for Writing

My sentences start with capital letters.

My sentences end with punctuation.

My sentences are complete.

I used the word wall and my personal dictionary to help me spell words.

My writing makes sense.

I used my best printing.

Appendix C

Additional Pictures of Shoobear

Shoobear image
Shoobear portrait image