Overcoming Obstacles – Therapy and Technology (9-12)


This 3-tiered lesson might be an interesting and engaging introduction to any exploration of overcoming obstacles, persevering, rebuilding, and moving forward. While the readings focuses upon physical and cognitive disabilities, this lesson opens the door for discussion and exploration of overcoming any obstacle that may be presented to an individual, group, or society.  

Grade Range: 9-12
Pinboard: Unique Problem Solving

  • Primary: Overcoming Obstacles 
  • Other: Human Experience; Conflict 

Curricular Connections

  • ELA
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Psychology 

Primary Common Core Connection

  • ELA Reading Informational Text Standards .1-.3
  • ELA Writing Standard .1
  • Reading History Standards .1 and .2
  • Writing in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects Standard .1


Overcoming Obstacles, Disability, Autism, Art, Identity, Perseverance, Empathy, Technology 

Guiding Question

What does it mean to be a victim? A survivor? How are these two inherently different? 

Goal and Rationale

Citizens must be critical consumers and producers of information. As students engage with the texts and media they are exposed to on a daily basis, they must think critically and detect not only the superficial information, but also underlying elements as well.  

Throughout these lessons, students must not only present claims, but also offer clear and relevant supporting evidence in both written and spoken communication.

This lesson is presented in 3-tiers, however the teacher has the option of implementing any or all of the tiers that work best with his/her goals, students, available time, and class structure.

Materials Needed

Provided by NEWSELA:

External Resources:

  • Art Therapy
  • The Power of Touch

Lesson Elements

Tier I

  1. As students enter the classroom, the teacher poses the following questions – What does it mean to be a victim? A survivor? How are these two inherently different? Students take approximately 5 minutes to reflect upon these questions. They might journal their responses, pair-share with another student to discuss their initial thinking, or chart responses as a class.
  2. Students then read From the Ashes of War, a Young Artist is Born. Each student reads the article at his/her individual accessibility level and uses the Newsela annotation feature to make notes in the margin.
     Tip: Infuse targeted and probing questions for students directly into the document!
  3. Following the reading, the teacher facilitates a class wide viewing of the video – Art Therapy
  4. The teacher then engages the students in a Socratic Seminar or similarly structured discussion, centering on the prompt below. The students discuss their responses, continually providing text-based and video-based evidence and justification for their claims. They build upon the ideas of others, question, and challenge thinking throughout the discussion.
    Are Shah Bibi Tarakhail, Eleanor, and the other children depicted in the video victims or survivors? How has art therapy impacted their lives? Is art a beneficial medium for these victims and survivors? Why/why not?

Tier II

  1. Students read Group’s special mission to help autistic children use iPads. Each student reads the article at his/her individual accessibility level and uses the Newsela annotation feature to take notes in the margin. 
  2. Following this, the teacher then facilitates a classwide exploration of the infographic – The Power of Touch
    NOTE: This element of the lesson is a collaborative activity so that the infographic is accessible to all levels of readers within your classroom.
  3. The teacher questions students to consider how the use of assistive technology impacts the life of students with disabilities. Students share their thinking through reflective journaling, a pair share, or a brief class discussion.
  4. Either in small groups of 2-3 or individually, the students consider ways in which forms of therapy or assistive technology help turn victims into survivors. Students are given approximately 20 minutes to brainstorm scenarios and resources that facilitate this shift.  Students should record their thinking on chart paper, in a reflective journal, or another format that allows them to share their thinking with the class.
  5. Students should be given the opportunity to share their responses with classmates. This might be accomplished through a gallery walk or posting to class blogs/website.
  6. As a final reflection, the teacher leads the class in an exploration of the guiding question -- What does it mean to be a victim? A survivor? How are these two inherently different? – Students should use evidence from the readings and media to support and justify their thinking.

Tier III

  1. As a final task, students are charged with responding to the following quote through a reflective writing piece, blog entry, the creation of a video, or video diary.
    • “Obstacles don’ts have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan
    • Due to the potentially personal nature of responses, students should be given the opportunity to, but not be required to, share their responses with the entire class.


  • Lenovo. "The Power of Touchscreen Technology [Infographic]." Lenovo Blogs. Lenovo, 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2014.
  • Norton Healthcare. "Art Therapy." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2014.
Powered by Zendesk