Talk to Me


Students will reflect on different methods of communication.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will reflect on different methods of communication.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Science


  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 6th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Helen Keller
  • The five senses
  • Methods of communication

Terms and Concepts

  • Reverse (back)
  • Helen Keller
  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Communication
  • Braille
  • Courage


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Alabama quarter reverse
  • 1 class map of the United States of America
  • Copies of the "How We Communicate" worksheet
  • Pencils
  • Timer (or clock)
  • Copies of the student role cards
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper
  • Letter blocks or letter magnets
  • Paper bags
  • Several sets of circulating coins [a cent (penny), nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar]
  • Several common items that will each fit in a small paper bag
  • Copies of the "Personal Reflection" worksheet
  • Writing journals


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Alabama quarter reverse.
  • Make copies of the "How We Communicate" worksheet (1 copy per small group).
  • Make an overhead transparency (or enlarged version) of the "How We Communicate" worksheet.
  • Organize materials for the 4 activity centers.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Start the session by waving to the class and greeting the students in a foreign language.
  2. In English, ask the class to guess what they believe was said.
  3. Prompt a brief discussion and guide the students to realize that they were greeted (although they may not have understood the words used). Ask what helped them decipher what was said if they did not understand the foreign words. Note tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures.
  4. Lead a class discussion about learning to communicate. Have your students think back to when they were first learning to read (or if students are learning English as a second language, discuss these experiences). Was it difficult or easy for them to do? How did they learn what written words meant? Responses should include sounding words out, looking at pictures, looking at the context of the word.
  5. Introduce students to Alabama's quarter reverse, which is a part of the 50 State Quarters Program. If unfamiliar with this program, present students with basic background information, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the Alabama quarter reverse. Select a student to locate Alabama on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  6. With the students, examine the design on this coin's reverse. Point out the woman on the quarter's reverse and explore your students' knowledge about Helen Keller. Note: Depending on your students' background knowledge, you may need to explain that Helen Keller became deaf and blind from illness at extremely young age, before she had an opportunity to learn how to speak or read. She became well-known because she overcame these limitations and was able to communicate using her senses other than sight and hearing, and went on to help others to learn as well.
  7. Teachers may wish to adapt the 2003 Alabama lesson plan for grades 2-3 as an introduction to this activity.
  8. Distribute role cards to each research group and instruct each group to review and assign these roles amongst themselves (some of these roles may overlap depending on the size of the groups).
  9. Divide students into small groups (approximately 4-5 students per group) and distribute a "How We Communicate" worksheet to each group. Explain that in small groups they will be looking at different ways that people communicate.
  10. Allow students 10 to 15 minutes to discuss the ways in which people with different senses communicate. Have the group Recorder note the group responses.
  11. When students have completed their task, regroup as a class and invite each group's Reporter to share the information that his/her group listed in one of the chart areas.  After that group reports their information, ask if there were any additional ideas from the class.
    Note: Remember to discuss assistive technology that is designed to increase people's ability to communicate, including computer screen readers, screen magnifiers, speech synthesizers, alternative keyboards, and braille readers for the computer. Refer to adaptations made within the school environment, such as wheelchair ramps.
  12. On an enlarged, or overhead version of the "How We Communicate" worksheet, have the group's Recorder fill in the information as it is reported.

Session 2

  1. As a class, review the communication methods that they used during the previous session to complete the classroom chart. Students should mention that they both spoke and wrote their information.
  2. Explain that Helen Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, had to create a method of communication in order to "speak" with Helen by using the sense of touch. The students are now going to participate in different activity centers to explore the difficulty faced in using alternate senses to communicate. Students will then practice using different methods of communication to respond to what they experienced.
  3. Distribute copies of the "Personal Reflection" worksheet to each student.
  4. Divide students into 4 groups. Each group will be assigned an activity center to visit initially. Students will be given approximately 10 minutes to visit their first activity center. Once students have finished their activity they should take some time to answer the question that relates to the activity they have just completed. After 10 minutes students will be guided to move on to the next activity.
  5. Allow students time to complete any unfinished reflections begun while working in the activity centers.
  6. Once all written work has been completed, regroup the class and conduct a student lead discussion about their experiences at the activity centers. Review where they experienced difficulties and how they think their experiences would have been different if they had never been able to see or taught to read.
  7. In their writing journals, instruct students to reflect on what it must have felt like for Helen Keller as a child before she learned to communicate, and why they believe that Alabama chose to include the phrase "Spirit of Courage" alongside the image of Helen Keller on their quarter reverse.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Rather than through written word, invite students to reflect on the difficulties faced by Helen Keller through a different means. This could be through song, dance, pantomime, scripted acting, illustration, or other media type.
  • Allow students with language barriers to draw or dictate their responses to the center activity questions.


  • Students can develop a formal essay based on the reflections that they wrote in their journals. Students can carry this essay through each step of the writing process.
  • Invite students to make a literature connection to various forms of communication by reading an age-appropriate text, such as:
    • Communicating With Others by Stuart Schwartz
    • Handtalk School by Mary Beth Miller
    • Communication: Means and Technologies for Exchanging Information by Piero Ventura
  • Discuss the effect that missing the sense of hearing can have on one's ability tospeak.
  • Explore Helen Keller's later-life attempts to learn to speak.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Literature
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.