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A Tree in Fall: Art Lesson Plan for Students with Special Needs

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 10/16/2013

This is the perfect fall project to do with students of various ages and abilities. Read below to discover the lesson plan along with some teaching tips for doing doing art projects with students with disabilities.

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    Creating a Leaf-by-Leaf Tree

    The leaf-by-leaf tree project is one in which every student can participate. This activity can also be modified for adults with physical, perceptual, and intellectual disabilities. Students who cannot color within the lines do not have to worry because the leaves are cut out. Those who cannot use adapted scissors can receive help from those who can. This project teaches overlapping and mixing colors.

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    Supplies Needed

    • Downloaded single leaf outlines
    • Brown craft paper or brown paper bags
    • Crayons – thick ones are easier to grasp
    • Felt-tipped markers
    • Scissors - loop scissors work well with limited fine motor control
    • Masking tape
    • Paint, cloth, and any other media
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    Making the Tree

    To begin, students should make marks on the leaf outlines with markers. Then, students should color over these marks with crayons. Remind students that it is fine if they cannot color within the lines because the leaves will be cut out. To make the trunk of the tree, use loops of tape (sticky-side out) to stick brown craft paper or brown paper bags on the wall.

    Cut out the leaves and decide where to place each leaf. Deciding as a group promotes group communication and cooperation. The tree can be as large or as small as time, energy, and class size permits!

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    Teaching Tips

    Below are some general tips for working on art projects for children and adults with disabilities.

    • All students will be able to participate in some sort of art-making activity. Creating art gives students a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. Just be sure to select projects carefully. Gear all activities to students’ abilities.
    • Flexibility is key. Do not stick to the rules ("Don't make a mess," "Sit up straight") all of the time.
    • Smooth papers or rough handmade papers also help students with visual impairments.
    • Scented markers encourage sensory awareness – and fun!
    • Have "big paper" available for large hand and arm movements.
    • Tape paper to tables to prevent it from moving.
    • Put crayons, markers, and other supplies in containers that do not move – or break.
    • Finger paint is a great tactile material.
    • Building objects is a great way for students to gain a sense of accomplishment. Work as a team with bits of wood, mat board, and cardboard, gluing pieces together. Students with visual impairments can feel their creations evolve.
    • Modeling materials such as clay or homemade dough work well with children who have visual impairments or those who have limited fine motor control.
    • Remember – breathe deeply!