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Special Traits

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Students will read an age-appropriate text to learn about the woman featured on Alabama’s quarter reverse, Helen Keller. They will use graphic organizers to record what they have learned about this woman.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


  • Students will read an age-appropriate text to learn about the woman featured on Alabama’s quarter reverse, Helen Keller.
  • They will use graphic organizers to record what they have learned about this woman.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Art
  • Science


  • Second grade
  • Third grade

Class Time

Sessions: Three
Session Length: 30-45 minutes
Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Writing to inform
  • The five senses

Terms and Concepts

  • Reverse (back)
  • Helen Keller
  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Character traits
  • Braille
  • Courage
  • Attributes/traits


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Alabama quarter reverse
  • 1 class map of the United States of America
  • 1 copy of an age-appropriate text that relates to the life of Helen Keller, such as:
    • Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark by Johanna Hurwitz
    • Young Helen Keller: Woman of Courage by Anne Benjamin
    • A Picture Book of Helen Keller by David A. Adler
    • Helen Keller (On My Own Biographies) by Jane Sucliffe
    • Helen Keller by Wendy Watson
    • Helen Keller: Crusader for the Blind and Deaf by Stewart and Polly Anne Graff
    • Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan: Working Miracles Together by Jon Zonderman
  • Chart paper
  • Copies of the “What’s in a Name?” worksheet
  • Coat hangers
  • String
  • 5-by-8-inch index cards (4 per student)
  • Markers, crayons, and/or colored pencils
  • Pencils


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Alabama quarter reverse.
  • Locate a text that relates to the life of Helen Keller (see examples under “Materials”).
  • Make copies of the “What’s in a Name?” worksheet (1 copy per student).

Worksheets and Files

Lesson plan, worksheet(s), and rubric (if any) at

Session 1

  1. Describe the 50 State Quarters® Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the Alabama quarter reverse. On a classroom map, have a pair of students locate Alabama. Note its position in relation to your school’s location.
  2. With the students, examine the design on this coin’s reverse. Ask students to point out what they see on this coin, paying particular attention to the relief of Helen Keller, the braille writing, and the words “Spirit of Courage.” Ask students if they know who the woman is on the coin.
  3. With the entire group, create a K-W-L chart to examine what students Know and Want to know about this courageous woman. Leave the Learn column empty for now.
  4. Select an appropriate children’s text about the life of Helen Keller and, as a group, preview the text and its illustrations. Invite students to generate predictions about what is occurring at different points in the story.
  5. Read this story as a group and attend to any unfamiliar vocabulary. Also, discuss what difficulties Helen had to face because she was not able to hear or see.
  6. As a class, complete the Learn column of the K-W-L chart.

Session 2 (and 3 if necessary)

  1. With the students, revisit the story about Helen Keller, referring to the K-W-L chart.
  2. Reflect on the words “Spirit of Courage” and discuss why the students think the state selected these words to include with the image of Helen Keller.
  3. Distribute the “What’s in a Name?” worksheet and discuss the difference between a physical trait and a character trait.
  4. Invite your students to reflect independently on some of the other character attributes of Helen Keller that made her such a memorable member of society. On the “What’s in a Name” worksheet, your students should list four different character traits and support their choices with sentences describing events from the story which impacted Helen’s development.
  5. Once students have completed this worksheet, explain that they will use this information to create a mobile which will graphically display the characteristics that they noted earlier.
  6. Each student should think of a symbol that relates to the event where each trait was demonstrated. For example, if one of the traits is “smart,” and the student wrote about the first time Helen Keller understood Anne Sullivan’s hand signs, the symbol for this encounter could be the water pump where this understanding took place. The students should each draw a picture of that image on one side of an index card.
  7. On the other side of the card, the students should copy the sentence that they wrote to describe that trait on their “What’s in a Name” worksheet. Model steps 4 to 7 for the students.
  8. Students will repeat these steps for all four of their character traits.
    Note: Once students have completed their work, punch a hole into the top of each card. Construct the mobiles, or have the students measure and cut string to assemble their own mobiles.
  9. Once all work has been completed, revisit the Alabama quarter and look at the words that say, “Spirit of Courage.” Discuss whether or not this is a phrase which adequately describes Helen Keller.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Print and enlarge clip art shapes of the students’ choice rather than having the student draw a symbol of their own. The can color and paste it to the first side of the drawing paper.
  • Have students work in pairs to determine character traits that best describe Helen Keller.


  • Students could perform the same tasks based on another courageous person whom they’ve read about, including Helen Keller’s teacher and friend, Anne Sullivan.
  • Invite students to discuss times when they have difficulty understanding, and what strategies they use to help ideas become clearer to them.

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

There are no related resources for this lesson plan.

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

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Applying Strategies to Text
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound–letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

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. 

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines
  • Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Personal health
  • Characteristics and changes in populations
  • Types of resources
  • Changes in environments
  • Science and technology in local challenges

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Use of Spoken, Written, and Visual Language
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

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

  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • help learners understand the concepts of role, status, and social class and use them in describing the connections and interactions of individuals, groups, and institutions in society
  • help learners analyze groups and evaluate the influences of institutions, people, events, and cultures in both historical and contemporary settings
  • help learners to understand the various forms institutions take, their functions, their relationships to one another and how they develop and change over time
  • assist learners in identifying and analyzing examples of tensions between expressions of individuality and efforts of groups and institutions to promote social conformity
  • help learners to describe and examine belief systems basic to specific traditions and laws in contemporary and historical societies
  • challenge learners to evaluate the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change
  • guide learner analysis of the extent to which groups and institutions meet individual needs and promote the common good in contemporary and historical settings
  • assist learners as they explain and apply ideas and modes of inquiry drawn from the behavioral sciences in the examination of persistent social issues and problems

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: People, Places, and Environment
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • Enable learners to use, interpret, and distinguish various representations of Earth such as maps, globes, and photographs, and to use appropriate geographic tools
  • Encourage learners to construct, use, and refine maps and mental maps, calculate distance, scale, area, and density, and organize information about people, places, regions, and environments in a spatial context
  • Help learners to locate, distinguish, and describe the relationships among varying regional and global patterns of physical systems such as landforms, climate, and natural resources, and explain changes in the physical systems
  • Guide learners in exploring characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • Have learners describe how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, current values and ideals, and government policies
  • Provide opportunities for learners to examine, interpret, and analyze interactions of human beings and their physical environments, and to observe and analyze social and economic effects of environmental changes, both positive and negative
  • Challenge learners to consider, compare, and evaluate existing uses of resources and land in communities, regions, countries, and the world
  • Direct learners to explore ways in which Earth’s physical features have changed over time, and describe and assess ways historical events have influenced and been influenced by physical and human geographic features