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Shoptalk: Coming Out Of Their Shells

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In Highland Park, Ill., teacher Beverly Grabow's students also recognized those familiar names. But many, she says, did not know that Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, and Leonardo were also real people, brilliant artists who lived long, long ago. So Grabow, a teacher of learning disabled students at two elementary schools--Braeside and Sherwood-- turned to turtle power to drive home a lesson in basic research.

Grabow made line drawings of the turtles suitable for coloring, then photocopied them. She offered to give them out to her students, on one condition. "It was an easy assignment,'' she says. "Go to an encyclopedia and come back and write a report-- five to 10 sentences--telling me about one of these artists. For my students, it was exciting to find out that these were real people.''

And at least two of these reports turned up information that meant quite a lot to a learning disabled child.

"One of my students, a 5th grader, found out that Leonardo wrote his notes in mirror writing,'' she says. "That was very interesting to this child, because when he was in 1st grade, he wrote backwards, too. Today, we don't know how dyslexic Leonardo was, but we think he was. And a girl, also in 5th grade, found out that Michelangelo didn't get along with other students. In fact, somebody broke his nose as a child. This girl also doesn't get along well with other kids. That was so exciting for her.''

rabow followed up by displaying many of the turtle sketches colored by her students, which was also a source of pride. "They learned that research can be part of their LD experiences,'' she says. "And later, when they have to do a research paper in 6th or 7th grade, it won't be such a scary thing.''

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