An Unusual Brain

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SWBAT further understand the unique human brain by watching the documentary "The Real Rainman," and taking notes that activate prior knowledge.

Big Idea

What makes the human brain unique? Today students watch a documentary that explores the mystery of the savant brain.

Independently Complete Author's Purpose Activity

20 minutes

This lesson carries over from the previous day's lesson. Students should complete their author's purpose sheets independently, putting the final touches on their work and proofreading. I often like for students to revisit their work after twenty-four hours have passed, in order to look at their writing with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here is a student sample: Student Samples: Author's Purpose.

Afterwards, as a whole group, we wrap up the central idea of the article and the main differences between this article's tone and the previous author's tone. When using Newsela, it is important to note that although the articles are all slightly different based on Lexile, their central ideas remain the same, making them perfect for whole group wrap-up.

Independent Reading/Conferring/Homework Check-In

15 minutes

Whenever possible, I begin my lessons with silent, independent reading. During this time, I actively monitor their reading progress by checking their out-of-class reading logs and engaging in reading conferences that cover a variety of topics.


To find ways to enact this section, please see my strategy folder.

Documentary Viewing & Note Taking

35 minutes

As a class, we watch and take notes on "The Real Rainman," the story of Kim Peek, using the Film Note Worksheet. The movie "Rainman" with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, was based on Peek's life. Peek shares many qualities as someone with autism, and it is good for kids to observe his behaviors in the documentary. However, it is important to note that Kim Peek did not have autism; he was a savant.

I use the YouTube version, click here to watch.

Here are some student sample film note sheets:

Student Sample: Film Notes

Student Sample: Film Notes "The Real Rainman"

As we watch, I pause periodically, especially when the narrator gets into detailed information about the inner workings of the human brain.