People-First Language

a project on Relative Clauses

If you’re unfamiliar with WebQuests, read this introduction first.

While disabilities and disorders aren’t commonly discussed, a considerable portion of people have or have had some sort of disorder/disability. Some are severe and noticeable, while others are more manageable and might be subtle or even hidden. Some psychological disorders are temporary. So chances are, you know multiple people who have (or had) some sort of disorder/disability.
Many groups that support persons with disabilities advocate for people-first language. For example, it’s better to say “a child with autism” than “an autistic child”. The idea is that the later expression seems to state an identity (‘autistic’ is a defining modifier), while the former expression conveys that autism is merely a condition that the child has (‘with autism’ is a describing modifier). People-first language takes the focus away from the disorder/disability and on the person, who has more traits than just this condition; they have talents, aspirations, relationships, interests, and so forth.
People-first language means that the modifier should come after the noun, which means that modifier is less likely to be an adjective word and more likely to be an adjective phrase (prepositional phrase) or an adjective clause, also known as a Relative Clause. While adjective phrases starting with ‘with’ are probably more common in this context, we’re going to take the opportunity to practice Relative Clauses.


Choose a Disorder/Disability to Learn About

First, have your students select a disorder/disability. They may choose to learn more about a condition that’s relevant to them; maybe they or their friend or a family member has a condition they’d like to learn about.

Here’s a list of ones to consider (although there are certainly more):

    • ADD/ADHD
    • Alcoholism
    • Autism Spectrum
    • Depression & Anxiety
    • Down Syndrome
    • Dyslexia
    • Hearing Disorders (e.g. Deafness)
    • Paralysis
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Visual Impairment (e.g. Blindness)


Do the Research

Take to the internet in search for answers to these questions:

  1. What are the defining characteristics of this disability/disorder?

  2. What percentage of the population (of you can find it, the population of your specific country) have this condition?

  3. Do people with this condition tend to form a community with other people with the same condition? If so, what are those communities like?

  4. What challenges do people with this disability/disorder face on a regular basis that they likely wouldn’t have to face otherwise?

  5. What are some positive ways to cope with this condition?

  6. What are some common misconceptions that the greater public holds about this disorder/disability?

  7. How are some ways that friends and family members can support persons with this disability/disorder?


Interview Someone (optional)

If your students know someone who has the disorder/disability they’re learning about, they can ask that person if they wouldn’t mind talking about their condition. If they’d like to, students could ask a few questions, but perhaps a better approach would be for that person to share whatever they’d like to share. This may be an opportunity for them to share their own thoughts and feelings instead of simply receiving whatever expectations other people sometimes place on them.


Present Your Findings

Students can now share what they’ve learned with the class, using Relative Clauses where it makes sense. As usual, you the teacher may choose for them to write a small report, or create a poster, or give a 3-minute talk, or whatever other presentation mode you like. In addition to hitting the points, students should also share the thing they’ve learned that surprised them the most.


Students should keep in mind that these can be sensitive topics for some people. One goal of this project is to raise students’ awareness and help them be mindful of these things, but before they begin they should know to choose their words carefully and consider the feelings of others. Also, keep in mind that the situations that people with disorders are in are a lot more complex than what your students can see.

Furthermore, some groups or individuals choose not to use people-first language. The deaf community as a whole, for instance, prefers the terms ‘deaf person’ or ‘hard of hearing person’. As you and your students interact with disabled persons (or ‘people with disabilities’), it may be a good idea to ask what terminology they prefer, or at least pay attention to which terminology they themselves use.

Finally, while disorders/disabilities are generally viewed in a negative light, some of them are considered to have a positive side by people who have them, or by their loved ones. Depending on who you talk to, this doesn’t have to be a somber topic!

For more on Relative Clauses, check out our Modifier Clauses Series. Relative Clauses serve as adjectives, except they go after the noun they’re modifying. One way to think about creating Relative Clauses is by merging two sentences into one. This can be done in just four steps! Watch the video to see the details. You can even go beyond the video with printouts, slideshows, and grammar guidebooks, all designed to help teachers better reach their students!

Get more with Insider Access


Advanced Features in Student Projects

search and filter

planning info


Extra Video Content

more How-to-Teach grammar videos*

with intros, instructions, and summaries

*compared to free resources


Exclusive Supplemental Resources


posters & handouts

bonus notes


For the Good

This project is for practicing ADVERBIAL CLAUSES. Students engage in a webquest to learn more about an activism event or campaign, building awareness of social, environmental, or economical causes while practicing grammar!

Read More »

Create a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story

This project is for practicing CONDITIONALS. Create a number of scenarios, each of which leads to two others. When you’ve finished, readers can choose which path they want to take, and by the end their story experience will be different from others.

Read More »

Careful What You Wish for

This project is for practicing WISHES & REGRETS. Students create a scenario in which a wish comes true! But the main character is never satisfied an wishes for more. Only the students can decide if the character eventually learns to be content.

Read More »

Closed Captioning

Writing Subtitles or CCs for a short video can be a great way for students to pay more attention to sentence structure, including identifying phrases and clauses. It may also be good for vocab exposure.

Read More »

Natural Disasters

This project is for practicing ACTIVE & PASSIVE ADJECTIVES. Students learn about and compare different natural disasters, including what causes them and the effect they have on the world. This project is mostly done as a giant class discussion.

Read More »

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on reddit
Share on stumbleupon
Share on linkedin
Share on email