When deciding what kind of resources to include, we as teachers often look for resources that match the needs of our students. In the 21st century, the resources are vast but a new lens has emerged as more ideas, online and print resources at teacher’s fingertips: how to ensure that ALL of our students’ needs are met. How to find resources and materials that under the UDL guidelines allow us to truly reach ALL students, no just the ones that learn at the pace we teach but the ones who struggle with dyslexia, ADHD, the ones who have low vision or are blind, the ones who are hard of hearing or deaf, the ones whose English is not their first language and must rely on translation constantly?
Over the course of the week I have been working on a lesson that I am revamping to include more 21st century skills and allows my students to get more in depth with the information and allows for independence and choice when it comes to learning and presenting information. The original lesson based on 6th grade social studies standard 6.2.3 which compares the relationship between ancient egyptian religion with social and political order. Under this standard, the original lesson that I used to do was mainly make a mummy out of paper mache and cover a shoebox with construction paper and draw hieroglyphical symbols. For the most part, it was a project that took days and whose main chunk of grading was based on whether it was done on time or not.
In revamping my lesson plan, several ideas came to mind:
- Include opportunities for students to explore online resources and learn about the mummification process from a video, an interactive, a museum website and a matching game
- Include a presentation tool that will allow students to demonstrate connections between key ideas about ancient egypt religion, their views about after life and how that shaped their society
- An opportunity to review each other’s presentation using a rubric and turning it in as part of their grade
After this assignment was done, we were given the opportunity to meet via online with other members of our class and read each other’s papers. We gave feedback based on whether or not each other’s papers met the criteria on the included rubric. We discussed the strengths of each other’s work and what would be good to expand on. Because we were an odd number of classmates, I was able to give and receive feedback from 2 people. This opportunity to share and discuss each other’s paper was valuable because it gave us a chance to see what others had done, how similar or not similar was it to the rest of the class and how well we were able to first of all grade our own paper and then comment on the grade that they gave to their paper. The conversations were honest, conducive to learning and we all agreed that the forms of critique were very helpful.
Newly Informed Eyes
After the week’s readings about Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, Section 508 and resources that followed the Universal Design for Learning, much of what we thought we knew becomes apparent that we didn’t. One of the conversations in our Discussion Board included analyzing whether or not teaching with 21st century resources, teaching 21st century learners gets us closer to meeting the needs of students with disabilities and students whose English is not their first language and unanimously we all agreed that more than ever we are getting closer to achieve the gap. As long as teachers maintain their focus, become professionally developed in specific learning skills/platforms/strategies that help this new kind of learner and most importantly, that teachers meet the challenge with good attitude and seeing themselves as life-long learners.
Coming back to my lesson, I see several aspects of it that help being compliant with ADA and UDL guidelines. For example, on day 1, students are given the links and time to access the video, interactive and matching game as many times as needed before answering their digital vocabulary page. Also the video included is closed captioned meaning that students who may be deaf or hard of hearing can read the subtitles as they watch the video. On days 4 and 5, students are able to choose which presentation tool to use and whether they want to speak in front of the camera or type up a presentation.
I think the biggest take-away from this week’s readings is that we need to be aware of the laws that surround several of our students. It is simply not enough attending IEP meetings and meeting with the case carrier of our RSP students. It is not enough providing certain modifications, we need to be proactive in creating lessons that meet the needs of ALL of our students and we need to do it as of yesterday.