Saturday, March 19, 2011

Providing Multiple Means of Engagement

If you are a teacher in the era of accountability, then you know what pressure feels like. In Pennsylvania, this week has been devoted to our PSSA test for most students in elementary, middle and high school. We are pressured to get students from point A to point B. Many educators feel pressured and feel that creativity has been extinguished from their lesson plans. Yet we can give students opportunities to be creative, by giving opportunities for students to make choices. WE need to get from point A to point B, but how you get there could be a choice. Let's be real, this cannot happen all of the time, but it can help students learn better.

Think about a mall. If you were to enter a mall, you may have a choice, to walk through the automatic doors or manually open a door. You may enter the mall and have a choice, take the steps or use a ramp. As you are walking through the mall, you realize that you want to visit your favorite store on the 2nd floor. You may have a choice: take the escalator or elevator. Our students come to our rooms with different abilities. No two students learn the same way, yet we have to teach with the same standards.

Recently, I designed a project for my kids to design an office space, by creating floor plans, measuring square footage, and measuring dimensions. I gave my kids several options to complete the task: draw by hand, create in Microsoft Word, Paint, or use a new program called Floor Designer.


Floor Designer is a unique program that allows students to design a floor plan, while learning mathematical concepts and taking measurements. What a unique idea or tool to use for a geometry unit! What a great tool to use to problem solve! What a great tool to use for solving a word problem! Floor Designer is free and easy to use. In fact, you can sign in if you have a Gmail, Yahoomail, or Open ID account.

Giving students options may not always work out. For example, students may not have a choice when completing a multiple choice test or creating a written essay. Universal Design for Learning - Principal III emphasizes giving students choices through multiple means of engagement. When students have choices, they tend to learn better.

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