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.

Multiple Means of Expression through Google

Principle 1 of Universal Design for Learning states that all students need "Multiple Means of Representation" in learning. One emphasis of Principal 1 is providing students with options for perception. To get all students from point A to point B, we may have to offer different options to achieve the same objective. Some students are more visual. Some students are more auditory. Some students are more tactile.

Using the Internet to conduct research is becoming an everyday norm in our classrooms today. Where do most of us turn? Google. Google offers many unique tools to customize the display of information and is very UDL friendly.

  • Reading Levels: For example, if you are simply conducting a search for "Abe Lincoln," use the Advanced Search options to filter results by reading level. Simply choose "Annotate Results by Reading Level" and you will see a breakdown according to reading level.

  • Wonder Wheel and Time Line: For your visual learners, you may want to break things down with the Wonder Wheel or Time Line. Each offer excellent visual alternatives. The Wonder Wheel breaks your search down and offers different alternatives for searching, in a brainstorming web format. The Time Line is exactly what it is...a time line, where search results are organized according to date.

Google According to Reading Level?

Did you realize that Google allows you to search according to reading level? Neither did I. Here is a great link from Tammy's Tech Tip of the Week on how to do so:

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While ...