Building Student Vocabulary

It's inevitable. Students will complete assignments and work ahead of schedule, while others are still struggling to complete an assignment. This is one of the "laws of education." Even when we ask students to complete work for another class or read a book, what do they choose to do? Some choose to use this time ineffectively and inefficiently. Why not use this time as a time for enrichment?

If you are lucky enough to have a few extra computers in your classroom, you may want to use Your students are given the challenge of answering a variety of multiple choice questions about vocabulary. The questions appear on a note card, giving it a classroom feel. The site has built a database of over 40,000 words and you have options for narrowing your choices down or getting clues. As you compete, you can accumulate points, making it a competition.

If you create a username, you will be able to track your progress and see how your vocabulary develops. What a great way to practice for those darn standardized tests, while your students are waiting to progress.

Let Your Garden Grow Through Answer Garden!

Recently, a graduate student of mine introduced me to a site called Answer Garden, which is an online brainstorming tool. All you need is a question and computers for your students to use to answer! Answer Garden makes it easy to embed on your website or just provide a link for your students to access.

How do you use it?
  1. Visit Answer Garden and click Create Answer Garden
  2. In the Topic section that comes up, type your question. You may want to experiment with the More Options section, where you can add an administrative password or limit the number of answers.
  3. Click CREATE
  4. You will get a preview of your question. You may want to send the link to your students OR embed in your website.
  5. If you want to embed it in your website, simply scroll to the bottom of your page and click SHARE. Once you click SHARE, you will have the html code necessary to embed in your website.
How does this relate to UDL? Quite simply, it provides another means of engagement, by providing options for expression and communication. Students can brainstorm without needing a password or username! All they need is the link!

How could Answer Garden be used in my classroom? This would be an excellent tool to introduce a lesson or check for student understanding at the end of the day. In my UDL class, we used it as a way to check for student understanding. Students were asked to provide another word for UDL. What a great way to brainstorm without wasting paper!

Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression without "Technology"?

Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Every time I teach an audience about UDL, I always get the same question, "Do you have to use technology for UDL to work?" My answer is always, "No. It is just a tool in the UDL toolbox." Some of my participants cannot get past that.

Lately I have been thinking about ways to engage students without using technology. Here are some ideas:

1. Corner Quiz Activity

I enjoy giving my students statistics or trivia questions to ponder, during the beginning of a chapter or unit. Sometimes I would hand out a worksheet with questions and other times I would have the kids "shout" out answers on a PowerPoint. I always found something was missing. There were always those "quiet" or "shy" kids that just were not engaged. There were always the kids who just didn't want to "guess" an answer, because they would have to "erase it from their paper."

So I took a chapter out of Kagan and came up with the following idea :
  • I set up my room, so that each corner of the room was labeled with the letter A, B, C, and D.
  • I asked all of my kids to stand up. I explained to them that I would be putting a series of multiple choice questions on my projector (although you don't need this).
  • Students would have to read the question and walk to the corner of the room that contained the answer they agreed with.
At first, my students "followed" each other around the room, but something amazing began to occur. Students began to have fun and started to "take risks." This was a great way of having students interact with one another and explain their reasoning, while still being engaged.

2. Facebook without the Technology?

What is the first thing our kids do when they have a spare moment? They are either trying to text or check their Facebook status. Why not buy into their mindset? After being inspired by several teachers around the country, I decided to create a Facebook Profile template in Word for my kids to use for a project. I simply printed it out and gave it to my kids to use with their textbooks.

Students were asked to research a historical figure and fill out the Facebook profile for this person. Students were then asked to present their findings to classmates, which made way for a great discussion.

For a link to this template or more Facebook ideas go to:

Bot examples were amazing! Quite simply, we created multiple means of expression without the technology, but tapped into the wiring of our student's technological minds.

UDL Principle 2 - Providing Multiple Means of Representation through Google Docs

Google Docs have been around for a long time, but how do they relate to Universal Design for Learning ? Quite simply, they are an excellent way of providing multiple means of representation. Google Presentations are an excellent way to create an interactive note taking experience in your classroom because students are contributing to and interacting with the presentation. All you need is a few laptops for your students, a projector, and a little bit of prep time.

If I am teaching an introduction lesson, I often use a Google Presentation to get my students involved and introduced to the material. I have found that my students are more motivated when they can contribute to the information learned.

Step 1: Prepare the presentation. I organize the "title placeholder" of each slide with the name of the group (group 1, group 2, group 3, etc.). You will also want to have an essential question or questions on the slide, to direct students. I have found that fill in the blank questions work just as well.

Step 2: The KEY to Sharing Your Presentation. This is the most important step! Once you are finished, you will need to give permission for others to see and edit the presentation. This can be accomplished by clicking on the Sharing Settings Icon (lock icon) and choosing Anyone With Link Can Access.

You will also need to select Allow anyone to edit (no sign-in required), which will allow your students to access and edit the presentation without a Google account.

Step 3: Share.
It is important to have a central location to place the link for your students to access. This could take the place of a Wiki, Blog, Website, Email, etc. Without a central location, its very difficult for your students to participate.

Step 4: Time to Present! Break your students into groups of 2 - 3 to "research" answers. After about 10 minutes (depending on questions), its time to present. Have each group nominate a spokesperson to present material. Now you are ready to have your students "teach" the rest of the class. Give a group presentation, where you and the students are presenting material.

Personally, I have found that this activity effectively provides multiple means of representation. Students interact with the materials with technology and becoming "expert learners" with their subject / topic. It is estimated that we remember 90% of what we teach others. What a powerful statistic! They see course materials in a visual format. They "hear" course material through presentations. Why not give it a try?

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

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