Providing Multiple Means of Representation

Imagine teaching a group of students about Lobsters. Many of them may have come from different backgrounds, where they may have never seen one before. We know from brain research that to actually learn material, we need to give our students opportunities to connect with it in different ways. How do you do it?

Providing students with multiple ways of representing material (Principle 1 of UDL) is all about giving students a chance to connect with material via their senses.  Here are some of the key ingredients:

• options that customize the display of information
• options that provide alternatives for auditory information
• options that provide alternatives for visual information

How would a typical UDL lesson about lobsters works? As your students begin shuffling into the room, you try activating your student's prior knowledge, by asking your students to get out their notebooks and write down 3 facts about lobsters. Many of your auditory learners hate this activity, because they hate writing. As your students finish you ask them to share their answers with a partner. After a brief discussion, you transition into a quick vocabulary lesson about the different parts of a lobster.

Students read a section of their textbook to find the answers, however, you have obtained physical and electronic copies for your students to use. You love the flexibility! Jimmy loves the opportunity to zoom in and see the text better, because of his vision impairment. Suzy likes zooming in so that she can concetrate on one sentence at a time. Bobby likes clicking on the vocabulary hyperlinks and listening to the proper pronunciation of the word.

You provide students with a worksheet, which asks for students to record a definition, synonym, and draw a picture of what the vocabulary word means. This twist on vocabulary allows your students to connect with vocabulary on several different levels. Your visual learners love the opportunity to draw lobster claws, tails, and eyes!

It's time to discuss the material. You have arranged an opportunity for the local grocery store manager to bring in a lobster this day. As you are going through the vocabulary terms, the students are identifying the parts on a real life lobster!

This is just a quick example that I came up with, but realize that you need to provide students with multiple ways to connect with material. Simply lecturing and then giving students a worksheet doesn't always work! Our goal is to create expert learners, who are able to connect and learn from material in different ways!

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