Reading Assignments the #UDL Way: Creating Meaning and Interaction (Part 3)

Over the past several posts, I have talked about how to use low-tech and high-tech options to create "UDL-friendly" reading assignments. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Step 1: Have a central location to place all of your supports in one easy-to-find place. LiveBinders is a great way of helping keep everything organized and together!
Step 4: Engage Students Differently to Find Meaning 

Reading an assignment is one thing, but comprehending what you have read is totally different. We all have ways of structuring reading assignments. Some of us use discussion protocols like the 4 A's model. Some of us have students take notes. Others like to use graphic organizers. All of these options are appropriate and help our students make meaning of an assignment. 

In this example, I had my students read an article called "A Tale of 2 Cultures," which discussed the differences between Enron and Zappos. Obviously there are some major differences between these two companies, so I had my students take notes using a Venn Diagram. When it is appropriate and available, I give my students the option of using technology to complete this part of the assignment. I used Read-Write-Think's Venn Diagram Maker. My students absolutely loved it! They took notes and had the option of printing out their diagram or saving it as a PDF. 

Technology is a great tool to use to engage our students; however, not all students feel comfortable using it all of the time. Sometimes they want to have options. With this is mind, I want to give my students low-tech options. I give them a paper copy of a Venn Diagram or I give them post-it notes. Why post-it notes? 

They were able to write down the characteristics of each company as they read. Then they were able to arrange them as a Venn Diagram on their desk and take a picture of it to turn in. They could arrange it on a wall in the classroom or they could arrange their ideas on a blank sheet of paper. The point is, each type of learner was doing the same thing, but in a different way. 

They had the option of interacting with content in a way that was comfortable for them. Obviously we don't always have this option; however, choice has a major impact on learning (when appropriate). 

Step 5: Show What You Know

When students are finished with the article and we have had time to analyze the objectives of the assignment, it is time for them to show what they know. I like to use Padlet as a way for students to answer the essential question of the lesson. 

With Padlet, students are able to create electronic post-it notes without a username or password. Students sometimes have to answer the question in a sentence or two. Sometimes they have to respond to other classmates. Sometimes they have the option of creating their response in another program and attaching the file or URL to the post-it note. The idea is to have them create meaning in different ways and share that meaning with their classmates!

What Does it Look Like? 

I know that you have been anxious to see what this looks like. Attached is the link to my LiveBinder. You will notice that I do not have an actual link to the audio file (as of today) because its currently under construction! However, all of the other links are in place. Feel free to use this model when you are creating reading assignments. 

I have notice that it has changed the way that my students read and comprehend information. They are more engaged, there is less complaining, and comprehension levels have significantly increased!

Do you have other UDL ideas? Please feel free to share. Comment below or send me an email!  


  1. Thanks, Matt, for sharing your thoughts on keeping students engaged in reading. You have provided a number of good ideas for teachers to consider as they design assignments.

    I also wonder... how might we teach students to use the affordances of digital devices, especially e-readers, to stay more engaged in the process. How might they use, for instance, the search, highlighting, and dictionary features? What are your thoughts on those tools?

    Thanks again for pointing me to your blog!


    1. Troy,

      First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my blog! I am a big fan of using the tools in Adobe to have kids take notes, highlight information, etc. I think that we have to teach them how to use it in creative ways, rather than expecting them to know how to use it. Many teachers assume that our kids know how to use these tools, when they don't.

      You could also use a social bookmarking site like Diigo also allow you to make highlights, comments, etc. through a browser. Have you ever used it before?


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