Tag: pedagogy

Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

What Is It?

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework was created by research organization CAST. UDL helps educators approach their teaching to meet the needs of all learners. The idea is that while the classroom environment may be the same, the learning experience of each student within the classroom should not be.

There are three fundamental guidelines in UDL, and the key idea behind each of the three big umbrellas is designing for multiple means.

Multiple Means Of:

  • Engagement: capitalizing on student interests and motivations
  • Representation: presenting and providing content to promote higher-level thinking
  • Action & Expression: allowing students to demonstrate and apply learning actively

Why Do It?

Outcomes of UDL

UDL done well benefits everyone. In a UDL classroom:

  • All students are clear on the learning outcomes
  • Multiple options for learning are available to all (through intentional planning)
  • Students have access to supports and resources throughout their learning (not only at the beginning, or at test time)
  • Students build their own knowledge, internalize it, and are able apply learning and see its applications to the real world

You can read more at CAST, and with a post from Understood. Below are tips for applying those principles in the design of your remote classroom.

Engagement

Capitalize on Student Interests and Motivation

We know when students are connected to the content, they are more engaged learners. In UDL, engagement involves capturing student interests, clearly defining learning outcomes, fostering collaboration, and self-assessment. See our posts Teaching Responsively and How are You Doing? for more on connecting with students.

Remote Engagement Tools for Synchronous Instruction

There are absolutely times when you need to be face-to-face with your students. There are times when direct instruction is needed. Even so, be cautious your online instruction isn’t always active teacher lecture and passive student learning. Try some of these tools to spice up your direct instruction and keep engagement high:

  • Games: Games just make everything more fun! Reading a nonfiction text becomes more engaging when it’s a scavenger hunt. Learning multiplication facts is more fun as a card game. And a little healthy competition with the teacher is always a engaging! See our post on Games for more ideas.
  • Interactive Slide Presentations: Student visuals are key, and it isn’t just because you can’t always count on your sparkly personality to hold the room. Visuals provide students with something to connect with as they are learning. Ask questions, play games, involve students in the teaching. See our posts on Presentations and Student Visuals for more tips.
  • Access: This would make me cringe too. But when you do present in real time, think about recording your lessons. This allows kids to go back and watch anything confusing. Did you know Google has a closed-captioning feature? Turn this on help support the processing of new information.
Remote Engagement Tools for Asynchronous Instruction

One benefit of asynchronous learning is that it allows students to move at their own pace. This frees you up to support and challenge individual students throughout. Many parent and educators are reticent about this form of instruction because it feels like without a teacher, how can students be learning?

Intentional Planning

But the beauty of asynchronous learning is that the teacher is very much still there. They just aren’t using precious time to stare at kids working independently. The teacher has designed lessons allowing students to show what they know, is giving individual guidance, AND collecting assessment data to plan and refine future teaching.

  • Screencastify: This is an incredibly easy to use tool to create narrated demonstrations and videos to accompany your slide presentations. It works with Google Chrome and the free version is solid. (More on that in the V is for Video post coming soon!)
  • KWL Charts: One of our favorite standbys, the KWL Chart, can easily be done in remotely. See our KWL post for ideas and tips.
  • Google Slides: We’ve sung the praises and versatility of slides in many of our posts, but one tip we haven’t mentioned is the ability to add videos (yours or someone else’s). You can even share these slides in present mode to students, building in pauses to solicit responses or give a task along the way.
  • Hyperdocs: These online tools have the principles of UDL built in. With Hyperdocs, students move at their own pace. They also explore material designed specifically to move them through the learning process. See our post on Explorations for more tips.
  • EdPuzzle: This is a nifty tool for using video for self-paced learning that also allows teachers to track views, narrate, and add questions. (Again, you’ll have to wait for V for more!)
  • Wonderopolis: This amazing program builds on students’ natural curiosity and is an excellent lesson starter to get students asking questions and seeking answers.

Representation

Provide Content to Promote Higher-level Thinking

Now students are thoroughly hooked, but we still have to teach them something! Research tells us this involves a combination of varied content, opportunities for inquiry, and student choice to construct knowledge. (See our post on Rigor for more information.) The UDL framework emphasizes rich content and rigorous tasks that encourage choice, critical thinking and comprehension, as well as ensuring access for all.

Remote Representation:
  • Student Choice: Student Menus and Choice Boards have been around for a long time. We like to use the Google Gameboard (pictured above) for a visually appealing option.
  • Real World Connections: Many websites have been stepping up to provide students with a ways to connect with the real world. The Smithsonian provides amazing virtual tours, and apps like Google Expeditions even incorporate VR into the mix. Here’s a roundup of 25 Ideas from We Are Teachers.
  • Newsela: If you don’t know about Newsela, stop reading and go there now! (Just kidding, go there after!) Newsela has tons of student-friendly, current event articles and ability to vary by grade/Lexile level within an article. It’s amazing!
  • Listenwise: Similar idea as Newela, but Listenwise adds the component of auditory comprehension. They offer podcasts and narration, as well as listening assessments.
  • Infographics: There so much learning in teaching students to read infographics. There’s even more learning in students creating them! (Think about how much synthesis, data, and visual representation goes into making one.) Programs like Canva, Easelly, and Venngage can help.

Action & Expression

Demonstrate and Apply Learning Actively

Even in a remote classroom, we can still provide students with ways to apply learning and show what they know. In UDL, we want students to communicate their learning, apply it, and reflect on it strategically.

  • Multimedia Presentations: Presentations are a natural tool for demonstrating learning in this environment. Be careful: without explicit parameters, the learning can be lost. See our post for how to support both the presenter and the audience for maximum learning.
  • Kahoot! I love the quiz program Kahoot! for all ages. It’s engaging, easy to use, and students can respond using any device.
  • Video Response: While I do suspect we’re going to see a little video fatigue soon, in this environment video is another way to everyone to connect. Programs like Flipgrid and SeeSaw are really useful for this.
  • Peardeck: This program works with Google Slides and also allows for videos, narration, and creation of formative assessment.
  • Socrative: Secondary teachers love this program for quick assessments and feedback.

In a remote world, teacher time is an even greater commodity that it used to be. In the end, designing UDL lessons can free you up to support the needs of your individual students. Time well spent!

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Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Culturally responsive teaching was not the norm when I was in school.

Back in the dark ages, I was one of a handful of Asian students in my entire elementary school. When Chinese New Year came around, my teachers would get my classmate Monica and me involved in a project related to the holiday.

This project was inevitable coloring the Chinese characters for Happy New Year, or making paper lanterns. We would also teach the class how to say Gung Hay Fat Choy, even though that phrase is Cantonese and I spoke Mandarin at home. (Poor Monica had even less investment in these projects; she’s Japanese and her family didn’t celebrate Lunar New Year!) Eventually, Monica and I learned that these projects were our cultural contributions to our classroom. Yet we did it, because we didn’t want to disappoint our teachers.

Yay! We’ve Evolved!

Thankfully, teaching has evolved considerably since I was in school. In addition, the research and resources available around anti-bias education, culturally responsive teaching, and inclusion in schools is abundant and readily available.

Reflecting today, all my elementary school teachers were kind, well-meaning, hard working educators. I believe they truly wanted to include my culture and background into the classroom. They just weren’t entirely able to do it as sensitively and responsively as I now would have hoped, and I didn’t have the language to ask for it.

Luckily, today I do have that language, and I want to share it with you.

It Starts with YOUR Mindset

A responsive classroom in any environment (virtual or traditional) starts with teacher mindset. Culturally responsive educators embrace and value student backgrounds, interests, and experiences. They see what students bring to the table as assets and not deficits.

Responsive teachers understand the importance of including student lives and perspectives in teaching–not only in certain months or around certain holidays–but every single day. They recognize that this attention to students fosters inclusion, respect, and empowerment.

YOU Make a Difference

First and foremost, I hope you never lose sight of just how much power and influence you have on a young mind, even if at times it may seem like none of your little minds are paying attention. (Believe me, my son is fourteen. I know how it feels.)

One teacher can change the course of a person’s life. If you don’t believe me, this Ted Talk from my good friend and hero, Dr. Victor Rios, will convince you. Dr. Rios dedicated his career to prevent society from labeling students as “at-risk,” and instead to see all young people as “at-promise.” Why? Because one special teacher did it for him.

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

Dr. Victor Rios
Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

I’ve included a transcript excerpt below, but you truly have to listen. It is a must-watch for any educator. Trust me, it is well worth 12 minutes of your life.

From: Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

The reason I’m here today is because a teacher that cared reached out and managed to tap into my soul. This teacher, Ms. Russ … she was the kind of teacher that was always in your business. 

She was the kind of teacher that was like, “Victor, I’m here for you whenever you’re ready.” 

I wasn’t ready. But she understood one basic principle about young people like me. We’re like oysters. We’re only going to open up when we’re ready, and if you’re not there when we’re ready, we’re going to clam back up. Ms. Russ was there for me. She was culturally relevant, she respected my community, my people, my family. 

I told her a story about my Uncle Ruben. He would take me to work with him because I was broke, and he knew I needed some money. He collected glass bottles for a living. Four in the morning on a school day, we’d throw the glass bottles in the back of his van, and the bottles would break. And my hands and arms would start to bleed and my tennis shoes and pants would get all bloody. I was terrified and in pain, and I would stop working. 

My uncle, he would look me in the eyes and he would say to me, “Mijo, estamos buscando vida.”

 “We’re searching for a better life, we’re trying to make something out of nothing.” 

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

(reprinted with permission from the author)


In Your Classroom

There is so much research on diversity, inclusion, and culturally relevant teaching available. So much, it cannot be contained in a single post. But I did want to get you thinking, so I’ve culled and summarized some of the important points.

Food for Thought

This list isn’t meant to be a checklist, because that implies at some point you can be finished with an item and cross it off your list. Instead, these are reminders for your planning at all times. When you ask yourself these questions, consider your classroom environment, your daily routines and structures, and even your individual lessons and tasks.

How am I creating a structure in my classroom that…

  • Builds relationships: Get to know your students, and let them get to know you. (See our How are You Doing? post for more resources). Conduct interest surveys and interviews. Use the information you learn to incorporate student interests and lives.
  • Makes problems relevant & provides context: Consider and explain how your lessons apply directly to student interests and experiences. Encourage discussion, analysis of bias, and sharing of multiple perspectives (see our post on Rigor for more examples.)
  • Allows for more than one way to achieve: Remember, there is never one singular right way to teach or learn something. Allow students to demonstrate understanding and mastery in multiple ways. Try projects that incorporate art, multimedia, games, physical expression. You may just discover hidden talents you wouldn’t have through traditional assessment methods!
  • Is student-centered: We say student-centered a lot these days, but in a true student-centered classroom tasks are designed to allow maximum choice and access to content. Provide students with many opportunities to explore and express their values. Also, when finding and creating content (text, videos, articles, even story problems), let your students see themselves reflected in that content.
  • Teaches and fosters true collaboration: In true collaboration activities, tasks cannot be completed without the work of every member. (See more in our Collaboration post). Avoid those activities that let one or two students do all the work while the rest of the team is on the sidelines. Instead, offer tasks that encourage students to grapple with multiple perspectives and seek consensus for their team projects, rather than .
  • Involves families and community voices: Think about your most and least engaged families. Consider the barriers that your least engaged families may face in connecting fully with the school system. What ways you can chip away at those barriers? Bring in guest speakers that represent your students and your community.

Resources for Culturally Responsive Practices

To learn more, here are a few places to get you started:

We hope this is helpful! If you have a website or resource recommendation, please leave us a comment so we can add it to our list!

Remote Learning A-Z: R is for Rigor

Remote Learning A-Z: R is for Rigor

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I know, I know. It’s hard to think about rigor when you can’t even get your WiFi to work reliably or your students to learn how to mute themselves. But in my trolling of social media, I find this term being used more frequently, usually in complaints about remote teaching and learning. The idea of rigor is not new, but like many terms it’s become a victim of misuse.

What It Is

Simply put, rigor not what you assign, it’s what students do. In your classroom (virtual or otherwise), that means students:

  • construct meaning for themselves
  • engage in activities that encourage multiple solutions, problem solving, inquiry, and deep thinking
  • integrate new skills into learned processes
  • apply their learning to new situations and contexts

Why it Still Matters

Rigor results in resilient students that can problem solve, adopt multiple perspectives, be creative, and think critically. So I’d argue that in whatever education environment we are in, rigor always matters.

What Rigor Isn’t

Sometimes the easiest way to understand something is to think about what it isn’t. One of my favorite educational sources, TeachThought, put out a post many years ago called 7 Myths About Rigor in the Classroom that sums up all our misconceptions about rigor beautifully. The full article is definitely worth a read, but I’ve outlined the bullet points and added my own two cents.

In short, rigor is not:

  • Tons of homework: There’s been a lot of backlash on homework in the past years, and with good reason. But homework isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s about what you’re assigning and the purpose behind the assignment. Homework for homework’s sake is not rigorous. And twenty pages of homework without purpose is most definitely not.
  • Doing more: Rigor isn’t about piling on. It isn’t about pulling out all the bells and whistles; a rigorous assignment can often be a single, thought-provoking question or task. More assignments, activities, and tasks doesn’t equate rigor.
  • Just for some students: All students benefit from rigorous activities, even though what constitutes rigor can differ from student to student. Don’t reserve your rigor for only the high achievers.
  • Learning without support or scaffolding: All of us, even as adults, need support from experts when learning new material. Students are no different. When you provide a complex text to read or problem to solve, provide scaffolds to help tackle them too.
  • More stuff: In the history of education, there has never been a single book, program, curriculum, or website that was the magical answer to everything. It isn’t about adding more stuff, it’s about looking at what you have and seeing how it can be tweaked to make it more rigorous.
  • Standards alone: Standards tell us what to teach, not how. While standards are more rigorous these days, you can still teach them without any rigor behind the instruction.
  • One more thing: In teaching, almost everything seems like one more thing. But rigor, done right, is taking what you’re already doing and asking it in a different way.

Supporting Rigor in Any Classroom

While it’s challenging enough to plan for virtual learning, here things to keep in mind to get the most out of your lessons.

Always Consider Application

“When will I ever use this in my life?” moaned every one of us at one point or another in school. It’s a valid question, and one that deserves an answer. Take time to answer that question yourself each time you launch a unit, and find opportunities to share that information with students.

Employ Design Thinking

In STEM, and project based learning you hear a lot about design thinking. Essentially, this is the process of coming up with an idea, testing that idea, failing miserably, reviewing why, and trying again with a modified design.

Design thinking teaches students how to persevere, take risks, and problem solve. It should also not be limited to science and engineering classes. When you are planning your lessons, ask yourself how you can build in opportunities to test, fail, and try again. Hint: this is best achieved with open-ended tasks and questions rather than closed ones (see below).

Design Up the Ladder

When I say “up the ladder,” I really mean any framework: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, the SAMR model, The Rigor Relevance Framework. In essence, all of these models are fundamentally saying the same thing: create more tasks that move students from rote memorization to analysis and application.

Important Note

It’s key to remember these models aren’t saying every single thing you teach must be at the top of the framework. Students need to memorize, summarize, and identify as part of learning. We just don’t want them to only be doing those tasks.

So, just pick a ladder and go up it.

Revising for Rigor

Here are some commonly used practices and ideas for how to revise for rigor, all which can be accomplished in a remote environment:

  • True/False and Multiple Choice Questions: State what makes the incorrect answers wrong. Rewrite false questions to make them true. Make more than one answer correct, or no answers correct and have students tell you why.
  • Completing a Chart: Mix up where on the chart students have to provide an answer. Make sure they are being asked to not only provide solutions, but look at solutions and come up with the question.
  • Copying Vocabulary Definitions: Students learn vocabulary in context, not by copying definitions. Have students write the definition in their own words, then also add: what it isn’t, draw a symbol that represents it, give examples and non-examples of the word or term, and find a real life example.
  • A Single Text or Source of Information: Compare and contrast with multiple sources, and I don’t just mean another text: challenge students to find news articles, videos, conduct interviews with adults, even TikTok (yes, I said it) to synthesize with ideas in the text. Challenge students to find facts that contradict the information and evaluate author bias.
  • Closed Lecture Questions: How you ask your questions is as important as what you ask. Think about how many questions you pose to your class that really only have one correct answer. Some of my favorite questions for just about anything are: How do you know? Can you prove it? What’s it related to in the world? What would have to change to make your answer incorrect?
  • One Right Answer or Process: Rarely in life is there ever one single solution or answer. Students who can approach a task from multiple angles are exercising their critical thinking and problem solving muscles. Once they’ve solved it one way, ask: What’s another way to solve it? Who would have a different perspective?
  • Copying Your Notes Verbatim: I mean, I’m just not a big fan of having students copy anything. But class notes are far more rigorous when students interact and respond to them. See ideas for powerful note taking in my blog post here.
  • Summarize the Chapter: Summarizing is an important skill. But after students write their summaries, there are so many ways to synthesize and connect learning. I love the RAFT strategy for providing engagement, choice, and rigor all at the same time.
  • Give Your Opinion: Our students are overflowing with opinions. (Believe me, I have a teenager, I know.) But once they’ve given theirs, turn the tables and make them argue the other side.
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Remote Learning A-Z

Remote Learning A-Z

26 tips for remote teaching
For 26 days, we will be bringing you tips, tricks, and freebies for remote teaching! Here is the list so far:

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