Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How Is Learning Accessible to Everyone in Your Classroom?

In my district, we have been doing quite a bit of work around UDL (Universal Design for Learning).   I continue to connect the work we do in Reading and Writing Workshop to the principles of UDL: making sure learning is accessible to all... by considering:
  • How we present content or information
  • Differentiating the way students show what they have learned - offering choice
  • Stimulate motivation and interest for the learning - helping students value their learning and work
Here is how I have connected these pillars of UDL to Workshop.  I certainly have not covered every possibility- which is why I hope you comment on this post with your ideas!

Right away in the mini lesson, teachers can add value to the skill being taught by sharing a very short experience or story with the class that shows them encountering a reading or writing dilemma that needed problem solving.  Doing this adds authenticity to what you will teach the students and will also remind them that you are a reader/writer, too.  For example, in second grade Reading Workshop, the kids are working on strengthening foundational reading skills.  If the teaching point for the day is focusing on what to do when you come to a tricky word or how to infer the meaning of tricky/unknown words, the connection could sound something like this, "Readers, last night before bed, I was reading my book.  Everything was going smooth.  Then, I came to a word that made me do a double take! When I read the word ____, it made my voice sound 'like this' (using a confused higher pitched voice) and made me think, huh? If that has ever happened to you- If you have ever in your reading life come to a word that makes you say huh? give me a thumbs up.  Phew- I'm not alone! I had a feeling this was a common dilemma among readers.  So, I immediately knew what I wanted to teach you today.  Readers, lean in. Today, I want to teach you that when you come to a tricky word, you can use strategies to infer what that word means."
I think that the first minute or so of our lessons are really important.  We know we have to 'hook' the learners.  I also feel it is our responsibility to place value in what we are teaching and do so in the most authentic way we can.
Reading and Writing Workshop screams student choice, which is another way that UDL and Workshop go hand in hand.  In workshop, one of our primary goals should be to build student independence and motivation.  During the link portion of my mini lessons, I almost always ask the students to think about their goal as a reader or writer.  I may simply point to some of the anchor charts to jog their memories as to what we have been working on.  The kids know that when I sit next to them during conferences, I will be asking, "What are you working on today as a reader/writer?"  I hope to teach them to know their "trickiness" - what they are finding tricky and want help improving. 
While conferring, I make sure to have a toolkit.  I have a post (http://langonliteracy.blogspot.com/2013/08/conferring-toolkits.html) that goes in detail regarding reading and writing toolkits.  It is really helpful to have materials to help make your teaching during a conference more visual and accessible for the student.  You can leave visual reminders for kids on post-its, start a "ring of strategies", or make a mini anchor chart on a larger sticky note with the student (see link to toolkit post).
I have only touched on a few ways Workshop connects with UDL.  I whole-heartedly believe that when Reading and Writing Workshop is implemented the way it is intended, all learners can have access to the skills and strategies that will help them grow as readers and writers.  Please comment and add other ways you find that the Workshop model helps allow learning to be accessible to all!
:) Sarah


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