A Case for Supporting Strategic Learning with UDL in a Classroom

Posted by Nikki Rankin on 5/12/2017 7:00:00 AM

This case study is from “Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age” by David Rose and Anne Meyer and is the last in a series of informational articles about UDL and how it can be used for all types of learners.  Further information on this topic is included in the book and is available through Amazon.

Ms. Chen’s 5th grade class includes Charlie (the student who has difficulty self-monitoring and staying on task), Jamal (who has good strategic planning skills and a motor disability), and Patrick (who has language-based learning disabilities). Ms. Chen has set the following goal: “Student will demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.” Although several of her students have difficulty with text, she keeps the gaol focused on writing because she knows that written literacy is critical as her students move on to 6th grade. She also knows that the UDL framework will help her individualize the instruction she provides. Ms. Chen reviews the teaching methods most helpful for strategic learning and considers the multimedia, networked tools, and scaffolds she might use to foster success for all her students.

Concentrating on the skill of writing narratives, Ms. Chen encourages her students to select story subjects that find interesting. TO help them envision the stories they will be creating, she provides many models of fiction and nonfiction stories in text, sound, video, and image form. She builds a classroom story collection of printed books, tapes, and videos uses Inspiration software to create a story home page, with links to a library of digital stories- including some written by former students and some that she has found on the we. The software also allows her to group these stories into different categories, such as fiction and nonfiction, and even further, into narrative genres such as detective stories, fables, and adventures.

Ms. Chen reads many of these stories aloud for and with her students, leading discussions of what students liked and didn’t like and highlighting story elements. She also collects models that call attention to story structures and the writing process, including “famous first drafts” that illustrate the heavily revised beginnings of some well-known works. The story home page provides links to author-focused web sites so that students can learn from the insights of professional writers who model their working process.

By providing so many different kinds of models, varying in content, medium, and context, Ms. Chen ensures that everyone will find appropriate models to emulate as they begin to develop their own narratives.

All of Ms. Chen’s students need to practice at their own level of challenge. To support students at different stages of proficiency, she provides scaffolds such as multimedia story templates, a variety of “clip” media, drawing tools, and tools they can use to digitize images they bring home or even their own voices. Students who have trouble generating text often begin by creating a series of images or recorded sounds to help them develop their plot and characters; with this foundation, they usually find that text flows more easily. Because this particular learning goal is focused on the writing process, Ms. hen also encourages students to use scaffolds like spell checkers when editing their work.

Ms. Chen is familiar with the work of Lynne Anderson-Inman and her colleagues at the University of Oregon showing that diverse students benefit from working with graphic organizer software like Inspiration and Kidspiration (Anderson-Inman & Horney, 1996/97). She teaches her students to use these tools, knowing that visualizing story elements as interconnected geometric shapes will help them plan their stories structurally.

Different students in the class rely on scaffolds according to their needs:

  • To support Jamal in focusing and condensing his lengthy story, Ms. Chen encourages him to strip it down to its main elements using Inspiration.
  • To get Charlie “unstuck” when he can’t select a topic, Ms. Chen gives him a deadline, provides him with some rubrics for choosing a topic, and writes out a concrete schedule of steps, each with a mini-deadline.
  • To help Patrick through his anxiety about producing text, Ms. Chen provides a multi-media story template and helps him scan in pictures of his favorite baseball player. The series of pictures will form the structure for his story.

To generate ongoing feedback and build students’ self-monitoring capabilities, Ms. Che encourages them to exchange drafts and review each other’s work within a structured format that includes constructive suggestions. She also encourages students to use email to solicit opinions from each other and from outside experts. For students who are ready, she suggests submitting drafts to web sites where they can obtain outside reactions, including the Stone Soup site (http://ww.stonesoup.com), which posts student work. Such online connections extend her ability to help students obtain regular, ongoing feedback from a variety of sources.

Ms. Chen also helps her students build their self-monitoring skills by encouraging them to compare their work to external models and compare their drafts to their mental models of their stories. Using a digital microphone, students record themselves telling their stories. Next, they write the text of the story in a word processor and use text-to-speech to listen to how what they’ve written sounds when read out loud. Comparing the recorded “target” stories with their written stories sound provides a supported context for self-monitoring.

To meet the writing standard, Ms. Chen’s students need to produce their final story in text. But she encourages them to use other media, supporting alternative modes of expression and skill demonstration in conjunction with text (see Gardner, 1993; Sizer, 1992a, 1992b). Ms. Chen provides a variety of multimedia tools including word processors, HyperStudio, digitizing software, and publishing programs. With these tools, the students enhance the text they produce with images, sounds, and animations. Some students produce artwork on paper or in clay to go along with their stories. By encouraging these diverse expressive pathways, Ms. Chen helps all students reach the text-based goal.

Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director