Thursday, 25 April 2013

Universal Design for Learning = Success

Yesterday I was making my regular rounds through classrooms when I walked into the grade 3/4 class.  They had just finished writing their HLAT (highest level of achievement test) that we do in writing and reading for the district.  The prompt was a journal entry about an adventure they had gone on either for real or an imaginary adventure they would like to go on. 

I noticed that some of the children had typed their stories.  First of all, it was exciting that students had choice to either type or write with pen and paper.  Then I asked, "Did anyone use Word Q to write their stories?"  Their faces lit up and many hands flew in the air.  The teacher said it was making a real difference in student writing.  The students said it was so helpful to them.  One student told the teacher that writing was becoming "fun" now that he could use Word Q and he "liked it way better."   (Word Q is word prediction software that is amazing!)

I still get goose bumps when I think about that little guy.  He struggles with reading and writing and when we talked about writing the PATs (Provincial Achievement Tests) before, he said, "I can't do that," and looked horrified until I told him he could get help with the reading and the writing.  Well, now he is starting to "like writing" because he has a tool that gives him assistance and then confidence.  Imagine that!  He might even like writing all because he was provided with a tool that supported him in the classroom and allowed him to be successful. 

Now teachers are giving students the choice to use Word Q and that is what Universal Design is all about.  Offering tools to all that can be chosen to be used as the student needs it.  Something so simple can contribute to the success of our included students. 

We share our computer lab with the Junior High across the field so their students can all access Word Q for written tests.  They have had the same result.  Students are writing more, writing better and exuding confidence just by using this simple tool.

The very cool thing about Word Q is that is has a German component so our German grade 5/6 teacher is using it for her students' written work.  Not only is it helping the students write, but she finds it so much easier to grade because every second word isn't misspelled. 

Check out the CAST website for more great ideas to implement Universal Design for Learning so we can see more students finding success based on their strengths.

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