Salam! Moi! Welcome back, language teachers, to Adventures in Language.
In this article, we’re talking about how to make your class maximally accessible to each of your students – while also avoiding teacher burnout! Along the way, we’ll be sharing key points every teacher should know — focusing on how you can use choice, flexibility, and universal design to optimize your language class! In our last blog article, we unpacked the notion that accessibility is an issue relevant to students of all learning backgrounds and dispositions – not just for students with documented disabilities. In this article, we talk about some fun and easy ways to integrate classroom modifications to your everyday class flow to help you reach every learner – while maintaining a sense of groundedness. Well, bando alle ciance, let’s get to it!
How can you make your class optimally accessible to each of your students while also avoiding teacher burnout?
The anti-burnout recipe is simple: leverage multiple points of entry.
Let’s be honest. Individual learner needs can vary wildly – and it can sometimes feel like…a lot! For instance, two students might need a distraction-free environment for Friday’s test – which means you have to remember to schedule a separate room. Another student needs the option to take quizzes digitally, so don’t forget to make a digital version of the hard copy. Also, a student just realized he forgot his glasses today, so you have to get creative in helping him follow what you’re writing on the board. It’s a lot to manage! Where do you start? How do you stay grounded? While scheduling, logistics, and improvising work is unavoidable, a lot of what it means to have an accessible classroom can be preemptively solved with planned flexibility — more specifically, by having multiple points of entry to your course content.
What does it mean to have “multiple points of entry?”
- It means providing multiple ways for students to learn, explore, and practice the material.
- Just in the way there is no one perfect essay prompt that will resonate equally with all of your students, there is no one perfect lesson, assessment, or ]activity that will be optimally accessible for all of your students.
- Fun fact! The principle of “multiple points of entry” comes from a pedagogical framework known as UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, a framework that actually originated not in the field of education – but architecture! It was later adapted to education.
This means varying the kinds of activities you plan for your students.
You can do this by rotating between activities geared towards visual learners (e.g. a gallery walk project), auditory learners (e.g. a “transcribe the song lyrics” challenge), and kinesthetic learners (e.g. a vocab scavenger hunt). Another way of providing multiple points of entry can be to provide students with options for how they can complete a given assignment. For example, instead of requiring a written essay, offer the option of an audio essay (aka. a podcast essay). An added benefit here is that students get exposed to different ways of learning, which can help them find the best way to get the content to “stick” for them. Student-driven learning like this can help students learn to advocate for themselves more effectively in the classroom. For example, if a student isn’t able to catch novel vocab words in spontaneous speech, they might not know why they’re perpetually confused in class. But if they have the chance to discover their brain learns best when they can see a new word written out — they might take the driver’s seat and ask the teacher to spell the word they just said. To this end, remind students that they don’t need to have a labeled disorder or a documented disability to speak on a learning struggle. In fact, inviting accommodations and modifications to all learners makes the space feel more inclusive. For more ideas on how to integrate student-driven learning into your class, check out this video!
The coolest part of all of this?
Remember this! (don’t skip)
The next time you feel overwhelmed with managing individualized learner accommodations, come back to this idea of “multiple points of entry.” It’s your ticket to accessible and mindful teaching. Thanks for reading! Hələlik! Hei hei! We look forward to seeing you back here for our next article, where we’ll dive into how teachers can build students’ intuitions for target language grammar.
Want to explore more about accessibility in the classroom?
- Explore the basics of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that ensures free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities in the U.S: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/
- Watch Lexie Garrity’s TEDx talk on addressing learning disabilities in Higher Ed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSz_zjiS3E8
- Check out Dr. Jan Wilson’s TEDx talk about universal design in education: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtRY_1mZWWg
- Learn from Jessica McCabe’s TEDx talk about her experience as a student with ADHD: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiwZQNYlGQI
Wondering what languages were used in this article?
- English (recording language)
- Azerbaijani | Salam is ‘hello’ and hələlik (hehl-ehl-i) is ‘goodbye’
- Finnish | Moi (moy) is ‘hello’ and hei hei (hey hey) is ‘‘goodbye’
- Italian | Bando alle ciance (ban-doe al-eh chan-chey) means ‘without further ado’ (lit. ‘ban the chatter’)
- Interested in learning English, Azerbaijani, Finnish, Italian, or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Click here to learn more!
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