For the past few years, I have been working with 11th and 12th grade Resource students at my high school. This past year, I went back to teaching all 4-grade levels (9-12) and have several ninth grade students. All ninth graders are required to take Earth Science, and pass a regents exam at the end of the year. The ninth graders go to science class every other day (Block Scheduling) and are taught by an Earth Science content teacher. As a resource teacher, I generally am a support to help supplement this content.
The Earth Science Regents exam is a test of 50 multiple choice questions on part one, and 35 short answer, explanatory type questions on part two. The students are allowed to use an Earth Science Reference Table (ESRT) to take the test. The table consists of 16 pages of information. Approximately a half to 60% of the test questions can be answered using the reference table. One of the main goals of this class is for students to be able to garner information from visual materials, such as charts, graphs, tables, maps, etc.
The Earth Science curriculum is comprised of 12 units, or modules, which are designed to teach students that, “Many of the phenomena that we observe on Earth involve interactions among components of air, water and land” (NYSED 2009). Students are taught, how to interpret data pertinent to each unit, from a section of Reference Table. Typically, the science teacher introduces the section of the table they will be working with for that unit and students complete activities, perform labs, and learn vocabulary, content, and concepts that go along with the table of information.
There are a number of ninth graders each year that do not pass the Earth Science Regents Exam, because they are not able to access, and utilize the Reference Table to gain necessary information. After taking this class, I thought it would be a great idea to apply UD to teaching the ESRT so that it would be accessible to all ninth grade students, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation (Ron Mace 1997). For this project I am going to apply the ideas of UD to one section of the NYS Earth Science Reference Table. It is my hope over the summer to take the other sections of the table and do the same thing, so that next year, the entire table will be accessible to all freshmen taking this course.
I have spoken with the Earth Science teachers about this idea and they are on board and think it would be very useful for their classes. We have not finalized how it may be implemented. They may incorporate my plans into their lessons, or I could go into their science classes, at the beginning of each unit and be the “guest” teacher. We will have to wait until the fall to see how our schedules work out, to determine which way it can be done. I would prefer to go into their classes, because I think I could really have some fun with this idea and believe that a novel person might help to engage the students. I would be an additional resource for students (other than those identified) and by working with me in class they could get to know me and maybe feel comfortable accessing me with questions, or for additional support, during the day or after school. I will use the UD lessons/materials with all of the ninth grade Resource students, but by would like to be able to use them will all the ninth graders in the building.
Three target students:
My student from project 1 was a student identified with ADHD. This student likes to be active and moving. (Personal interests are food, since his family owns a bakery, and sports, he is very athletic) His strength is that he is able to do several things at once. He has strong communication skills and is extremely charming. He is liked by both peers and adults.. His behavior is appropriate for his age and does not interfere with learning. His academic performance is at least in the average range. He likes science and is interested in the subject matter. He especially likes lab classes. He needs information to be concise and direct.
The second target student is a student of color. She tends to be reserved and quiet, and would never think about being a disruption or disturbance in class. She likes when information is presented visually with the least amount of words possible. (Personal interests are fashion, hair, current-style). Her strength is that she is sweet and kind, wants to please those around her, and is always willing to do what she is asked, or lend a hand. Her behavior does not interfere with learning. She perseveres with language and communicates with others despite her stuttering. She always tries her hardest, even though it does not always show in her grades. Science is a neutral subject, not necessarily her most, or least favorite. She is quite social with many friends, and teachers tend to like her. She needs information to be in visual format without many words to interfere.
The third target student is a student on the spectrum, with Aspergers. He is very bright and would learn in much the same way as most of his typical 9th grade peers. He does not have a preference for how material is presented, and would do equally well with language, visually or kinesthetically. (Personal interests include marine biology, especially whales; and history, particularly the Civil War era). He is a solid student, has a good work ethic, and achieves academically. He has strong communication skills, which include a large vocabulary and a good understanding of the English language. His behavior does not interfere with learning. He is very social and is liked by peers and adults. Science is interesting to him and he considers it one of his best subjects. He learns best when information is organized, logical and sequentially presented, like most would.
The original lesson given by the Earth Science teachers is to have students take out their reference tables and then direct them to the chart on the top of page 14. The teachers typically would point out the various sections of the table and explain how, and when, each is used. The lesson would be a 15-20 minute overview and would be done verbally. There is no choice for students, and everyone in the class is participating in the same way, with one mode.
In the first reading, Zeff (2007) stated that when applied to education, “UD brings a framework for making learning more accessible and instruction more responsive and inclusive to all students.” Currently, the science teachers are not making the ESRT accessible or inclusive to all ninth graders. It is not very responsive because the students are sitting listening to the teachers talk. There are no options for student learning, and there are a fair number of students who do not pass the Regents Exam, so have not been able to access the reference material. Thousand (2007) suggests that when developing instruction we should, “Allow students multiple means to access the content.” Thousand further states that, “Learning preferences provide valuable context for designing access to the content; and, content differentiation also can be facilitated through the use of taxonomies, graphic organizers and technology, layered curriculum and differential levels of student participation, culturally responsive techniques, and students’ interests in the curriculum.”
The first thing I would do for the Universally Designed lesson is to make the ESRT available in multiple formats. It can be printed (as it currently is used); downloaded in Braille, or large print for students who have low vision; downloaded and translated to Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian or Hatian Creole for ESL students; downloaded or scanned into the Kurzweil, for students who are weaker readers, do not have grade level language or vocabulary skills, as target student #2, or for the ADHD student (from project 1, student #1) to help keep focus and attention to the task at hand, and allow him to be a more active learner.
I would begin the lesson by color-coding the chart (see below) with the students. I would demonstrate for students (via smart board) while they were coloring their own table. I would also have some charts available for students that may just want to listen or choose to do it at a later time. The colors on the chart will help students see the information more clearly, and it will give the chart some layers of comprehension. This activity would help to engage students by making them active participants and by allow them to manipulate material. Finally, it would bring focus to each section, introduce unfamiliar vocabulary, and facilitate pre-learning.
Standard 2 and 7:
Students will access and generate information using the Selected Properties of Earth’s Atmospheres table.
(Logical/Mathematical Intelligences, Spatial Intellectual Intelligences, Naturalistic Intelligences) (Gardner 2005)
-1 table – 4 types of information
-convert km to miles
-give temperature for each zone
-atmospheric pressure to 35 miles above sea level
-understand why water vapor is only found in the troposphere
-vocabulary (stratosphere, interface, etc)
Essential – every student will be able to convert miles to kilometers using chart
Expected – students will give altitude in mi/kl above sea level; give temp for each sphere; give pressure/water vapor for troposphere; identify interface
Enrichment- understand/ explain why most of the atmosphere’s water and pressure are found within the troposphere.
Assessment/Demonstration of Knowledge
Harwood and Humphry (2008) believe that there is no “Ideal, “ or normal student and that there is a full range of students who need to be taught. If teaching is flexible and allows for students to focus on strengths to complete tasks and use different strategies to compensate for weaker areas, then it would make sense to have the following array of ways to have students demonstrate knowledge.
After coloring the chart, students may work individually; collaboratively in groups; on computer with YouTube videos (demonstration or song); on laptop with Kurzweil; with Science teacher; with me, to answer various questions by using the Properties of the Earth’s Atmosphere, section of the ESRT. Questions will include T/F, short answer, etc and include comprehension through analysis type questions. Essential, expected and enrichment goals will be considered mastery.
Students will take a written unit exam at the end of unit, using the ESRT. Prior to the exam, student’s will be able to come in after school to “review” and demonstrate mastery by: (1)answering sample questions on paper; (2) answering questions using Kurzweil; (3) Dictate responses into Dragon Dictate program on computer;(4) with interactive computer programs (Regents, commercial, from school districts); (5)YouTube creation
By allowing students choice it will, help students to be comfortable with learning, and learning to be accessible. In addition, choice will help to , “Promote self-efficacy by structuring academic tasks that can be accomplished with a reasonable effort and high rate of success” (Mastropieri 2001).
Hammocks Middle School Podcast pg 14 ESRT:
Pg 14 ESRT Song:
I like the idea of making the ESRT accessible to all ninth graders because being able to read pictorial information, such as graphs, charts and tables is a necessary life skill, especially in our highly visual world of today. In addition, I do not think any student should fail a test, when they have the answers and just need to be able to locate them. Therefore, if the tables were truly accessible to all students, they could learn how to navigate through each section and meet with success on the state assessment. Passing the first high school, high stakes, assessment would encourage, motivate and allow for high success rates, and thus self-efficacy.
Having the table available on the Kurzweil would allow target students (1&2) more access. For the ADHD student, having the ESRT available on the Kurzweil would help to maintain focus and concentration. It would assist with following along, and not being all over the page. The Kurzweil could also help with unfamiliar vocabulary (which he would just skip over if he didn’t know it). This technology would build upon strengths because the student would be more actively involved. He can adjust the speed of reading, the voice, etc. and can manipulate the information by adding highlighting, or taking notes as he is learning the information. It would provide the opportunity to have the information given to him in various ways simultaneously, and would help him to remain more focused because he would be busy doing several things at once, actively learning, which is his preferred method.
The same technology, the Kurzweil, would be helpful for target student 2, as well, but for different reasons. This young lady does not have all the language skills of her peers, and it would provide her the opportunity to learn grade level material that she may not be able to read. She would have the opportunity to hear the unfamiliar words, and readily have access to a dictionary, for meanings. She too could take notes on what she was learning, by simply using the highlight, cut and paste function of the program and not have to write or spell the information. This would also provide her with notes (which she could actually read) to use and study from. This technology would build upon strengths with this student because she could work quietly and independent without raising attention to herself. The information would be presented visually, and auditorily, without her having to know all the words on the paper.
I was worried about taking this class, because of the technology component. I started teaching in the days when ditto’s were the newest technology so the thought of putting a project on a blog and having to upload video was pretty scary. I will admit that it probably still takes me a little longer to actually do these things, than my younger peers, but I am pretty proud of what I have learned in this class and it all came together by doing this project (even though I couldn’t get the links for the websites to insert). I have been teaching my resource students how to use the ESRT for probably 20 years, and have never downloaded it, known that it was translated into 5 other languages, or could be accessed in large print and Braille. I had never used YouTube videos and am amazed that you can not only find almost anything you need, but that many of them are great teaching tools. The irony, of course, is that our school has now blocking YouTube so we cannot access it from the building. I am OK with this though, because when I mentioned to one of my techie-juniors, this dilemma, he simply explained to me how to copy them at home and just bring the CD in to use with my classes. I actually thought to myself when he was explaining this to me, that I could probably do it, which is something that would not have crossed my mind before taking this class, or doing this project. After 30 years, I know content, and strategies, and now feel comfortable using technology, instead of avoiding it. It’s kind of exciting to have some new toys to play with.