This blog post is one in a series of my thoughts on small, manageable first steps in implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Please see these earlier blog posts on changing instruction and changing assessment for other ideas.
Baby Step #3: Adding Options
The Guidelines talk frequently about choice as a key part of changing the educational framework. One of the easiest places to add choice is in homework. This year, I set a goal for myself in my evaluation that I would attempt to provide an electronic option for homework daily. There are days when I have had to scramble to find something that is equivalent to the rigor of the work in the Eureka math Problem Sets that we regularly assign for homework, but my colleague (Irene Witt) and I have found some sites that we use on a regular basis.
If you are looking for a direct parallel to the Eureka math assignments, you can create a free teacher account with ASSISTments. Because the Eureka math program is based on Engage NY, which is an open-source curriculum, ASSISTments was able to load the entire set of Exit Tickets and Problem Sets into their program. You just click and assign…and you have two options for homework–one on paper and the same questions online. Magic!
If you want to change things up more dramatically, FlipGrid offers another free option. We provide a FlipGrid question on homework on days with more exploratory or reflective homework, such as when we are wrapping up multiple days of working with a given topic. FlipGrid gives students a platform to share their thoughts orally, without the stress of generating text.
Khan Academy can be a good homework option if you need work that’s more skill-based. We often use it as an option at the start of a Module when we need a preview/review homework assignment the night we give a Module Assessment (final exam on a given topic) in class–we provide links to targeted practice and videos to help students begin their transition to the next day’s work with that night’s homework.
In our classes, we recently started working with Edulastic as an online option for students to review material. Specifically, Irene and I are using it for low-stakes MCAS practice in the classroom on MCAS review days. (MCAS is our state-mandated test.) The search and assign option allowed us to create three different review assignments by topic, one for each major Module thus far in the year; we have left the due dates open until the end of the school year so we can have students return to the assignments throughout the review time prior to the testing window.
This list can look overwhelming! It’s important to keep in mind that Irene and I have been working to find these resources for half a school year now, so we aren’t really at a baby step any more. A baby step could be setting a personal goal to provide one additional homework option 2-3 times a week, when there is a direct and easy connection to a pre-planned homework assignment. For example, if you were already going to assign a Eureka or Engage NY problem set, why not try ASSISTments a few times a week as well? If you were going to hand out a worksheet on naming 2D and 3D shapes in preparation to the 7th grade work with cross-sections, why not offer some Khan Academy links to the same content as well? I think it is important to remember that creating “options” just means having more than one option; if you can create 2-3 opportunities each week for students to have a choice between a paper homework and an electronic option, you have taken a first baby step into UDL.