Remote/Digital Learning · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

An Individualized Approach to Hyperdocs, Part One

Co-Authored by Suzanne LaPointe and Thea Durling


I had the good fortune of having Suzanne as a student in a course on Universal Design on Learning and, after the class was done, she reached out to share a hyperdoc project she had used with her students in her classes (substantially separate, grades 6-8 at a Virtual School).

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I feel VERY strongly that if my students were given the proper scaffolding, support, choices, and patience throughout their schooling; they would be where they are expected to be on grade level.  I can confidently say that they all have the ability to eventually return to inclusion settings with larger groups of students and I know they will be successful.  

In my experience, all students are able to learn at their grade level. It is all about the presentation, patience, flexibility, creativity, choices, and scaffolding.  I am guilty of this in my past teaching practice, but the more experiences I have had, the more I truly get it!  

I showed my students this master copy.  Before showing the master; I explained that it may seem overwhelming, but I will be showing each of you how to break the information down to only see what each of you need to complete.  Each student will be making their own choices of assignments and how to present the information using their favorite online tools and resources.  The students took ownership of their own work and saw that everyone was working on the same objectives, but they were making their own choices with assignments and forms of presentation.  I provided a list of all the different tools on the master copy for them to choose from.  I also encouraged my students to add their own ideas by making a suggestion to me, such as recording themselves, creating a newspaper page, facebook page, or even a blog. I did ask them to speak to me before doing so, for approval.  

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When I first introduced my hyperdoc, I walked them through each part top to bottom.  This took about a week or so.  I made sure my students had time to process the information, time to look through each of the choices and tools, as well as, given them Q & A time before they made their choices of assignments and tools they would be using so their questions are answered (the students would discuss as a group providing their individual knowledge on each question presented).  This was an extremely long process, but worth every minute of back and forth of ‘I can’t’, ‘Yes, you can!’  Once they felt comfortable enough with navigating through a Hyperdoc- (choices of tools and assignments); I was able to focus on the content.  For this Hyperdoc; I reviewed the 6 characteristics of ancient civilizations and what each characteristic looked like, sounded like, and meant.  I presented and created examples of my own for each characteristic- building the vocabulary and background knowledge, and did alot of Talk Alouds to help them think about the process, hear the language, and make connections to the world, self, and other subjects (ELA, Math, PE, Music, Art, Science).  

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 10.53.38 AM.pngI made sure they understood how to use the tools and what were the expectations for each of the choices I provided before adding them to my list.  Next time, if they didn’t know how to use a tool; I would send a student who mastered how to and the student who has not mastered how to into a breakout room so the student who mastered the tool could teach the student who has not mastered the tool how to or have those students who mastered each of the tools create a ‘How To’ video recording themselves walking everyone through the process.  I recommend not giving students any tools or assignments they have not seen or used until it is taught step by step.  One tool should be a whole lesson.  It is necessary the teacher scaffolds the navigation of each of the tools; provides clear examples, and walks students through each step.  Also, time to practice on their own or with a partner to create something quick and small using the tool should be allotted for.  Then, have the students show you how to and have them explain the process when returning back to the whole group discussion at the end.  For this, it would be pretty cool if you give each pair of students focus on one part of the tool and each group present to each other at the end.  I’ve included slides we completed together on each characteristic of ancient civilization:  Ancient Civilizations Characteristics.

To be continued… week, we will look at samples of the individualized hyperdocs Suzanne creates for each student from the master document.


hello-1127657_1920About Suzanne

Hello everyone!  My name is Suzanne LaPointe.  I have an Elementary Education grades 1-6 initial license, Mild to Moderate Disabilities PreK-8 initial license, and working on my Reading Specialist (All grades) initial license.  Currently, I am a Special Education Teacher, grades (4-8), substantially separate kiddos at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School.  I have been teaching at GCVS virtually for about 4 years.  Before this position, I taught in a grade 5 general education teacher in a brick and mortar school in Springfield, MA.  I taught as a learning specialist, grades K-5, in an American International School in Dubai for 3 years.  I taught as a special education teacher in an Emotional & Behavioral Therapeutic Program, grades K-8; for 8 years.  I am also Orton Gillingham certified.  I have had the pleasure of working with Thea in her previous UDL course.  I enjoyed it so much, I am taking the UDL & Technology course now.  I really LOVED the course!  There were so many benefits for both myself and my students I took away from it.  I am passionate about teaching and learning, love my close friends and family, and I hope to provide every student and person I work with; the necessary tools and skills needed to be successful in everything they do.  I especially LOVE sharing all of my knowledge, skills, ideas, and experiences with others so they can grow as well.  I have been lucky enough to have had the many opportunities and experiences I have had in my life because of choices I made or risks I’ve taken.  I realized; just like UDL, every opportunity and experience I’ve had, started with a choice that I was able to make.  I have had the pleasure to grow and work with some of the most AMAZING people and families, from all over the world, with a wealth of knowledge and experiences.  They have definitely taught me many things I still use within my practice everyday as well. 

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