“Turn on the subtitles, Ms. Olague!”
I clicked on the “CC” button underneath the YouTube video, and the closed-captioning appeared at the bottom of the screen. Suddenly, all my students were looking at the screen with wide eyes, eager to watch the video. In my first-grade classroom, a third of my students were learning English as a second language. Though my English learners were the initial reason I starting using closed-captioning on videos, I soon realized that students with special needs also benefited. As a public school teacher, I had to constantly evaluate how my teaching practices and materials could better include and empower the vast diversity in my classroom.
My students loved having subtitles on during short videos because it gave them more opportunities to interact with and learn from the content. All my students were learning how to read, and the captions helped them connect the audio to the visual representation of text. Plus, the students who struggled with attention didn’t miss out on any information since they could access the content through the voice-over, the visuals in the video, and the text in the captions. I used closed-captioning with BrainPop Jr. content, ClassDojo videos, GoNoodle, and other phonics or science videos on YouTube.
Any classroom teacher will tell you the importance of differentiating instruction and materials for students’ diverse needs. It’s also crucial that when you introduce a new digital learning tool into your classroom, you make sure it will be accessible to your students. That means that a student with a disability (cognitive, physical, or learning) will be able to engage and interact with the content in the same way a student without a disability can.
The next time you introduce a new digital learning tool, consider these three key questions to help ensure you’re meeting all your students’ needs.