3. Motivate students by getting to know what they care about
The third principle of UDL encourages teacher to use “multiple means of engagement,” which can require some creativity and genuine connection to students.
While a diversity of materials and mediums (theater, art, video, computer software) can engage students, connecting lessons to what students care about is key for engagement as well. Sarah Fehrman, M.Ed., admits that she invests a lot of time in asking students about their families, weekends, and interests. “Not only does this build our relationships, it also gives me great ideas for connecting content to what students care about. It’s never a waste of time and students love coming to my classroom.” Invest time in talking to students about their life experience and offer choices and flexibility whenever possible.
4. Reflect diversity in teachings
No matter how homogeneous or diverse a classroom may be, every student benefits when inclusion and diversity is a priority.
When curriculum depicts characters, language, and culture from a diversity of backgrounds, students learn understanding, empathy, and acceptance. A sense of belonging is created as students with a wide range of cultural experiences see themselves reflected positively in the classroom materials and teachings. Ultimately, they see that their teacher sees the value each student brings to the community.
Tiffany Saunders, M.Ed., who spoke to her school’s librarian about providing more books about disability and diversity in the school and classroom libraries, says, “Talking about disability and looking at disability as an issue of diversity will help our school community and hopefully others to see that diversity is ‘normal.’” Imagine how excited students might be to read Leroy Moore’s new children’s book, Black Disabled Art History 101,which celebrates black disabled and deaf artists from the early 1900s to today.
5. Support fellow teachers in addressing social justice issues
Grappling with issues such as bias, inequality, conflict, and social justice can be difficult for teachers. Connecting with other teachers about ways to address concerns can help us navigate the topics within our communities.
When these issues are taught and discussed with care and respect, students are given lifelong tools for succeeding in a diverse world. When teachers value diversity and their classroom materials and curriculum reflect this value, students can develop essential critical-thinking skills that have been proven to counter prejudice and create empathy.
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