Science Writer and Other Resources to Create Access to Learning

students technologyBy Norrell Edwards, CEI Intern. What is UDL? Universal Design Learning is a ‘set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.’ First created in the 1990s, modeled after principles in the Universal Design movement in architecture, the UDL learning program was championed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). Since its inception, UDL has spread in a variety of education initiatives across all arenas’”local, state, and national.  More specifically, you have probably heard of UDL in relationship to the Common Core standards.  It is referenced in the section called ‘application to students with disabilities.’ However, all students can benefit from UDL which pays special attention to the individual learning processes. It promotes the what, how and why of learning.

In conjunction with the Common Core the state of Maryland has mandated that all local school systems use UDL guidelines for curriculum, instructional materials, professional development, student assessments and instruction. Although it is not guaranteed that your state or local school system will integrate a completely comprehensive UDL learning program, there are still resources you can access to begin transitioning to a UDL approach. The UDL website has much to offer in the way of tools and materials.

Helpful Tools. On the CAST UDL website you can find a number of free learning resources for parents, students and teachers.  From UDL Studio, Exchange, SolveIt Math Puzzles and Curriculum Toolkit, there is a mass of information just waiting to be uncovered and utilized. Perhaps of particular interest for science classes is the CAST science writer. It is a free online program that uses UDL to help middle school and high school students with writing science reports. Broken down even further this program compromises:

  • check lists to help students go over their writing for both content and grammar.
  • a text to speech function so that students can hear their writing read out loud.
  • Often times when scanning over a document one has been working with for hours it is difficult pinpoint mistakes on the page because she is also imagining the words she wants write inside her mind. The disembodied voice of the text to speech tool allows distance from the report , a student can experience her paper from an outside perspective and thus catch mistakes she missed when reading.
  •  sentence starters, a component that breaks the writing into smaller sections and provides starter sample sentences on the draft page to help students initiate the actual writing. Providing a model of sample sentences helps student understand how to construct similar sentences.
  • Science Writer aids students through the entire writing process–drafting, revising, and editing.








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