To be honest, the idea of differentiated learning is something I do on a regular basis. Half of my school day, I work with students who fall within our bottom 30% of learners in reading and writing. Most of these differentiation elements I do on a regular basis. I take the select students out of their general classes at least once a week and work with them in small group environments to help ensure mastery of content and to help fill in gaps in their knowledge. Generally, (1) in our small group environment we read our common text together. On occasion, (2) my group of students will read an additional text, or we will also have supplemental texts. This is a good opportunity for struggling readings to work on fluency and comprehension. In the general class, students usually read the article and annotate by themselves. (3) Our district is also making a significant shift from teaching "the book" to focusing on teaching the genre or themes associated with the text. (4) We also have independent reading time set aside in our English 9 and 10 classes for students to read and reflect upon texts they want to read that support their reading level. (5) In my small group teaching, we often complete Articles of the Week (Kelly Gallagher) and as we read through out current article we practice talking to the text. Often for the first few paragraphs, we read and annotate together showing our ideas and reminding other students what you can and should annotate as you read. (6) After we read our article of the week, we discuss it as a whole group. I make sure that all students participate in the conversation to check for understanding. This is a step that is not included in the general classroom due to time constraints. (7) After the students read, annotate and discuss their articles they write a reflection about it using claim, evidence, reasoning and synthesis (C-E-R-S). (8) Our small groups (bottom 30%) have been created based on standardized test scores. However, we make changes to which students we work with based on formative assessments in class. We try to keep our core group, but we do make changes as necessary.
Using Schoology this year has helped tremendously to ensure diverse learning opportunities. During my composition classes, students have to post their steps of the writing process. This helps in a number of ways; they earn participation points for being on track in the writing process and the teacherand peers can give instant feedback. For example, students might have to post their first body paragraph on Monday. They have a paragraph that is already typed and Microsoft Word has helped them with spelling and grammar. Then students can post their paragraph via the comment section or upload the paragraph from Word. Schoology provides similar tools as word and I can early highlight, comment and leave URL links to grammar fixes or new/ additional content sources to help. Another perk to posting on Schoology is the fact that other students can see examples of their peer's work which often encourages and motivates them through the writing process or simply helps their brainstorm content and topics. It also gives students a place to share resources, and gives me a chance to browse and double-check content found in their resources. Because resources are shared so freely, students final drafts must be turned in to Turnitin.com to ensure that they do not plagiarize.
After looking at the UDL Strategies website, I evaluated two different sections. First, I looked at the students engagement section. Most of the resources listed I have used previously or we explored through 21 things. I decided to look through the text resources and reading support section, as it relates to my content area. I would like to make sure that I integrate an audio version of every whole class text we read in class. I have had success using audiobooks from youtube for classic texts like To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, The Odysse etc. However, I like the idea of being able to create text to speech "documents" for the shorter supplemental passages (like our Articles of the Week). I like the options within WordTalk because students have more control with the rate and control over voice. PowerTalk also looks like a great resource for turning the content in my powerpoints into an audio file. Resources such as these are helpful in reaching every student.
I tried using VozMe to make a text to speech version of an Article of the Week. While I enjoy the idea of text to speech, VozMe just doesn't do it for me. The tone of voice and pitch of the speaker is mechanical and difficult to follow along. The next time I try a text to voice, I will try one of the other website choices.