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Every mainstream class contains students with learning differences. OneNote has enabled me to make learning more accessible for all of these students, whether their needs are related to dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, auditory processing disorder, ADHD, or non-specific learning difficulties.
These are five quick and easy OneNote tricks I’ve used to help me make learning accessible.
1. Use audible instructions
I love, love, love the audio recording feature. Whenever my written instructions go for longer then a couple of typed lines, or when I have essential assessment information to share, I speak and record them as well. I’ve taught my students to read along with the audio playback.
I observed one of my boys with dyslexia replaying the audio of the Inquiry’s Learning Intentions several times. When I asked if he wanted help, he just smiled and said, “No thanks, I’ve got it now.”
2. Record spoken answers
I often give all of my students the option of recording their spoken answers (with a strict time limit to avoid rambling), but my learners with extra needs know this option is always open to them. Even in a busy classroom, the audio recording is clear enough for me to clearly hear what has been recorded. This way, I can get a better idea of their understanding, regardless of their punctuation, grammar and spelling. This takes the strain off and I get much more detailed and insightful responses.
3. Work in tables
Tables are some of my favourite OneNote tools. I use them to break down segments of work and to provide clear places to put answers. If I want dot point answers, I pre-insert dot points. My students can instantly see what they are up to and how much they have left to do. As a result, I don’t have to search for randomly placed answers, while images have a definite place to be inserted.
It’s useful to use shading (Menu -> Table -> Shading) to add colors to rows. Every second row is enough (though not as pretty). This helps students with visual tracking difficulties to follow along a row and put their answers into the correct box.
4. Add checkboxes to mark progress
Everyone loves a series of ticked boxes! Putting them into assignments gives my students a huge feeling of accomplishment – and they can instantly see what they are up to. I love the humble checkbox so much, I wrote a whole separate post about it.
5. Break tasks into clear steps using shapes and arrows
One day I was playing around with the shapes in the Insert menu, randomly experimenting with size and color. Then, I turned it into a step-by-step series of questions and answers. I could have done it faster with a table, but there are advantages to using shapes. They make a page visually appealing, which is instantly more engaging.
More importantly, the size of the shape tells my students how much content I expect out of them. Incorporating arrows helps students to see the flow of an assignment and develop connections between sections.
So, there you have it: five quick and easy adaptations that will make learning more accessible for all students. Using these adaptations in unison makes for an even more engaging, accessible and dynamic learning experience.
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