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How to make your language classroom optimally accessible for each of your learners (while also avoiding teacher burnout!)

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Salam! Moi! Welcome back, language teachers, to Adventures in Language.
In this article, we’re talking about how to make your class maximally accessible to each of your students - while also avoiding teacher burnout! Along the way, we’ll be sharing key points every teacher should know -- focusing on how you can use choice, flexibility, and universal design to optimize your language class! In our last blog article, we unpacked the notion that accessibility is an issue relevant to students of all learning backgrounds and dispositions - not just for students with documented disabilities. In this article, we talk about some fun and easy ways to integrate classroom modifications to your everyday class flow to help you reach every learner - while maintaining a sense of groundedness. Well, bando alle ciance, let’s get to it!

How can you make your class optimally accessible to each of your students while also avoiding teacher burnout?


The anti-burnout recipe is simple: leverage multiple points of entry. 

Let’s be honest. Individual learner needs can vary wildly - and it can sometimes feel like...a lot! For instance, two students might need a distraction-free environment for Friday’s test - which means you have to remember to schedule a separate room. Another student needs the option to take quizzes digitally, so don’t forget to make a digital version of the hard copy. Also, a student just realized he forgot his glasses today, so you have to get creative in helping him follow what you’re writing on the board. It’s a lot to manage! Where do you start? How do you stay grounded? While scheduling, logistics, and improvising work is unavoidable, a lot of what it means to have an accessible classroom can be preemptively solved with planned flexibility -- more specifically, by having multiple points of entry to your course content.

 

What does it mean to have “multiple points of entry?”
  • It means providing multiple ways for students to learn, explore, and practice the material. 

  • Just in the way there is no one perfect essay prompt that will resonate equally with all of your students, there is no one perfect lesson, assessment, or ]activity that will be optimally accessible for all of your students.

  • Fun fact! The principle of “multiple points of entry” comes from a pedagogical framework known as UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, a framework that actually originated not in the field of education - but architecture! It was later adapted to education.

This means varying the kinds of activities you plan for your students.

anti-burnout-mango

You can do this by rotating between activities geared towards visual learners (e.g. a gallery walk project), auditory learners (e.g. a “transcribe the song lyrics” challenge), and kinesthetic learners (e.g. a vocab scavenger hunt). Another way of providing multiple points of entry can be to provide students with options for how they can complete a given assignment. For example, instead of requiring a written essay, offer the option of an audio essay (aka. a podcast essay). An added benefit here is that students get exposed to different ways of learning, which can help them find the best way to get the content to “stick” for them. Student-driven learning like this can help students learn to advocate for themselves more effectively in the classroom. For example, if a student isn’t able to catch novel vocab words in spontaneous speech, they might not know why they’re perpetually confused in class. But if they have the chance to discover their brain learns best when they can see a new word written out -- they might take the driver’s seat and ask the teacher to spell the word they just said. To this end, remind students that they don’t need to have a labeled disorder or a documented disability to speak on a learning struggle. In fact, inviting accommodations and modifications to all learners makes the space feel more inclusive. For more ideas on how to integrate student-driven learning into your class, check out this video!

 

The coolest part of all of this?

coolest-part-mango

Accessible teaching tends to improve the learning experience for all students. 
For instance, if a student with a learning documented disability requires that new vocab be provided not only auditorily but also in written form - that might help 5 other students in the class, who also benefit from that dual encoding, even if it’s not a documented learning accommodation for them. The truth is -- all learners have individual differences in optimal learning strategies, so everyone is better off when there are options, choice, and flexibility. One example: integrating technology-based applications of the learning material can also make the content more accessible to some students. If your students don’t already use the Mango Languages app, encourage them to use it as a classroom supplement!  One great thing about the Mango app is that it’s ADA compliant (e.g. maintains adequate color contrast, works with screen readers including Apple Voiceover and Android Talkback, and makes sure our content is labeled with alt tags). To learn more about the Mango app yourself, check out our White Paper (access your FREE copy by signing up here), which outlines how the app’s unique features can help offer an innovative entry point for learners of diverse needs!

 

Remember this! (don’t skip)

The next time you feel overwhelmed with managing individualized learner accommodations, come back to this idea of “multiple points of entry.” It’s your ticket to accessible and mindful teaching. Thanks for reading! Hələlik! Hei hei!  We look forward to seeing you back here for our next article, where we’ll dive into how teachers can build students’ intuitions for target language grammar.


For more language teacher content, join the Mango fam! 

Want to explore more about accessibility in the classroom? 

Wondering what languages were used in this article? 

  • English (recording language)

  • Azerbaijani | Salam is ‘hello’ and hələlik (hehl-ehl-i) is ‘goodbye’ 

  • Finnish | Moi (moy) is ‘hello’ and hei hei (hey hey) is ‘‘goodbye’

  • Italian | Bando alle ciance (ban-doe al-eh chan-chey) means ‘without further ado’ (lit. ‘ban the chatter’) 

  • Interested in learning English, Azerbaijani, Finnish, Italian, or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Click here to learn more!


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Emily Rae Sabo
Written by Emily Rae Sabo

Emily, a Pittsburgh native, is a linguist at Mango Languages whose areas of specialization are the social and cognitive factors that impact bilingual language processing and production. Having studied 7 languages and lived in various countries abroad, she sees multilingualism—and the cultural diversity that accompanies it—as the coolest of superpowers. Complementary to her work at Mango, Emily is a Lecturer of Spanish at the University of Tennessee, a Producer of the We Are What We Speak docu-series, and get this...a story-telling standup comedian!

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