Role Playing – Not Just for Fun & Games

Role-playing is a key skill for effective teachers, because it gives us an opportunity to contemplate how our lesson design might be received by a student. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as an average student. Rather, each student brings a unique set of experiences, abilities, and skills to class each day. One of the benefits of my 20 years of experience in education is that I can think back to some of my more memorable students and ask myself whether or not each of my lessons would allow them to be successful. Would my D/deaf student be able to understand a video I am showing the class? Would one of my many students with ADD or ADHD be able to focus on my delivery during concept development? Am I providing enough scaffolding for my students with special learning needs? Do my English learners have rich opportunities to practice their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills?

Fortunately, the tenets of UDL philosophy have encouraged me, time and again over the past several months, to keep asking such questions. This constant self-criticism and high-standards reflection hasn’t always been easy; my lesson design certainly takes more time than it did before I discovered UDL. On the other hand, this sort of role-playing creates a certain sense of satisfaction from lesson design. Even though designing learning for UDL is not a simple task, viewing lessons through the lens of a student who has a name and a story reminds me that, even though I will make mistakes and stumble along the way, at least my heart is in the right place when I try to make learning more relevant and accessible for all of my students.

The exercise of having a critical friend review my lesson design has been a valuable one. Although my classmate validated much of my Demo Course Shell, she made a couple of specific recommendations that I did incorporate into a last-minute revision. For example, she suggested that I provide my students an opportunity to discuss something they had tried during the demo course that did not work well for them. This was an interesting twist on the discussion prompts I had included, because it created a place where I could reassure my students that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process, and that they should not be afraid to make them. For this step of the process, I think it was especially helpful that I was paired with a partner from a very different grade level, because she was able to give me valuable feedback from a very different perspective.

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