Posted in Accessibility, CBW2019, CCCC2019, Teaching

Leveling Up, Accessing Writing

Brenda Brueggemann, University of Connecticut

Our afternoon keynote began with Brenda Brueggemann telling us a little bit about this history of disability studies at CCCC. She shared that CCCC’s history has moved from offering no sessions to the 2019 conference features 30 sessions with over 105 speakers focused on disability studies.

She began by asking us to think about the word “level” and the concept of leveling as it often applies to education. Brenda said that often, she’s asked how to work with students at “different levels.”

What Does Level Mean?

She asked the participants to think about:

  1. What images, metaphors, associations, objects, phrases come to mind?
  2. How is this word/concept used? And where?
  3. How does this apply to your classroom and the various “levels” your student-writers occupy in the work of that classroom?

Small Group Work in interpreting levels ( participants were invited to interpret the word “level.”)

We noticed that some groups focused on words, some groups focused on images, some groups worked together, some groups worked individually. We also noticed that stairs were a repeating metaphor, but the stairs always go UP.

It was also clear that everyone was struggling with the idea of levels: both positive and negative connotations with levels.

Next, we focused on the students and “the student frame of mind.”

  1. WHY? Are your students working at certain/different levels?

Participant responses: family backgrounds, ESL, working full-time, underprepared high schools, inaccessibility, what technology is doing to student brains, learning differences, different learning styles, differences in student district interpretation of standards, co-curricular and extra curricular activities, anxiety, trauma, depression/anxiety, connection to the teacher

2. WHAT are the factors that produce those “levels”?

Participant responses: money, geography, structural racism, religion, trauma, traumatic events–both physical and mental, lack of appropriate role models, spouses, social unwillingness to invest, lack of universal health care, state standards aren’t aligned with college expectations, lack of childcare and elder care

Strategies for Universal Design for Learning

Brenda next introduced us to Universal Design for Learning (for a great introductory video, see the CAST Website: )

UDL focuses on: representation, engagement, action & expression (see Brenda’s slides for a full definition of each)

Next, we were asked about the kinds of things that happen in a writing classroom. We brainstormed this list: Peer review, journalism, brainstorming, outlining, group work research, class discussion, drafting, editing, revising, critical reading, identifying evidence, visual work, movement in and out of individual and groups.

Tables were asked to think about designing an activity that incorporates UDL and shared strategies and assignments.

You can see the whole presentation here, where Brenda has generously shared her slides: