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The UDL Guidelines and Reading Printed Text

Page history last edited by Mallory Burton 12 years, 2 months ago

This is an attempt to look at ways to scaffold student access to printed text using the Expanded UDL Guidelines.

Many of the suggested solutions could appear under multiple headings, but in the interest of simplicity, they have been assigned where they seemed to fit best.



Printed text is a curriculum barrier for many students.  There are very few modifications you can make to a printed textbook

In the Joe's Non-Netbook video, a screenager (Don Tapscott's term)  struggles with the foreign technology of a printed textbook.  Students who have grown up digital are accustomed to a high degree of customization and support that is not available in the printed text.  Is exposure to screens and digital media already changing the brains of our digital learners?  

There are many ways to scaffold access to printed text, but this scaffolding does not eliminate the need for continued reading instruction, even in the higher grades.  The best scaffolds are ones that also continue to teach reading skills.  

A brief on reading from the Access Centre website summarizes several strategies that can be used to differentiate reading instruction.  The Access Centre also provides self-guided modules (ppt presentation and handouts) for teaching or learning about successful reading interventions.  Lots of practical strategies! 



Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Perception


Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Perception  (links to detailed explanation, examples, and research at CAST)


Printed text can be an obstacle for students who have perceptual difficulties, processing problems and/or can't decode text.  Some solutions for overcoming these obstacles include changing the way that text is displayed, using a human or etext reader, and/or transforming the text into a medium that is more accessible to that student.  However, be aware that listening is not the same as reading and that etext may introduce obstacles of its own. 


  Research shows that all students make more errors on smaller than larger text (Hughes and Wilkins, 2000).  Another study showed that using large print texts resulted in improvement in word recognition, comprehension, and fluency. (Lowe, 2003). 
A common solution is to provide a human reader.  This could be a teacher, teaching assistant, parent, volunteer, or peer.  Buddy reading is a common way to implement this strategy.

For the student who needs to customize various aspects of the text, provide a digital text in a format suitable for the student and an application such as Word or Kurzweil 3000 that allows the student to change the physical attributes of the text (font style, size, colour, tracking, etc.).  Many ARC-BC materials are available in .pdf, .kes, and mp3 format.  Here is an explanation of the file types found on the ARC-BC website.  These materials are available to BC teachers only.

Many publishers are beginning to make their textbooks available in digital form.  This Pearson html text is designed according to UDL Guidelines and provides many options for perceptual and physical access.




For a student who cannot decode independently but is otherwise able to work at grade level, provide an etext version of the text and an etext reader.  In the project, we have been using Kurzweil for reading.  The free Adobe Reader has a built-in speech reader that will read its .pdf documents. (Link to instructions.) 

On the Windows platform, try WordTalk (Link to instructions) for MS Word or Natural Reader (Link to instructions).  On the Mac platform try the built-in text-to-speech reader, Natural Reader, or Ghost Reader

Paul Hamilton provides information about several other free text-to-speech tools on his udl4all wiki.

  Reading a paper copy of the book while listening to it on an mp3 player may be a good solution for some students.  You can download books from ARC-BC in mp3 format, audio books from LibriVox in mp3 format, or create your own mp3 from any text in Kurzweil.  On my iPod Touch I was able to download a free copy of a Sherlock Holmes story using an app called Free Books.  Then I downloaded a copy of the same story from Librivox as an mp3 file.  Since you can listen to music (mp3s) while browsing on your iPod Touch I was able to play the audio book and read the etext at the same time. 

wikipedia common photo

Listening to an mp3 file of a book does not allow you much flexibility in navigation or in support.  If your student needs more support, consider providing the file in DAISY format (mp3 or CD) with a computer or portable DAISY player.  The DAISY format is the industry standard for students who have a visual impairment and provides a variety of navigation, bookmarking, dictionary, and index support options.  ARC-BC has some titles available in DAISY.


Here's an interesting blog post from someone who really knows her way around a Kindle.  I just got one and love it so far.  I've discovered I prefer audiobooks for fiction because of the ability to express emotion and accents and the Kindle for non-fiction because of the ability to clip notes.  The ability to purchase and download books using the 3G network is amazing.  That seems to work fine in Canada but subscribing to blogs and newspapers does not seem to work here.

Ray Kurzweil will be introducing the free Blio reader later this year.  This software will run on a laptop or iPhone and come with a million free books.



Some students have great difficulty with digital computer voices.  One option is to purchase better quality voices from a site such as NextUp

Another is to use audio recordings of human voices. 

Volunteers at Librivox have produced human voice recordings of many of the classic literature titles in the public domain.  These are available for free download and vary in quality so check them out beforehand.  You can also create your own audio recordings or purchase high quality professional audio recordings of books that are not in the public domain. 


SET-BC has just produced a new guide to reading solutions for students with visual impairments.  The solutions were grouped into 3 categories:  paper, etext, and auditory.  All decisions regarding a student with a visual impairment should be made in consultation with the vision teacher. 


Kurzweil 1000 is designed for students who have visual impairments and may be a better choice for some students. 

Reading on the internet presents its own challenges.  Many add-ons which allow for customization and support of reading on the web have been created for the Firefox  brower.  Paul Hamilton explains many of these features on his wiki.

In addition to reading etext, screenreaders such as JAWS allow students who have visual impairments to navigate by ear in applications, operating systems, and on the internet.  The Voiceover screenreader is built right into the Mac OS and is available on the iTouch, iPhone, and iPad.  Screenreaders might also be useful for any student who cannot read the text necessary to navigate on a computer. 


Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Language


Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Language


Some students may be able to see the printed text and even decode it.  However, they may have difficulty with the English language, specific vocabulary, the syntax of the language used, literary conventions, or the structure of the text.  Some solutions for overcoming these obstacles include providing dictionary or thesaurus support, vocabulary or second language instruction, translation, simpler versions of the text, and support in understanding the structure of text.


  Use dictionaries or thesauri for support.  These may be in book form, included in applications such as Word or Kurzweil or online.  Here is a link to my Diigo list of dictionaries and online translators.  Several of the online dictionaries include visuals such as pictures or even videos to help explain the meaning of the word.

Support students with continued instruction in phonemic awareness and word recognition.   Simon Sounds it Out is an excellent beginning phonics program.  Classroom Suite contains many phonemic awareness activities.  For older students, you can continue to teach phonics and phonemics awareness in conjunction with vocabulary study.

  Pre-teaching vocabulary enhances comprehension.  Use the  PWIM poster method to "shake" vocabulary out of a strong visual and then use the vocabulary in a number of categorization activities; on the SMARTBoard just project the picture and add the words in text boxes...something to use on Monday. 
  The SEEC Toolkit on the CAST website contains practical suggestions and downloadables for teaching vocabulary and comprehension using UDL strategies at the grade 8-12 level.  CAST does a particularly good job of showing the difference between tier 1,2, and 3 types of vocabulary and why tier 2 words should be targeted for instruction. 

Most students need specific instruction in understanding how to use particular features of text such as the table of contents, glossaries, or chapter sub-headings.   

In the online meeting, Rae shared the THIEVES strategy  that her team uses for looking at features of text before reading.  Thieves is an acronym for:  Title, Heading, Introduction, Every first sentence in a paragraph, visuals and vocab, end of chapter questions, and  summary.  More information about Thieves is available at ReadWriteThink.

In this BC UDL LOR lesson, the teacher and class use the Bookmarking Feature in Kurzweil to identify important sections of an article.  The bookmarks are then used to quickly locate answers to study questions. 

Understanding literary conventions is also important to understanding text.  In this video, a group of students explains Super Awesome Spectacular Similes.  Although it was time-consuming to create this video (as opposed to filling out a worksheet), it is likely these students will never forget the concept.  In order to create the video, they had to understand the concept thoroughly and teach it.  We know that teaching is at the top of the learning pyramid but we rarely offer students a chance to teach.

  Pictures can be embedded in text to provide support.  To create reading materials in Clicker5 just type in the words and pictures or symbols appear above the words.  
The Westcoast Reader is a newspaper written especially for adults learning a second language, but it is widely used in K-12 schools as well.  The newspaper highlights current events but reports them in a simpler language with a variety of supports.
Simple English Wikipedia, intended for children and adults learning English, provides simpler entries.

Don Johnson's Start to Finish Series includes classic books and non-fiction books written at an easier level and presented in printed, audio, and digital form.  Your SET-BC consultant will likely have copies of these for you to preview.

The National Geographic Theme Sets provide themed materials and different reading levels.

Sparks Notes, Cliff's Notes, and Wiki Summaries all provide summaries of important literary works and other supports such as character and theme lists which help to simplify and clarify the structure of text. 


Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Comprehension 


Multiple Means of Representation:  Options for Comprehension


Some students have difficulty comprehending printed text.  Solutions for these students may include instruction in active reading strategies or embedded supports and links to additional information that clarify concepts or provide background information.


  Into the Book comes highly recommended by the Birchland Elementary UDL team.  At this K-4 site students use 8 different reading strategies in extremely engaging and educational activities.  The teacher section provides many useful hints for teaching that strategy and a video of a skilled teacher presenting that strategy to the class.  The Pirate Handbook summarizing activity is brilliant! 
  In MS Word documents, supports can be added using font styles and headings, highlightingText Comments, Voice Comments, and hyperlinks.
  In Kurzweil, supports can be added using Text Notes, Sticky Notes, Voice Notes, Bubble Notes, and Bookmarks.
  CAST UDL Editions are a set of free public domain texts that have been engineered with embedded supports. 

Educators have created a number of free downloadable texts using the CAST Bookbuilder.  Options include the ability to add avatars to guide student reading. 

Publishers are beginning to create texts that link out to other information.  BC Science 8 provides an online version of their text, downloadable pdf, and a website which gives links to websites which provide additional or alternative sources of information for their science text by page number.

Attainment has created a literacy-based math curriculum and science curriculum featuring textbooks with picture supports that conform to US curriculum standards.  The series was designed for students who have cognitive challenges.


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options in the Mode of Physical Response


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options in the mode of physical response


Some students have difficulty holding a book or turning pages.  Solutions include providing electronic versions of the text and various assistive technology supports such as computers, special keyboards, joysticks or switches which enable these students to work independently.


  SET-BC has a large collection of Accessible Books in colour, read by human voices.  These are ideal for students who have difficulty turning pages in printed books.  These materials are available to BC teachers only. 
  CurriculumSET contains a large selection of Clicker5 and Classroom Suite books, many of which have been designed to provide alternate access to curriculum topics for students who have physical and/or cognitive impairments.  The books are free and downloadable but you need the software to read them.
  The Tar Heel Readers are free online downloadable books with excellent accessibility options.


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options for Expressive Skills and Fluency


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options for expressive skills and fluency

(See Checkpoint 5.3 Options in the Scaffolds for Practice and Performance)


All students benefit from exposure to skilled models and practice with support.  Teachers can assist by providing models and various scaffolds to assist active reading.  It's just as important to use active reading strategies with etext and with printed text.


  Thinkalouds, in which the teacher models reading strategies, are helpful for students who don't know how to approach text.  Projecting a digital text on the SMARTBoard provides many opportunities for analyzing text and modeling different reading strategies through "thinkalouds".  It also eliminates the problem of trying to get students to find and focus on the same page at the same time in their individual texts.  
  Cambium Learning has put together a great downloadable pdf on how to use Kurzweil for SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review). 
  There is an excellent chapter on "E-Book Reading Strategies" in the ISTE publication The Digital Reader:  Using E-books in K-12 Education.  These include using electronic highlighting, text notes, and bookmarks to employ  traditional pre-reading and active reading strategies.  I have ordered copies of this book for all of the teams and these will be couriered out on March 22. 
  Many perceptual and cognitive supports have been embedded in the Thinking Reader Series.  The series both models and provides feedback for students.  Here's an interview with two teachers who used the Thinking Reader Series successfully in their classrooms.  


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options for Executive Function


Multiple Means of Expression:  Options for executive function 


Some students have difficulty setting goals, monitoring their progress, or managing information.  Solutions include the use of prompts, graphic organizers, and other organizational tools.


  Education Oasis provides a huge selection of graphic organizers to help student both understand and plan.
RSS feeds simplify reading on the web by collecting information in one place for you.  RSS makes it possible to monitor a variety of favorite sources on the web, such as blogs or podcasts, without having to go to each one to see what's new.  This would be a good solution for students who are easily overwhelmed by too much information, students who need to manage their time more carefully, or students who want to acquire large amounts of information in an efficient way.  Here's an explanation of RSS feeds In Plain English


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for Recruiting Interest


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for recruiting interest


Some students are not interested in reading, often because they have been unsuccessful in the past.  Solutions include tapping their own interests, providing choice of reading materials and activities, using materials that are relevant, and reducing threats and distractions.


  Use the students' own experiences to create paper or electronic books they will enjoy reading.  The Fishing Trip was based on the experiences of its reader.  It's very easy to create accessible books in PPT or in Clicker5 software.  Everybody seems to have a fish story, a dream story, and a joke to tell.  This is a great place to incorporate phonemic awareness and vocabulary development. 

Give students a choice of reading materials, such as magazines on a favourite hobby.  Manga are also very popular.  Song lyrics are motivating reading material.  (Just a caution...many of the song lyrics websites try to sell you ring tones and some lyrics may be inappropriate for classroom use.)   

Give students a choice of activities.  The following novel study units were designed to offer a wide choice of activities for a variety of learners:  Holes and To Kill a Mockingbird

  The Bookwink site motivates students to read by presenting great book teasers by podcast and video.

There is a huge variety of electronic books available on the web at both free and subscription sites.   You could spend the rest of your life on Librarian Chick's wiki, browsing her list of books/audiobooks.

The Literature Circles approach focuses on common strategies and concepts but groups of students read books of their choice and could also take on roles of their choice in the Literature Circle.  

  Students who don't like to read printed texts may not realize they are reading when they are looking at screens. 

Research indicates that turning on the closed captioning while children are viewing television can improve their reading.  (National Captioning Insititute, 2004 and Feinberg, 2003)


Closed Captioning Flickr CC photo by kawaface (actually says "physically conservative" instead of "fiscally conservative" 

If student is bothered by background noise, use electronic text with the student wearing headphones.

Applications such as TidyRead and Readability allow you to remove clutter from a web page which can then be imported to Kurzweil. 

Print What You Like allows you to choose the items on a webpage you want to print.


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for Sustaining Effort and Persistence


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for sustaining effort and persistence


Some students lack the ability to attend to reading for long periods of time.  Solutions include providing a genuine audience with opportunities to communicate and collaborate, and providing very engaging activities.



Provide a genuine audience for readers.  Students can read to seniors, to buddies, to younger siblings, or create oral recordings to be used by nonreaders.  Last year the UDL team in Prince George established a buddy reading relationship over Skype with a classroom in the southern US.  The team reported that the students used every spare moment they could find to practice their reading.  This was a great support for reading fluency.

Flickr CC photo by dkaz 


Sting like a butterfly, float like a bee!  In year 1 of the project, Beth used Karaoke to motivate her reluctant readers.  She used Mohammed Ali's colourful language (shown in a youtube video) as the starting point for a unit on Metaphor and Simile and students worked with the Karaoke version of the theme song from the movie.  Mohammed Ali wikipedia photo


The Reciprocal Teaching Method uses peer coaches to teach and remind students to use reading comprehension strategies.  At this site, you can download scripts for the peer coaches and printable bookmarks which prompt students to use 5 comprehension strategies.  The Thinking Reader Series was modeled on the Reciprocal Teaching Method.   


Another way to sustain effort and persistence is to adjust the difficulty of the challenge.  Graphic novels are extremely popular both because of the illustration style and the simplified language.  Julie reports success with the graphic novel versions of Shakespeare which provide a simpler, shorter version of the original. There are several other examples of simplified or shortened text under Options for Language above.

To adjust the difficulty of challenge, provide information at different reading levels such as a collection of different printed text on the same topic for research.  Websites such as the Naturescapes site offer multi-level readings on the same research topic. 

Students can keep track of books they are reading, review books, and connect with other readers on sites such as Shelfari


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for Self-Regulation


Multiple Means of Engagement:  Options for self-regulation


Some students have difficulty directing their own behaviour.  Solutions for reading include keeping reading portfolios or journals that assist students in reflecting on their own goals, progress, and attitudes and helping students become aware of tools and supports that work for them in accessing printed text.


  Ira Socol's Toolbelt Theory proposes that students assemble a set of tools for lifelong learning.  Students will most likely require guidance in selecting tools that work best for them and in self-advocating for their use.  Tools such as the AIM Explorer may be useful in helping students determine their tool preferences.
  Graphic organizers may help students set goals and monitor their progress.  Making personal connections to text is a special case of self-reflection associated with printed text.




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