Ingredients for a salad are laid onto a plate next to salad tongs.

Making a Salad to Explore Multiple Means of Representation

Author: Samantha Goldman;

Setting the Scene

We just started our unit on Universal Design for Learning in my Introduction to Special Education class. First, we talked about the idea of Universal Design in architecture. We discussed curb cuts, elevator placement, ramps, etc. and the fact that they help individuals with and without disabilities access the community. They are even going on a scavenger hunt of our school and their neighborhoods looking for examples of Universal Design (which I created with the help of ChatGPT). To use the scavenger hunt with your own class, you’ll click the link to access it (which will force a copy), rename it and update it to represent your campus (maybe include building names or some specific things about your school), and then share it with your students. 

Do you want your students to use a template from Google but always find someone edits the original or you get inundated with requests to edit? Here’s a trick that definitely changed my life as a Google-loving teacher. Force a copy. Change the last part of the url from edit to copy. This will make it so that when someone clicks on the link, they HAVE to make a copy.

Let’s Talk Salad

The goal of our activity was to have a plated (albeit imaginary) cobb salad. First, I showed them a picture of a cobb salad, as with all good lessons, activating prior knowledge is essential. Next, we came up with a list of all the ingredients that go in the salad. At first, they were naming foods like lettuce, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, etc, the common ingredients. Then, they became more creative and started adding berries and crunchy things to their salad. Once we had an ingredient list, they broke into groups and picked an ingredient to “prepare”. This is where the fun began.

I used the hard boiled egg as an example. I asked them how to make a hard boiled egg. They started listing the steps of putting eggs in boiling water, setting the timer, and so on. But, there are so many ways to make a hard boiled egg. Do you boil the water, place the eggs in, and turn off the heat for a set amount of time? Do you boil the eggs in the water with the fire still on? For how long do you boil? Do you do it covered or uncovered? Do they go into an ice bath after? And, we haven’t even talked about the fact that you can hard boil eggs in the instant pot and even make them in the oven. And, if the goal is to have a cobb salad, does it matter how and if I prepare it myself? Could I buy pre-hard boiled eggs? 

I gave them permission to be as critical of the ingredient as possible and encouraged them to think outside the box. I created a blank slideshow and changed the share settings so anyone with the link can edit. Each group was assigned a slide number (if you number your slides and tell groups their numbers, you minimize confusion over who is using which slide). Then, they went wild, deconstructing their ingredients. We talked bagged lettuce, lettuce heads, lettuce cutting tools, avocado knives, frozen avocados, galore. And chicken! So much variability with chicken from pre-cooked to frozen to pre-cubed to raw. After they finished dissecting their ingredient (about 15 minutes to work with their groups and create their slides, they were encouraged to use words, images, videos, etc.), we shared our ingredients.

Variability and Multiple Means of Representation

We wrapped up by talking about the fact that each learner (or chef) is unique. Each learner brings different strengths to the kitchen and different areas they need to work on. For example, my knife skills are poor so I will go out of my way to buy pre-chopped ingredients. Does that mean that my salad is any less salad-y than someone with impeccable knife skills? Not according to my initial goal of the assignment to “plate a salad”. Taking this into the classroom context, it doesn’t matter how our students consume information (videos, text, audio, a combination, etc.), what matters is that they can take that information and apply it to the learning goal. 

The best part of the activity? In my students’ daily reflections, they all talked about how the salad activity made variability come alive for them. It showed them that there is more than one way to “make a salad”, just like there is more than one way to reach a learning goal. Stay tuned for our next UDL cooking adventure, where we will tackle multiple means of action/ expression.

Tell Us About Your Experiences!

How do you introduce the topic of UDL in your teacher preparation programs? What hands-on and technological ways do you explore the framework? Tell us about it in our community! Love cooking and mixing professional development with food? Catch our next CIDDL cizzles or watch reruns on our website or on YouTube!

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