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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips are quick resources you can implement in your classrooms. The tips vary from building community in the classroom, to classroom management or metacognition strategies. The CTL will announce a teaching tip of the month. If you wish to receive these tips by e-mail, complete this subscription form.

To request a consultation on utilizing a teaching tip you are interested in, complete this Consultation Request Form.

Playing Games in the Classroom: Reacting to the Past

Instructors looking for innovative ways to actively engage students in course content while strengthening their students’ ability to debate, work collaboratively, and increase empathy may want to consider running a Reacting to the Past Game in the classroom.

Reacting to the Past is an immersive game-based pedagogy in which students take on the roles of individuals living in historical conditions as they work to deal with specific historic events and resolve problems.  These games do not occur online nor do they use a game board.   The game itself is played in the classroom through debates, discussions and staged events and is supported by game manuals published through the Reacting Editorial Board. (more…)

Creating Accessible Slideshow Presentations

Creating a slideshow presentation so that it is accessible to all students regardless of physical, mental, or cognitive abilities helps to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to be engaged with the presentation.

Use the templates packaged with your slideshow software. Templates establish a logical, hierarchical organizational structure, conveyed visually through titles, headings, and subheadings. Templates also use typefaces pre-selected for legibility. The layout of text in a template can help people with dyslexia or low vision to navigate the slide. The layout also provides visual signals about the content, including priority, importance, specificity, and subordination. For example, a Level-1 heading is usually larger and more prominent than a Level-2 heading, signaling that the Level-1 content is more general or more important than the Level-2 content.

Make text and visuals big enough to be legible and clear from the back of the room. Whenever possible, have a colleague view your slides from the back of the room in which you will be presenting, to see if all the content is discernible. Limit the amount of text on a single slide; large amounts of text will appear crowded and small. Keep to three to five items. Use a common sans-serif font (such as Arial or Helvetica). San-serif fonts are easier to read on-screen than serif fonts.

Use color with care–which often means NOT using color. Avoid using color alone to emphasize text or to identify information as important. People with color blindness may not be able to see the color. Also avoid combining colors with insufficient contrast (e.g., yellow text on a white background). Using the templates in your slideshow software is one way to ensure sufficient color contrast, because each template has been designed by professionals for maximum clarity.


For more information on making your course materials, activities, and assessments accessible, visit “Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning at Boise State.”

Many organizers of academic conferences provide guidelines for creating accessible presentations and for delivering presentations in an accessible manner. Here is one example of such guidelines.

In “How to Make Presentations Accessible to All,” the Web Accessibility Initiative provides advice on planning, designing, and delivering accessible presentations

For tips on making PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with low vision or people using screen readers, see “Make Your PowerPoint Presentations Accessible.”

For more on text contrast, read “Why Contrast Matters” by Mark Root-Wiley.

Submitted by:
Kevin S. Wilson
Instructional Design Consultant
Instructional Design and Academic Assessment (IDEA Shop)
Boise State University

Using Universal Design For Learning to Meet the Needs of All Students

Are you concerned that your teaching isn’t reaching all of your students? Are you looking for strategies to assist students who struggle to learn for a variety of reasons, without compromising the rigor of your course?

One way to help all students succeed is to remove barriers from course design, teaching methods, and teaching materials. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an effective pedagogical approach that removes such barriers and enhances learning for students with varied backgrounds, learning preferences, and abilities. Put simply, UDL encourages instructors to design courses that give students options on how to engage in course activities, provide students with choices in how they access and interact with course content, and let students choose from among multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned.

Applying universal design principles helps to ensure that a course is accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, under as many circumstances as possible.

Three Strategies for Incorporating UDL into Your Teaching

  • Represent course content in a variety of media. Allow students to access the same or similar information in a variety of audio, visual, and textual formats. For example, students learning about earthquakes could read an article, view an animation of a fault, study a labeled diagram, listen to an interview with a seismologist, and view a closed-circuit video of the effects of an earthquake.

  • Provide students with many ways to engage and interact with course content. Engage students in active learning involving different senses. Students might interpret a print from a seismograph, identify potential fault locations on a topographic map, construct a miniature fault with clay, and experiment with blocks on a shake table. Alternatively, you might ask each student to choose two activities they find most appealing or most useful.

  • Allow students to demonstrate their understanding in multiple formats. Provide students multiple ways to express what they have learned (for example, through group work, oral presentations, or report writing). Students could also write lesson plans or develop their own assessments. Concerned about grading multiple submissions in multiple, diverse formats? Create a single grading rubric aligned with the learning objectives of the assignment, and apply that rubric to each submission.

For more information, visit “Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning at Boise State.”

To learn more about the theory and practice of UDL, explore the website of the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

For more information about accessibility and UDL, see Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) at the University of Washington.

Submitted by:
Tasha Souza
Professor of Communication
Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
Boise State University

Kevin S. Wilson
Instructional Design Consultant
Instructional Design and Academic Assessment (IDEA Shop)
Boise State University

Supporting Trans & Non-Binary Students

The Crucial First Five Minutes of the Semester
Many students spend the first day of class braced against various types of disrespect—professors who mispronounce their names, call them by the wrong name entirely, misgender them, and so on. Students who are worried about not being treated with respect can’t concentrate on what we’re saying. Here you will find a few reliable techniques to establish mutual respect with students in the first class meeting. (more…)

The Last Day of Class: Beginning at the End

Final Examination Review. Term Project Presentations. Last minute questions. These are some common topics for the last day of class that underscore the ending of the course.   But if college graduations are called “commencements,” can we redefine the last day of class as a beginning?

We hope that our students will carry with them what they have learned, and apply, integrate, and develop this knowledge well beyond the final exam or term project. In this sense, the ending of the course is, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, where students start from.  The last day of class offers you a chance to glimpse into your students’ future and foresee the lasting impact of your teaching. (more…)