This week’s focus centered around the Universal Design for Learning. UDL was created as an answer to one-size-fits-all curriculum. It is a plan for crafting lessons that include all students and create learning that is accessible to everyone, instead of just a majority. After all, even the majority is often poorly-served by traditional lesson plans! I found this short video from CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology, to be especially helpful for illustrating what UDL is and how it supports learning:
As I worked to revise my Squishy Circuits maker kit lesson plan to accommodate the goals of UDL, three themes surfaced for me: flexibility, options, and variety. Incorporating these three ideas into my lesson plan was easy as I considered the aim of UDL is to accommodate every learner, and to do that I needed to embed each of the themes.
One of the initial strengths of my plan was the open creative “play time” with Squishy Circuits. Not only did this time empower students to imagine, struggle, and adapt within a supportive team structure, but it also liberated my time to meet student needs. If a student became particularly frustrated, I could be available to help him self-monitor and refocus. If a student required additional schema building, I could work with her to construct background knowledge. Reading the guidelines (Rose & Gravel, 2011) and working through the UDL plan, especially the section on providing multiple means of engagement, helped me realize the importance of making both my time and the students’ time productive.
To increase flexibility, I provided students choices in how to document their process: with conversation, diagrams, or photographs. I added several visual cues to illustrate the points of my teaching. For example, I wrote in the following graphics as posters for the two types of learning in this lesson: science content and collaborative processing, so students would be able to identify both goals:
Additionally, I added these images, which I would use as small posters indicating the structure of the activity: individual, pairs, small group, and whole class.
Helping students transition into each new portion of the lesson became especially valuable as I worked through the UDL section on guiding processing, visualization, and manipulation .
Variety was another strength of my initial plan that emerged as a valuable facet of UDL adaptation. As a rule, I try to keep engagement high by varying the structure, time, type of activity, and number of participants in any given lesson, and this was certainly -if not especially- true of my Squishy Circuits plan. Already, I had constructed the time to be split among whole class, small group, and partner modes of instruction, which also helped to make considerations for learners who might need extra patience or encouragement. During the UDL revision, I added opportunities for students to depict information in various forms, and to share with both their team members and the class in whichever mode felt most natural.
Facing all of the nuanced elements of the template was overwhelming at first, but as I processed the UDL plan and
modified my lesson, I thought about flexibility, options, and variety and it didn’t seem so daunting. I began to wonder, How have I been teaching for five years without ever encountering this method before? It occurred to me that UDL is the lesson plan every undergraduate pre-service teacher should learn.
Although I already had experience with several of the pedagogical ideas -learning styles, variety of structures, multiple representations- I had never seen them packaged so logically and efficiently. If I had had access to this type of structure during undergrad, I imagine I would have been better prepared to accommodate the disparate learners in my room, especially those with special needs. Still, I am thankful for the exposure to a structure that will help me process future lesson plans in an organized fashion. After all, who doesn’t benefit from flexibility, options, and variety? Now I have a new goal: centralizing those themes daily in my teaching.
Click HERE for the UDL-updated lesson plan.
To see how I utilized the UDL template click here.
And check out a (free, teacher-created!) graphic organizer students could option here.
CAST. (2010, January 6). UDL at a Glance . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDvKnY0g6e4
Fennimore, K. (2013, January 1). WEB 12 bubbles. Retrieved from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/WEB-12-bubbles-393294
Rose, D.H. & Gravel, J. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (V.2.0). Wakefield, MA: CAST.org.
Tagxedo – Word Cloud with Styles. (2006, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.tagxedo.com/app.html