Sunday, January 9, 2011

A UDL Classroom in Action

Recently, a teacher, who I have much admiration for, asked me if I could share a UDL lesson with her.  This was when I realized that, even those who seem to know, don't really understand UDL.  So let's see what a UDL classroom in action looks like.  But first, once again, I will explain UDL. 

According to CAST, "Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs."  

UDL is not a lesson plan, it is a program.  

Here is a typical day in my classroom.  Please note that all names have been changed.  I work in an inclusion classroom with a full time co-teacher, a full time aide, 22 children, 9 IEPS/504s, 4 gifted students, 1 ESL student, and a variety of levels, behavioral issues, and academic issues.  I also have wonderful children who love coming to school, working hard, and collaborating with each other.

8:45 - 9:10  - We unpack and listen to announcements.  Sam and Esther take the lunch count.  Sam is not comfortable talking in front of the class so he allows Esther to call for children to raise their hands if they are buying lunch.  Sam counts the raised hands and writes down the numbers.  Meanwhile, Abby's seat neighbor reminds her to hand in her homework, since she seems to forget each day.  Johnny sharpens all his pencils, since he pushes too hard and breaks his points often.  Martin gets help from the aide to organize his desk and get ready for the day.  If he has items on his desk, he gets easily distracted, so his desk is turned around.  He needs to get out of his seat to get anything from his desk.  He also puts his water bottle on the nearby table so he doesn't play with it and puts his snack toys on my desk.

9:10 - 10 - Math time.  We split into two groups.  Group one heads down the hall to the "breakout room."  There they will work on writing word problems that match a given multiplication or division problem.  They are ahead of group two.  Group two stays in the room.  They use their multiplication charts (everyone has them on their desk) to solve computation problems.  Bobby uses the SmartBoard to work out his problems since it is easier for him to work on a large area.  Susan grabs some graph paper so she can keep her columns straight.  Johnny carefully rewrites his problems then asks his seatmate to check and make sure he copied the numbers correctly, since he is notorious for miscopying problems.  Gerry starts clicking her pen, looks at me and quickly grabs a koosh ball to keep her hands busy while she works out the problems.  

10 - 10:45 - Reading time.  Book groups meet together. All groups are working on fantasy books, but all at different levels. I meet with the Amazing Readers.  They are reading a very high level book.  Their job is to read and carry on a discussion in Edmodo.  Patty, a great conversationalist, helps lead the discussion, moving her group through some pretty sophisticated ideas.  Darryl, an ESL student, sits with a dictionary to help her decipher the words.  The Lightning Readers are working on drawing pictures to match the text.  They are reading on grade level but seem to miss details.  So now they must focus on the details.  Bobby asks the aide to copy the page he wants to draw.  This way he can highlight parts of the text, as needed, to help him find details.  Allison helps her group, the Awesome Readers, decode the simple text and summarize each chapter.  They practice fluency while they read into their toobaloos.

10:45 - 11 - Snack time.  All three adults help students with homework questions, finishing up projects, and blog assignments.  The children have free time unless they are getting assistance.

11 - 12 - Social Studies.  The children are working on Constitution Projects.  Martin, who is dyslexic, grabs a textbook from the closet and rereads the chapter on the Constitution, using his EZC reader to help him read. All the children have them available as needed. Sally gets a computer and looks at some BrainPop videos for support.  Darryl goes right for the Discovery Streaming videos that were put into her assignment.  Patty opens up her Google Doc and starts taking notes, chatting, in the Doc, with Eli about the rubric and what they are missing.  The teachers sit at tables and children gravitate over for support and guidance.  The aide helps Harry negotiate collaboration techniques.  As a PDD child, he much prefers working alone.  So he convinces his group to let him take the notes and make a comic book out of them.  

12 - 1 - Language Arts - Sign of the Beaver projects are almost finished.  One group, full of artists, has decided to create a coloring book to demonstrate their knowledge of their theme.  One group is making a newscast, complete with commercials and a weather report.  One group has opted for a digital story with pictures they created. One group creates a screencast from the SmartBoard.  Each person is contributing what is best for them and the group.  

Lunch time!

2 - 3 - Writing - During my mini-lesson, I write the steps to a personal essay.  Jessica asks ifs she can please write it on the SmartBoard so it can be printed out and taped into their notebooks.  So while I talk, she types.  When it is done, it is printed for all.

That's a typical day.  We have used multiplication charts, fidget toys, computers, calculators, the SmartBoard tools, Toobaloos, video cameras, digital recorders, text books, BrainPop and Discovery videos, Edmodo, graph paper, and each other to help make learning more accessible and help make us more successful.  

I have not planned to use all these tools.  I just made them all available.  Children move around freely, sitting on the floor, on pillows, the rocking chair, their desks, and tables.  They get computers, fidget toys, calculators, special paper, special pens/pencils/markers when needed.  They ask for help or receive support from their classmates and the teachers.  There is no shame in needing help, no shame in wanting tools.  It just happens.  I introduce tools, encourage their use, and, by this time of the year, they just up and get them.  

This is a UDL classroom.  Sometimes, it looks chaotic.  Sometimes, it seems the children are more in control than the teachers.  Many times, children advocate for themselves, asking us to do something (like using the SMARTBoard to write steps and printing out the page) that just makes good sense.   But there is no excuse for not succeeding.  All the pieces have been put into place.  Now the children just need to use them.

How can you set up a UDL classroom?


Monica said...

Lisa - can you tell me a bit more about the co-teaching model you guys have going on. How many students do you have in the classroom? Are you both teaching fulltime in the classroom? You mention 3 adults - do you also have a learning assistant in the classromo?

Love reading the passion that shines through in your blog. Your classroom sounds amazing!

Cheryl Oakes said...

Lisa, your classroom must be as calm as your incredible reflection. You are an inspiration.

Deana Senn said...

What an amazing peak into your classroom! Thank you for sharing the details of your day. So often teachers are overwhelmed with the idea of individualize learning because they don't have a clear sense of what it looks like. You made UDL very real. I love how you pointed out all the small differentiation that was used with purpose through out the day.
Thank you!

Paula K said...

This is great-- I just posted it on my blog as today's feature:

Thanks for taking the time to teach teachers as well as students!

High school diploma said...

very inspiring and motivated article.

Robert said...

Hi Lisa, Thank you for sharing what a day is like in your UDL classroom. I would like to share the link to your BlogSpot with my fellow classmates at the American College of Education. I am inspired by you and your students to implement more UDL starteigies in my 2nd grade classroom. Thanks again.

Bill McGrath said...

Hi Lisa - thanks for the great description and painting a picutre of both how this looks and why it matters!
We spend a lot of time trying to get teachers to share stories and images from their classroom like this through some pilot projects in our county.
Some classroom videos teacher have shared are at this link:
A virtual tour of one of our teacher's classroom is at this link as well:
Thanks again!
Bill McGrath - HIAT team