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Your Back To School Questions, Answered

Katie Novak
Katie Novak
September 7, 2021

Answers to Your Top Questions About Starting Off the Year With UDL in Mind.

As the school year kicks off, the typical preparations are in full gear - lessons prepped, bulletin boards bedazzled, school supplies purchased, relationship building activities planned, and first day of school pictures snapped (check out my babies below!!! Omg. So big!). 

Picture of Katie Novak's 4 kids on their first day of school

Although some things seem back to “normal,” there are also some twists as we transition to yet another year in Bizarro World. As we straddle between part normalcy and part unknown, there are a lot of questions about how we can start or support UDL. We wanted to share some of the frequent questions asked in our professional development sessions. 

Note, We will share our answers but they are not THE answers. If you want to contribute your own thoughts or if you have feedback on ours, we would love to hear from you. As always - UDL provides options! You can send us an email, connect on social media, or send a carrier pigeon 😀.


Q: Our school is starting to implement UDL this year. Where do I start?

First, UDL isn't something you "do" as much as the way you approach planning. So, I would advise approaching planning through the lens of UDL by asking, "What is the clear goal?" followed by, "What is one barrier that would prevent students from reaching the goal?" And then, as you start, apply strategies you are already familiar with to eliminate that barrier.

For example, you can always predict there will be students who will struggle with sharing what they know, so you can provide options to write or record audio or video. You can provide options for students to work with a partner, use a rubric or word bank, or revise work. Those are all UDL strategies! When asking students to learn new material, you can encourage them to take notes by either writing in their notebook, taking digital partner notes, or sketchnoting. Periodically, provide options for them to review their notes, share with a partner, or ask questions. All great options!

Consider one-size-fits-all lessons and how you can make them more flexible and build on them over time. Maybe set a goal to focus on one aspect of the UDL Flowchart each week and then in PLCs, share what is working and borrow each other's ideas! Go slow to go fast! Think of "implement UDL" as "get in better shape." If you go out and walk for a half a mile, you are getting in shape. Over time, the distance will be longer and faster, but baby steps are the beginning of the process! You got this!

Q: As administrators, how can we increase staff ability to understand and implement UDL throughout the year?

  1. If you are going to focus on UDL it may be great to share how a professional development plan will support it year round. For example, in addition to having professional development events or webinars, what is the plan to continue to support through faculty meetings, PLCs, educator evaluation, book clubs, etc. It will go a long way to share with staff, “This is important and this is how we are going to prioritize this throughout the year.” 

  2. It may also be valuable to create a district PD calendar that shows which months, meetings, PD days, etc. will be focused on UDL, equity, dignity, etc. so there is a scope and sequence for the work. Just as these scope and sequences are critical for our teachers, they also are great to continue to focus on the firm goals in our leadership practices and they can lead to much more effective faculty meetings as well when everything is integrated and connected to focus areas. 

To learn more about designing PD the UDL way, check out one of the following resources:

Still have a question? Send it my way @KatieNovakUDL

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