Creating memorable assignments for your students

Creating memorable assignments for your students

Take a moment to think back to one of your favorite classroom assignments growing up. What stood out about that assignment? I’ll take a shot in the dark and guess it wasn’t a 5 paragraph essay, multiple choice test, or a scripted lab report. So often, as teachers, it is easy to fall back to the traditional ways of teaching. With Universal Design for Learning, we can do better and empower our students to become expert learners. Implementing UDL takes relinquishing some control as a teacher and letting our students take the driver’s seat. With UDL, our job as teachers

Feedback is Critical to Professional Growth [Video]

Feedback is Critical to Professional Growth [Video]

Even the thickest skinned of us can feel like crawling into a cave when we hear a piece of negative feedback. But mastery-oriented feedback is necessary for growth and improvement. When I present, I sometimes pause the session after 20-30 minutes to ask my audience for feedback on my presenting style. I tell them to give me the most negative piece of feedback possible (even if they love me!). I have done this enough times to know what will be coming my way. “You talk waaaay too fast! Can you slow down?” “Your transitions are pretty abrupt. Can you be

UDL is a Standards-Based Curriculum Design

UDL is a Standards-Based Curriculum Design

All too often, when I speak with teachers about integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into their classrooms, I get feedback that it simply isn’t possible. “I can’t provide options; I teach math.” “I have standards I need to meet, so options are off the table!”  UDL is a standards-based curriculum design. This means it can be incorporated into any learning environment, regardless of subject, content, or standards. Let me explain. When creating a UDL lesson plan, you need to start with the standard. First, determine if your standard is a content standard or a method standard. Content standards are

Growth Mindset: Teaching Your Students to Be Expert Learners

Growth Mindset: Teaching Your Students to Be Expert Learners

When I taught English years ago, I was dealing out tattered paperbacks of the classics like it was my life’s calling. The whole class read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and then the whole class read Old Man and the Sea. I excitedly circulated the books, week after week, to groaning middle-schoolers slumped in their chairs. After we read, I gave a test and some students got As and others earned Fs and they were all left feeling like being a good student was a prize. Good grades were bestowed upon those students who either a) were proficient readers or b) were creative

Inclusive Education: It’s Not the Students Who Are Disabled

Inclusive Education: It’s Not the Students Who Are Disabled

The first organization to address the personalization of instruction for all students was the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). CAST is still going strong today. Their research on increasing outcomes for students with disabilities began in 1984, when they explored benefits of using emerging technology to make traditional education more accessible for all students. Working in classrooms with students, researchers at CAST quickly observed that these technology-based learning supports not only fostered inclusion and allowed students with disabilities to be educated with their peers, but the supports benefited the other students as well. In the early 1990’s, they began

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

When I am presenting on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an education framework routed in offering options to students to help them take control of their own education, teachers often tell me they have been doing it already for years. I ask them to explain. What follows is often a description of Differentiated Instruction (DI). Like UDL, DI is also an education framework based on providing options to students. However, there are some critical differences that differentiate (pardon the pun!) the two frameworks from one another. The Dinner Party Analogy I like to explain the differences by asking teachers think

How UDL Will Capture a Classroom

How UDL Will Capture a Classroom

  I grew up in a little town called Seekonk, Massachusetts. My childhood home was built on a dead end, abutting a forest perfect for a game of Capture the Flag. On summer nights, our neighborhood crew divided the woods into two territories and strategized for the ultimate prize, an old tattered towel fastened to a glow stick. We played the game night after night, perfecting our offense and defense, getting more confident and audacious as we navigated the woods in the dark, eventually climbing trees and jumping mosquito-laden streams to reach our goals. Eventually, I’d see the porch lights

A-Ha Moment about Assistive Technology

When working with educators on UDL implementation, there is one question that always comes up. “Is UDL effective for students with significant, intensive needs?” Today, Joy Zabala provides an emphatic “yes!” And believe me, if anyone knows this with certainty, it’s Joy. As the CAST web site notes, “Joy Zabala is a leading expert on the use of assistive technology (AT) to improve education for people with disabilities. As a technologist, special educator, teacher trainer, and conference speaker, Dr. Zabala has earned international recognition for her work on AT and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).” Although it’s critical that all students receive

UDL Engagement: Honoring Cultural Identity

“The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades…” Oh,Timbuk3, how right you were. Today, Dr. Liz Berquist asked us to don sunglasses as a metaphorical lens to see where our learners are coming from, understand them and the culture that defines them, and value who they are as people. After hearing her message, I am confident that if all educators could see their students through the cultural lens that Liz defined, the future would be much brighter. The essential question that guided this work, “How does your cultural identify connect to how you connect to your students?” The answer may be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation we

UDL, Expert Learners, and the 36 Ton Machine

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the fabulous Loui Lord Nelson, author of Design and Deliver, discuss the characteristics of an expert learner – by sharing an analogy about the “Best. Birthday Present. Ever.” To provide some background, UDL is all about teaching students how to become expert learners. Knowledge is at our fingertips – Google, Siri, and countless other apps can provide us with knowledge that used to be reserved for only the “great students” of their day. Now, we live in a world that “knowledge” in isolation is rather meaningless. Our task, as educators, is to teach students what to