Embedding UDL into Classroom Instruction with Common Core State Standards

Many teachers find it difficult to understand how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles can be planned as part of a lesson utilizing Common Core State Standards.

The solution is simply this:  Be intentional in planning.

The benefits to teachers planning with UDL are many.  First, of course, their students benefit.  By being intentional in the integration of UDL into actual lessons utilizing Common Core State Standards, teachers open the opportunity for all learners to choose multiple means of access to content and differentiation in how they show what they have learned.  In addition, through the practice of UDL integration, teachers become more familiar with a variety of UDL principles and what they look like in their own classrooms.  Teachers also become more familiar with their students as individuals, their preferred learning styles and modes, and tend to view their students more as unique individual learners.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by intentionally planning with UDL principles, teachers change their own mindsets about what learning can look like for a variety of students.  This change in mindset has the power to propel teachers forward as they seek to differentiate for all learners, the use of technology in the classroom, incorporate intervention as needed, and move toward standards-based grading.

Visit this excellent example of UDL principles embedded into a middle school lesson plan using Common Core State Standards!



The Power of RtI Implementation: 4 Tier 1 Strategies

I come across many educators across the country who spend the majority of their time, human resources, and money on providing quality Tier 2 and 3 academic and behavioral intervention.  While putting powerful interventions in place for struggling students is extremely important, many underestimate the power of solid Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies for ALL students as they rush to plug holes in a leaking bucket.

The power of Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies is in the unified approach of a school or grade level or academic department to collaborate and coordinate their collective efforts on research-based strategies that meet the needs of their students according to data.  While schools may approach this process differently, the bottom line is that there is a proactive strategy (rather than simply reacting to quarterly assessments or when something is obviously leaking) in place to meet student needs across the entire population.  In order to be proactive, one must note data trends of the school population in years past.  Most school populations are fairly consistent from year to year and the data can be utilized to put Tier 1 supports in place before students even start school in the fall.

Based on academic and behavioral data trends of students within a school, the following powerful strategies can be considered, planned for, and implemented prior to the start of the school year:

1.  Extended use of homeroom time, even weekly, designated to a Tier 1 strategy:  an example may be a school wide behavior lesson (content determined by present or past trend behavioral data).

2.  Academic and behavioral non-negotiables/expectations based on past trend data:  examples may be the expectation that all students be reading and traveling with a book at all times, that school wide behavior expectations be taught in every classroom daily, that all classes will take the last five minutes to practice math fluency, that all classes incorporate 3 essays within their curriculum monthly, all students will have at least one student-led conference with their parent during the school year, etc.  These expectations need to be determined, shared, supported, valued, recognized, and rewarded by school leadership in order for them to be effective.

3.  Allow past trend data to help drive scheduling adjustments:  examples may include building in additional student support in academics during lunch, before school, after school, through flexible study skill classes; building in behavioral support through a school mentoring program or daily behavior lessons during the extended morning news.

4.  Allow past trend data to help drive the use of valuable resources throughout the school:  examples may be resources such as tutors, reading coaches, parent/community volunteers, guidance counselor, and an assistant principal.  This should remain as flexible as possible so that data is driving where and when those resources are deployed in supporting Tier 1 goals.

The primary key in planning for powerful Tier 1 is to make strategizing a continuous process based on more current data throughout the school year.  With effective Tier 1 strategies in place, using limited resources and managing Tier 2 and 3 interventions becomes much more manageable for everyone.



5 Effective Intrinsic Motivators to Boost Student Engagement

Though some educators seek to positively impact student engagement solely through extrinsic motivators, such as reward and recognition, many seek to move students toward intrinsic motivators that encourage students to take ownership of their learning.  Undoubtedly, intrinsic motivators are sometimes more difficult to implement than obvious extrinsic motivators.  Here are five simple research-based intrinsic motivators that can easily be woven into daily instruction and routines in any classroom at any grade level:

  1.  Integrate student choice into classroom activities frequently.  This can be in the form of choices of learning activities in meeting a specific learning standard, choices in how to read a lengthy reading passage, choices in how to illustrate knowledge of a specific concept based on different learning styles, and many more.  By allowing students to make limited choices, educators allow them to embrace their own learning path in some way rather than have someone choose it for them.
  2. Make individual goal setting a regular part of instruction.  Not only does goal setting involve metacognition (knowing what you know), goal setting involves personal decision making and commitment to a certain level of performance or completion.  Goal setting encourages students to take personal responsibility for their own performance and experience a sense of self-efficacy in learning by accomplishing their goals.  Setting smaller goals as part of a larger task also teaches students how to approach and manage larger tasks effectively, valuable academic and work skills. To further encourage students in this area, model personal goal setting as a part of daily instruction.
  3. Allow students to monitor own progress with meeting individual goals.  Goal setting is most effective and motivating when time is allotted for frequent progress monitoring toward individual goals.  Personal reflection with progress monitoring enhances the intrinsic motivational value of this technique.  With the opportunity to monitor their own progress, students can modify their actions as needed to gain their desired goal.
  4. Notice individual students daily without judgment.  Most people are more interested in working for people who notice them as individuals.  Students are no different.  The act of noticing a student’s individuality in a non-judgmental way signals acceptance and over time, establishes a positive, trusting relationship between teacher and student.
  5. Allow students to form positive relationships naturally within the class as part of a larger learning community.  Most students are more motivated when they feel a sense of belonging to a larger community of learners.  Rather than isolating learning and learners, involve them in learning collaboratively with each other.