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Represent, Act, Engage: How Universal Design for Learning Works

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Peeked inside a typical classroom lately? If so, you're likely to see one teacher surrounded by an increasingly diverse group of students--each with unique learning needs. What's more, that 'typical' classroom is filled with students who are anything but typical. For one thing, there's really no such thing as an average student. Each class might contain students who struggle with reading or math, students who don't yet speak English, and students with disabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are the gifted students who may need more challenges to stay engaged. How on earth can one teacher meet the needs of all these diverse learners?

NAEYC Week of the Young Child 2016 Imagine Learning print concepts ABC song (space theme) from free the aliensPeeked inside a typical classroom lately? If so, you're likely to see one teacher surrounded by an increasingly diverse group of students--each with unique learning needs.

What's more, that 'typical' classroom is filled with students who are anything but typical.

Colombia activity, Imagine Learning EspañolFor one thing, there's really no such thing as an average student.

Each class might contain students who struggle with reading or math, students who don't yet speak English, and students with disabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are the gifted students who may need more challenges to stay engaged.

How on earth can one teacher meet the needs of all these diverse learners?

One for All: A Universal Design for Learning

Enter Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, a system that helps meet the needs of all student populations from ELLs to Special Ed students.

Big Brainz, educational games, video games in classroom, Imagine ThisFirstly, UDL recognizes that one size doesn't fit all. In order to work for all students, a given curriculum must incorporate three core principles:

  1. Representation - Virtually any student can learn information if it's represented in multiple media, varied supports, engaging graphics and animation, active background knowledge, and so forth. The wider the representation, the more universal the learning.
  2. Action and expression - Does the curriculum give students multiple opportunities to express what they know? If the instruction uses UDL, students will have many chances and ways to share their knowledge (which, in turn, helps solidify skills).
  3. Engagement - If the curriculum doesn't engage or motivate students, the first two principles of UDL won't matter. Conversely, if students love what they're doing, they won't want to stop learning.
As in all aspects of a universal learning design, flexibility is key!

Imagine Learning and UDL

At Imagine Learning, we believe passionately that all children deserve a chance to learn and grow. Our talented curriculum designers want to empower as many students as possible, which is why they incorporate UDL into all Imagine Learning programs.

Because UDL underlies every Imagine Learning activity, those activities can accommodate every kind of learner. These accommodations include:

  • Explicit instruction
  • Immediate feedback
  • Leveled books
  • Repeated reading
  • Re-teaching lessons
  • Clickable vocabulary words
  • Bolded text
  • Sync highlighting
  • Repeated directions
  • A choice to read or listen
  • Visual cues
  • Word processing
  • Simple, clear instruction
  • Directions with pictures
  • Visual prompts to respond
  • Advanced organizers
Points and Reasons, analogy to table and legswhy dogs make better pets, points and reasons Compound Words, Imagine Learning activitycompound word activity, UDL

Learning How to Learn

Thanks to UDL, today's curriculum designers can target instruction to meet as many students' learning needs as possible, thereby helping every student gain skills and confidence across the curriculum.

As educators and students jump headfirst into the world of 21st-century learning, they need instruction that works universally. To  meet that need, Imagine Learning will continue to represent, act, and engage students through UDL-based instruction that empowers every learner, every time.

 

To learn more about UDL, visit the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

To explore actual Imagine Learning activities, visit our Student Stories pages.

 

 

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