What does UDL look like in the classroom?

When we look at the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines, we see a number of Guidelines that specifically reference the need for options for movement, such as 7.1 (Optimize individual choice and autonomy) and 9.2 (Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies).  Other pages on this blog will look at ways to implement these Guidelines from the curriculum side, but this page focuses on how these Guidelines play out in the physical setup of your classroom.

Flexible Grouping

Once the structure of your 50 minutes of class time changes to look like a mini-lesson (teacher-directed, 15 minutes maximum) followed by time for students to work, you will begin to incorporate Flexible Grouping.  With Flexible Grouping, students are encouraged to select the grouping for their work that best meets their needs and the structure of the assignment.  They might work alone, with a partner, with a small group, with a teacher, and/or they may rotate through different combinations of these groupings as they work.

PLEASE NOTE:  The term “Flexible Grouping,” when used in Differentiated Instruction, means that the teacher sets those groups.  In Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the teacher supports the students in self-reflection (9.3 Develop self-assessment and reflection) so that students are making choices about the grouping that works best for them at any given time.  Students will choose incorrectly….and that’s when the teacher will facilitate the self-assessment process and, in a culture that values mistakes and failure, these incorrect choices will lead to increased student growth.

Flexible Seating

Flexible Grouping is supported by a classroom that provides multiple options for seating choices.  Don’t get overwhelmed–you can always do this “on the cheap!”

Options during full-class/teacher-led instruction:

  • stability cushion (I buy the official ones so that they don’t break, but I look for the cheapest prices on Amazon and other sources)
  • various cushions (such as the ones you tie to kitchen chairs)
  • kick bands/bouncy bands (I bought seven sets of interchangeable resistance bands at Marshall’s and tied them around the legs of the seats–not elegant, but it worked!)
  • massage balls/fidget balls (I bought mine at Five Below)

Options during individual work time (i.e., assessments):

  • all of the options above (stability cushion, etc.)
  • timers (I am trying this one for the 2017-2018 school year)
  • noise-reducing headgear (I bought these at WalMart for $10; they are not the expensive ones–they just need to reduce noise, not completely block it)
  • yoga/stability ball (again, from Five Below–if they get punctured, it’s not a big deal)
  • places to sit other than the regular seats, such as a trap table, a science lab table (in a non-science classroom where other seats are the norm), etc.–I did not buy any of my unusual tables, but got them all from trades with other teachers for furniture the school already owned
  • non-chair options, such as stools of different heights

Options during work time (i.e., when Flexible Grouping is happening)

  • all of the above (stability cushion, etc.) for instruction
  • all of the above (timers, etc.) for individual work time
  • camp chairs (I bought mine at Ocean State Job Lot for the best price I had seen–be sure they are weight-rated for middle school and high school students)
  • stadium seats, which the kids generally use for sitting on the floor and rocking back and forth

REMEMBER:  You are providing options, not a full class set of everything for every student.  After two years of working with flexible seating, I have two yoga balls, two stability cushions, five stadium seats, four camp chairs, one trap table, one science table….and 25 desks (all of which have kick bands on them).  Students choose from a range of options; they are not all given everything every day.

What other options do you provide for students?