One of the challenges of teaching kids in the middle grades (I’m calling that 5th through 8th grade for the purpose of this post) is that physical maturity and social emotional maturity do not always match up. A couple days ago I was talking with a teacher about the immature behavior of a student. A comment that stuck with me after I walked away was “But he’s the biggest one in the class…”
Sometimes there is a misconception that the tallest kids are going to be the most mature and therefore capable of doing the most, and that the smallest ones are the least mature. But in my experience, that expectation doesn’t always work hold true.
The next chance you get, just scan your room. As you look, you will see a huge variety in physical differences among the kids that are sitting in your room. Not only are each of those kiddos physically different, they all have differences in their cognitive, social, and emotional needs. While it’s easy to recognize those physical differences, perceiving what’s going on inside a child is much more difficult. With all of these differences, how do we try to meet those needs?
The Center for Applied Special Technology has been focusing their work on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). There are three main principles of UDL, and thinking about these principles as you design learning experiences will help you better to reach the diverse needs of your students.
- Principle 1: Provide multiple means of representation: We can all agree that our students all learn in different ways. This means it is so important for us to present and represent learning in multiple ways. Some students would learn best from a video clip. Others might learn best from a reading assignment. Others might need graphic organizers to help them to capture their learning. The key is to remember that if you only provide one entry point for learning, you probably will not reach all your students.
- Principle 2: Provide multiple means of action and expression: We all have our preferred ways to be able to express our knowledge. For me, I love to share my learning through written expression. Others might prefer to record a quick video clip, while still others might want to create a presentation through Power Point. The same is true of our students. While we can have our big ideas and learning targets that we want students to reach, they don’t all have to show what they know in the exact same way. The more choices we offer students in expressing their learning, the more likely we are to meet the needs of every student.
- Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement: We all know that if learners are not engaged, they are not going to be learning. Students are most engaged when they are given the opportunity to participate in authentic learning experiences that are responding to their questions, concerns, or interests. If we can give students opportunities to develop they questions or look into their concerns and interests within the scope of our learning goals, they will be more engaged, and feel empowered
Ultimately, our goal for all students is that they learn and grow. Through the use of these 3 principles, you can design learning experiences that allow our students to feel engaged and invested in their learning, and in turn you will be more likely to move our students forward in their learning. What are your thoughts? Have you seen these principles help your students find more success in the classroom? Are there any principles that you would add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!