Three Steps to Reaching All Students

Three Steps to Reaching All Students
children sitting on their desk in a classroom showing a zen moment

Three Steps to Reaching All Students, Even in a Distance Learning Model

April 2020 | Issue #15

My best guess is that your head is spinning with the amount of resources coming your way regarding distance learning. A recurring question has been centered around serving students with more intensive needs. Aligning your instructional plans to the Universal Design for Learning principles, whether you are sending home packets, utilizing google classroom, or a combination of this, ensures students have the best shot at experiencing success. First, always ask yourself, “what is the goal?” By goal, I am not referring to an IEP goal, I am referring to the goal of the task. The task can be a worksheet you send home in a packet, a task you coach a parent through, or any other activity you are planning for your students. Then, anticipate barriers or think about what will get in the way of your students accomplishing that goal. Next, create some choices that will minimize the barriers. Use the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines to create some options.

UDL Design Process

udl design process
Images courtesy of CAST and UDL Implementation Academy 2020

The folks at CAST call this the UDL Process. This can be applied to any lesson. What are you planning to send home to your students? I challenge you to apply this process before you send it or before you talk to a parent today. Remember learning variability is contextual. The current context is home! You have the wonderful opportunity to connect with families on a whole different level during this time. At the heart of UDL is engagement and engagement is centered around safety. Keeping this in mind, now more than ever, there is a need to be flexible. I encourage you to be creative!

Here are some tips when preparing materials for your students with more intensive needs.

  1. Can a worksheet be turned into a hands-on activity? If so, use the worksheet as a reference and coach the parent through the activity. You can record yourself adapting the worksheet and share it with parents.
  2. Daily living tasks can easily be incorporated into instructional plans. This is a great way to bring relevance to functional skills. Work with parents to create a daily living skills choice board. This can be super low-tech, hand-sketched for example, or created with more sophisticated tech tools.
  3. If there is a history of avoiding a specific task, work with the parents to come up with 2 choices of tasks their child is likely to do, and then incorporate the un-favored task.
  4. Take inventory of items, school supplies, and games available at home. Be creative and use what is already available to families.

Here are a few great resources.

Thank you for your dedication and always take care of yourselves!