RVS Guest Author: Mary-Ann Mitchell-Pellett, Assistant Principal, Meadowbrook Middle School – Planning for all learners is no easy task, and can often seem overwhelming. Many educators have the assumption that planning for all learners means that an individual learning plan needs to be created for each student. If this were the case, this would indeed be an overwhelming task. And although as educators we so utilize individual learner profiles to inform our teaching and learning practices in our classes, we use the information from individual learner profiles and learner needs to frontload our lessons – just think of a front-end loader.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offers educators an effective “frontloading” system that plans for the needs of learners ahead of time – instead of “adding on” after the fact. The Planning for All Learners (PAL) approach is not a “reactionary” model. The PAL process was introduced by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technologies) – one of the main originators of Universal Design for Learning for use in the public school system. The visual from CAST exemplifies this process:
The PAL process helps us to set goals and align the goals to curricular outcomes; analyze and identify barriers in our methods, materials, and assessments; find and apply UDL barriers and solutions, and teach, evaluate, revise the lesson.
During our last Professional Learning day in November, staff at Meadowbrook Middle School reviewed the principles of UDL and related materials that support the PAL process. These can be viewed on a blog page dedicated to Universal Design for Learning. Teachers at Meadowbrook are committed to making curriculum and learning accessible for all learners. In addition, teachers were also introduced to Book Builder, web-based program, which is a free resource from CAST, that allows educators to make “disabling text” more accessible to all learners, and help remove cognitive barriers to curriculum. Educators can take textbook information and create a Book Builder book that allows students to receive the text and information in a variety of ways (multiple means of recognition), as well as respond to text and the subject area in a variety of ways (multiple means of action and expression). The interactive nature of the Book Builder Book (which includes options to embed video or game links, pictures, audio, vocabulary assistance, and “avatars”) also creates multiple ways for students to engage in the content that is being taught.
Two Book Builder books that are currently being used at Meadowbrook include “Phases of the Moon” (Grade 6 Sky Science) and Regions of Canada (Grade 5 Social Studies). They can be found in the UDL Book Builder “Public Library Books” on the following link: http://bookbuilder.cast.org/library.php. To view the books, type in the above-mentioned titles in the ‘Search Terms” section and check off the appropriate grade level.
Thus, Planning for All Learners does not have to be an overwhelming endeavor for teachers. There are many excellent resources created by CAST, as well as the National Center on Universal Design for Learning. Assistance is just a “click” away!