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Apply Universal Design for Learning


“I was most surprised [in the
course] at how well the UDL
concepts fit into my teaching
beliefs that all students learn
when given the information in a
form that relates to their needs.”

Sherri Soluri,
Florida TEAL Team

“[After learning about UDL],
I realized that I was paying more
attention to individual students
in big classes (who were slower to
engage) and focused on making
writing exercises fun and
interesting. I could witness the
students respond. Also, I had just
seen the movie, Waiting for
, and realized how
important it is for a teacher
to always be engaged in the
classroom and committed
to student learning.”

A.J. Zissler,
Idaho TEAL Team

It’s the key word in the Universal Design for Learning
from CAST (2011). Look for multiple ways to
get your teaching objectives taught as means in which
teachers help learners to engage with the instruction.
In writing, think about all the ways writers could do the
physical work of writing:

  • Handwriting
  • Typing
  • Word processing
  • Voice recognition
  • Word prediction
  • Edit with highlighters
  • Cut and paste revisions with paper

Make Time to Plan

How can you support planning in multiple
modes? How much time do you allot to
planning? This is an incredibly important
step and one struggling writers will regularly
skip—to their detriment. Use this list of
ideas to spark your imagination:

  • Video
  • Music
  • Collage and montage
  • Art
  • Stories
  • Nature walks/time outdoors
  • Models of writing
I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation.

1. Provide options for perception.

  • Options that customize the
    display of information
  • Options that provide alternatives
    for auditory information
  • Options that provide alternatives
    for visual information

2. Provide options for language and

  • Options that define vocabulary
    and symbols
  • Options that clarify syntax and
  • Options for decoding text or
    mathematical notation
  • Options that promote cross linguistic
  • Options that illustrate key
    concepts non-linguistically

3. Provide options for comprehension.

  • Options that provide or activate
    background knowledge
  • Options that highlight critical
    features, big ideas, and
  • Options that guide information
  • Options that support memory
    and transfer
II. Provide Multiple Means of
Action and Expression.

4. Provide options for physical action.

  • Options in the mode of physical
  • Options in the means of
  • Options for accessing tools and
    assistive technologies

5. Provide options for expressive
skills and fluency.

  • Options in the media for
  • Options in the tools for
    composition and problem solving
  • Options in the scaffolds for
    practice and performance

6. Provide options for executive

  • Options that guide effective
  • Options that support planning
    and strategy development
  • Options that facilitate managing
    information and resources
  • Options that enhance capacity for
    monitoring progress
III. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement.

7. Provide options for recruiting interest.

  • Options that increase individual
    choice and autonomy
  • Options that enhance relevance,
    value, and authenticity
  • Options that reduce threats
    and distractions

8. Provide options for sustaining
effort and persistence.

  • Options that heighten salience of goals and objectives
  • Options that vary levels of challenge and support
  • Options that foster collaboration and communication
  • Options that increase mastery-oriented feedback

9. Provide options for self-regulation.

  • Options that guide personal
    goal-setting and expectations
  • Options that scaffold coping skills
    and strategies
  • Options that develop self-assessment
    and reflection
© 2011 CAST. Adapted with permission. All
rights reserved. For the full version, see

Alter Your Expectations

Use the ideas from the Universal Design for Learning
provided in this section to expand your
thinking on getting students engaged in learning.

Struggling writers often have weak content-area
vocabulary and prior knowledge. Scaffold with them
and help them grow their own funds of knowledge and
experience. Make explicit analogies from their lives
and work. Create lists and webs of words and ideas
generated in class, and keep the following visible
during the writing phases so learners can use them:

  • Classroom-created lists
  • Lyrics
  • Internet searches
  • Online dictionaries and thesauruses
  • Magazines
  • Book titles

Share your secrets to getting and staying organized!

  • Paper or digital outlines
  • Preformed templates and graphic organizers
  • Index cards
  • Poster paper
  • PowerPoint slides

Engagement Is an Everyday Concern

On writing, the research is clear: Choice of topics, authentic questions, and real audiences for the work are motivating
and engaging. Adults are especially motivated to work
on issues in their daily lives and communities, and they
can usually suggest hot topics to address. Even when
assignments are preformed, look for ways to enhance the
relevance of the assignment to learners’ daily concerns:

  • Various prompts
  • Choice of topics
  • Authentic
  • Uses for writing

Rely on Peers

Use collaborative groups or pairs to dialogue a topic and
flesh out appropriate vocabulary and concepts and to
deepen learners’ thinking on the topic. Use collaborative
groups or pairs to offer peer support for reviewing, editing,
and providing insight on audience response.

Set Goals

Goal setting is a critical element to successful teaching/learning. Help learners to set achievable and specific
goals, and help them monitor progress toward their goals.
(See the Teach Self-Regulated Strategy Development

For more information, see the TEAL Center Fact Sheet on
Universal Design for Learning at the end of this section.


CAST. (2011). Universal Design for Learning guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.
Retrieved December 27, 2011, from udlguidelines/downloads


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