Question #2

During the workshop, there was quite a lively discussion about UDL. What are questions or comments that you have or would like to discuss about UDL?  The three areas of Representation, Action/Expression and Engagement are designed to help facilitators of learning and experiences look at the ENTIRE process as meeting the needs of all the participants on multiple levels. Ideally, in planning and implementing an activity, if these are taken into consideration, most individuals should be able to be involved at some level in the activity- and potentially in many ways!  Offer some thoughts about your perceptions/perspectives about UDL and how you might use them to develop your work.

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27 Responses to Question #2

  1. Pat Stevens says:

    I am not sure yet that I fully understand the three ways you talk about to implement UDL in an art class. I know the basics that we discussed in our group meeting, but how do I use these strategies when I have a class of 32 or more, and a Para is with my special needs students? Do I need to involve the whole class or just the SPED students? Do I take time out from the rest of the class to try a strategy with the SPED students? Looking for some help.

    • curt says:

      I often need to make accommodations and modifications based on lower cognitive functioning.These students have trouble with more complex procedures, dexterity, fine motor skills, and problem solving. Some of the changes I have made with these students is to break the task down into one step at a time process. I expect drawing to be at their developmental level and we work with that. Just as we do with all students. Sometimes I limit choices, for example, reducing color choices to two or three. I have used drawing guides, a dotted line that the student follows with their own line, or I’ll circle an area and instruct the student to fill it up with their drawing. This gets the student to work bigger and open up their drawing imagery, because they will often draw the same type of image in the same way and usually small size. So if I can get them to step out of those drawings and do something bigger and unfamiliar the results are amazing.
      These students sometimes make the most beautiful art. It is honest and not self conscious.

      • Tim Marsden says:

        That’s awesome Curt, I love the honest and sincere expression that you talk about from your kids. That should be every teachers goal!

      • Sue says:


        Can you come to Milwaukee and teach art? I wish I had art teachers like you to work with! Too often, the students with the challenges are the ones that yes, challenge the teachers more, and I am called in to their classes to help “figure out what they can do”. Your responses are quite heartfelt and honest, for sure. In UDL, all the students’ needs in the group are taken into consideration, and yes, I often look at the needs of the students that may have the MOST needs first. From there, I provide what they might need, and, then, plan how the other students can also be engaged and successful, without making the students with more skills less “accountable” or able to be more independently creative. Yes, there have been activities that I have done that it is really hard to explain or validate why certain students get to do things another way, and those have caused me to rethink what my goals were for that activity.

      • Marguerite says:

        Curt, I’m so impressed with your dedication to provide alternatives for your students. I was sitting in art class yesterday with my special needs student and was a bit disheartened when no modifications were provided for her with the current project they were working on. I get the sense that the philosophy is to just let her do whatever she wants to with the projects in the class as long as she is doing ‘something’. I never get the feeling that any thought has been put into helping her. It’s unfortunate and frustrating, especially when teachers like you are implementing such wonderful strategies for the special needs student. Thanks for sharing what you do!

        • Sue says:

          Marguerite; I know all too well what you are seeing and it really gets to me as well. Sometimes I have been told to NOT work with students that “won’t get much out of art anyway” or “just let her sit there and don’t make her work”! Well, those are the students that definitely get my attention. I try to find the things that they like to do, like to touch, like to engage with….as I assume that they have had few opportunities to explore the materials and experiences. Many times the teachers will say, “I didn’t know that Carol liked to paint. She is always so messy and eats everything that we didn’t risk giving her paint”. Grr…there is also the “accountability” that gets lost…just because the students are engaging with the materials the same way during the activity, doesn’t mean that they can’t be redirected, motored through, demonstrated with, or re-instructed to use the materials or techniques to move along their skill and comfort levels. The final product may just be their exploration of a new material, but maybe next time the material is used, they can be coached to try it in new ways.

    • Tim Marsden says:

      I think you could just have it built into the lesson. In my opinion it’s part of differentiation, just having a variety of approaches so that you engage and reach each student. Using multiple strategies in a class will not only help the special education students but will help teach the multiple intelligences and different learning styles you have within each class you teach.

    • Sue says:

      Good question. UDL is about providing the environment, the supports, the activity presentation, the activity itself, the engagement with the activity, assessing the student engagement, as well as other strategies for the success of ALL the students in the class. It really isn’t about planning for the reg ed and then planning for the sp ed students, it is about planning for both at the same time. The thinking is that if you provide necessary supports for some students, that all students will be served as well. Simply, if you are going to use scissors, then put out adaptive and regular scissors out for all. That way, students have access to what they need on all levels. In an earlier post, templates were mentioned as a strategy. If you have templates available for all the students, those that need that support will have access to them, and for those that might be able to create their own art without a template, they will be encouraged to go beyond and create their own templates.

      • Marguerite says:

        Your response helps clarify the use of UDL for me, Sue. “It really isn’t about planning for the reg ed and then planning for the sp ed students, it is about planning for both at the same time.” I understand now. Integrate the UDL strategies into your lesson plan and everyone in the classroom succeeds. It’s not one group of students vs another group of students, it’s all of us together!

  2. Tim Marsden says:

    I guess I do use the UDL Guidelines when I teach my classes, although I don’t always think it through like I should. When I have a class of 60 or 70 students that are at different levels of talent and ability it becomes very important for me to create lessons and classes that address each of the UDL guidelines. I try very hard to present each lesson or concept in a variety of ways so that each learner can have a clear and concise experience with the subject manner. And we use physical response and action all of the time in choir, one of the first things we do is to get our bodies in motion to be warmed up and to give us another way to be expressive. And I always work hard to engage each student in my lesson. Many times we break rehearsals down and I work with smaller groups at a time so that I can encourage and engage each student, but I also have my students encourage and engage each other which is a wonderful opportunity for all learners, we can all learn something from our peers.

    • Sarah says:

      Just like we are all learning from each other now!

    • Sue says:

      Yes, Tim, you are using UDL strategies….it’s just that what you have been naturally doing is given a “name”-UDL. You explained it perfectly, and I am sure that your classes of 60 and 70 present LOTS of challenges to meet! It is obvious that you work quite hard to create individualized learning opportunities within your large groups- not an easy task! The use of physical warmups with the music is wonderful! Your students are lucky!

    • Marguerite says:

      I think of lot of teachers (especially in the arts … i.e. music, theatre and art) do use UDL guidelines without thinking about it. We are faced with such a wide range of talent and abilities in our classes or rehearsals that we HAVE to use everything we can think of to present the concept or lesson. I do the same thing as an director and acting coach. What words, what example, what activity can I use in order for the student(s) to ‘get it’? The ‘aha!’ moment happens at various times for each individual and it may take days or weeks to find the right word that elicits the spark of recognition in a student’s eyes. But aren’t those moments so precious? 🙂

  3. Marguerite says:

    There is a lot more detail in the handouts we received concerning UDL than we actually discussed. I’m still trying to digest the written material and hopefully can comment more on the blog question as the week progresses and I have a little more free ‘thinking’ time. I’d love to learn more specific examples of each of the three UDL areas in terms of actual projects or examples. I think that would help me as I develop my own final project. I haven’t begun laying out the specifics of it in earnest yet but I may be looking for feedback as it progresses. I’m looking forward to connecting with your previous posts when I can sit down and really soak them up. Hoping you all stay safe in the snow that’s on the way… ~Marguerite

    • Sue says:

      I like your idea of connecting to UDL with other specific activities or projects. I think that Fran handed out the Educator’s Checklist with the Tico Story delineated in the various aspects of the three areas. Take a look at that for some ideas about how to use the three areas. Do not think that you have to use all the little areas in every activity-that would be next to impossible and would wear you out! It actually took a lot of time to think about how to respond to ALL those areas when Fran and I were developing the materials. Not all activities lend themselves to all aspects. I like to think of them as ways to think about what else I can do to help students succeed when other strategies aren’t working. Kinda gets me to think about strategies I may not have considered using previously. If you would like to suggest an activity- art/music or movement-I will run it through the UDL form ( and be more than happy to have others add to it as well!!) and post it on the website.

      • Marguerite says:

        Ah, thanks Sue! Knowing that the strategies are not designed to be used in every activity is helpful. I was already wondering how I was going to hit every bullet point in my project. 🙂 When I get the project idea solidified I’ll definitely post it here and see what additional ideas can be generated.

      • Marguerite says:

        I went back to my materials from the workshop and found an “UDL Guidelines – Educator Checklist” but it didn’t contain anything for the “Tico” story. BUT I just went sleuthing on Fran’s website and went into the lesson plans tab and found the checklist for “Tico” there. It is exactly what I needed for developing my project! Whew, my brain is resting a little easier now. LOL

  4. Sarah says:

    Being in special education, I am embarrassed to say I have never heard the term “Universal Design Learning”. I seem to focus on representation and engagement when working with students, but bypass expression and action. I am so focused on the language piece, I forget I can include physical actions while working on language. I found I can use this as an option to check comprehension and retention. Since the class, the students and I are standing up and moving around more than before!

    • Sue says:

      YEAH! No worries about not knowing about UDL. I have done presentations throughout the country, and it is quite inconsistent as to who is familar with UDL, who is using it and who has even heard of it! In my own school district, until quite recently ( two years ago) we were ONLY using differentiation and were not encouraged to consider using UDL strategies in our lessons. It wasn’t considered to be district approved as strategies. In my other work in my school district, I am in the Assistive Technology Department and we are now starting to include the concepts of UDL in our presentations…yet many of us have been using them to develop our lessons and support our student learning.

      • Sarah says:

        I guess the terms I hear are “individualized” and “differentiate”. Due to the IEP terminology,”accommodations” is always used. I see UDL as accommodations, but not necessarily for one individual. UDL is out there for any student to use. Even students without an IEP. Am I on the right track here?

        • fsillau says:

          Yes sarah

          I am late getting to this
          But udl can and should be used for any student not just those on ieps its what all classrooms should look like ideally.

  5. Sue says:

    Sounds like we need more discussion on UDL!

  6. Aaron says:

    I think of UDL as differentiation. For me, I have to differentiate with every class because my classes are not divided up into medium or subject. I have class periods with Art 1-4 students. I usually have my Art 1 students do one project and my Art 2-3 students do a project, similar in nature, but not quite the same. My Art 4 students are my more independent group that creates their own portfolio, determining what media and subject they are going to further explore.
    Differentiation with my students that work a para usually involves a change in media or tool manipulation. Last semester we did a Batik project on fabric, but instead of using hot wax, some students were directed to create the same subject(bird) with watercolor.
    I feel like I am lucky to teach art because it seems to lend itself toward universal learning. Everyone can make their own mark in their own unique way.

    • Sue says:

      Yes, Aaron, the arts are a great subject to teach with UDL! To me, it is somewhat easier to accommodate to a wide variety of need, because, in art, 2+2 doesn’t have to equal 4….we can have creative attempts, unusual approaches, many trials and mistakes, and really, none are wrong. In my classes, I tell the kids, the only way you do it wrong it to not do it at all. If you are not doing it because it seems too hard, or you do not understand it, or you think you need too much help, then I am not doing my job to help you see where the YOU is in the activity. Most of the kids that disengage right at the beginning of the activity are fearful of failing or looking dumb. I don’t let them disengage- they will have other alternative acitivities …but that is for another week!

  7. fran sillau says:

    Hi all
    I like to think of udl as a buffet table. Take what works for you and learn from the rest
    You dont need to include everything all the time.