Implementing Universal Design for Learning in the classroom can seem like a huge undertaking at first, which is why it's best to start small. Making small changes, then continually building upon them is how I have managed to incorporate elements of UDL in my classroom. I may not be exactly where I want to be yet, but by making small changes over the years, my teaching and how my students are learning is much more engaging than it once was.
I've blogged before about promoting engagement through goal setting. But this school year I have built upon this idea ways that are very easy to implement in a classroom, and this process has also put students in a role to help keep me on task, which they love!
One of the guiding principles of UDL is to heighten the salience of goals and objectives (CAST guiding principle 8.1). In order to apply this principle in the classroom, for years I have been writing curriculum outcomes on my lesson plans, and displaying these outcomes in my classroom in student-friendly language. But it made very little impact, and in spite of my efforts to use student friendly language and display the outcomes prominently on the wall, the reality is that many students just tuned it out.
I wanted to make learning goals an ongoing part of student dialogue in our classroom, not for the sake of students knowing what I wanted them to learn, but so that they could understand the why of learning... to help them understand that each activity they do will take them closer to learning something. For example, they're not just completing a worksheet, playing a game, or working in a group... these activities are designed to help them learn how to skip count/read a map/write a recount/classify data/etc.
Here's how I have put learning goals at the forefront of learning, and engaged students in the process:
- I have created a goal wall in my classroom, which is divided by subject areas.
- In each subject area, a small number of goals that they are currently working on are written in student-friendly language.
- One of my classroom jobs is Goal Reader. At the beginning of each subject each day, the goal reader's responsibility is to read the goals aloud to the class. The students enjoy this job, and this has helped keep me accountable. It motivates me to keep the goals updated, and to keep learning goals an ongoing part of classroom discourse.
- On all written assessments, the goals are recorded at the top of the page in student-friendly language. The goal reader reads these aloud before students complete the assessment.
My class goal board was very easy to setup. I purchased four whiteboards with magnetic backings, as I have mine placed on top of a chalkboard. Then I used Ready Letters for "Our Goals," and name plates for labels for the subjects. I have a Language Arts board, a Math board, a Science/Social Studies board, and a board for Community/Wellness. The Community/Wellness board covers basic rules and routines, as well as what we are learning in Health and Personal Wellness.
I alternate black marker and colour marker on each board to make it easier to see each individual goal. I update the goals as needed, usually about once a week, depending on subject area. Some goals are ongoing or last for the duration of a unit, so I'm not changing every single goal every week. It's really manageable. Also, I don't include every single outcome we're working toward... but I do try to write the goals in a simple and general way that touches on most of the outcomes, and so that they are easily understood by students.
Keeping all of the goals in one place, instead of scattered all over the room (e.g. I used to keep the Math outcomes on the Math wall, the LA outcomes on my word wall, etc.), has made it easy for students to locate all of our goals at any given time, which makes it more accessible. By creating a class job to read the goals to the class (which rotates weekly), I've made students active participants in the process, which has increased their engagement with their goals. And by putting students in charge of reading the goals aloud, not only does it help keep me accountable (in terms of updating the goals and making sure they are stated regularly), it allows every student in the class to hear about their learning goals from someone other than me!
Overall, this has been a positive change in my classroom, and has definitely fine-tuned the way I heighten the salience of goals and objectives in my classroom, which has helped to further promote student engagement.