Sarah Wisecarver, a gifted and talented teacher and the Universal Design for Learning team facilitator at Hampstead Central School in Hampstead, New Hampshire, discusses how she applied the UDL principles in one of her lessons (time: 6:19).
Question asked of Sarah Wisecarver in this audio:
You have been using the UDL framework for quite some time now and serve as the UDL team facilitator at your school. Can you describe a lesson that exemplifies how you have applied the UDL principles?
UDL Team Facilitator
Transcript: Sarah Wisecarver
Narrator: Universal Design for Learning (UDL): A Teacher’s Implementation
Sarah Wisecarver, a gifted and talented teacher and the Universal Design for Learning team facilitator at Hampstead Central School in Hampstead, New Hampshire, discusses how she applied the UDL principles in one of her lessons.
This interview is brought to you by the IRIS Center, a national center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs.
Question: Mrs. Wisecarver, you have been using the UDL framework for quite some time now and serve as the UDL team facilitator for your school. Can you describe a lesson that exemplifies how you have applied the UDL principles?
Sarah: I very much try to include aspects of UDL in all my lesson design. Thinking about the “why” of learning. How are the students going to be engaged? Thinking about what is it that they are going to be learning? What kinds of ways can I represent? Are they going to need vocab support? Are they going to need some audio? Are they going to need to work with me? Do I need to provide more background knowledge? And how are they going to share out what they’ve learned? How are they going to be able to demonstrate their learning and understanding to me as their teacher?
We do a lot with theme in fourth grade. And one of the lessons that we do is read a novel, and during that novel read, they need to be able to identify the theme and provide some evidence for the theme. Notice I did not say they need to write about the theme because that would be more of a fixed kind of goal. So after we read the novel, the students have examples of theme. So I’ve provided some background knowledge. We’ve done this through mini lessons with picture books and things. They have some graphic organizers they could use as options—they don’t have to use them, but they have them as options—where it says, “What do you think the big idea, the theme, is of the novel? Can you provide some evidence?” I also provide different papers that have examples of themes because sometimes they can get a little stuck on what some examples would be. We created Jamboards prior to doing this where they would work either together or with a partner collaboratively, identifying some example ideas and really differentiating between a theme and a main idea and how they are different. Then they decide if they want to work by themselves or in a small group or with a partner on determining a theme for the novel. They decide that, and then they start to look at the novel again, thinking about some of the themes.
This year we used the novel Inside Out and Back Again. I did not tell them what the theme was. In fact, they could choose anything that they wanted, as long as they were able to identify at least three examples and provide evidence that this was a theme of the text. So once they did that, they were given the prompt of, “How are you going to show this? How am I going to know that this is a theme from the novel?” And I did not tell them how they needed to do that. I did provide a choice board with some options. For instance, creating their own Jamboard, creating a Google slideshow, creating a poster where they had the central theme and then they gave some evidence. And then in the middle of all of my choice boards is always, “If you have a different idea, come to Mrs. Wisecarver, and we can talk it through.”
This year, my students really blew me away with their creativity. I had two girls who worked together, and they created a map. So the book Inside Out and Back Again, the main character travels from Vietnam to America, and her journey through all the places that she needs to go before she reaches America. And at each stopping spot that she did, they provided evidence from the text with page numbers that they had typed up in a Google Doc of how she persevered there. And so they provided these Google Docs that they cut out and put onto their map that they created. And they also had arrows to show her journey. In addition to that, they also created a little origami boat. So when they presented to the class, the boat was moving along their poster, and at every stopping point, they provided the evidence of how the main character showed perseverance. It truly showed me they understand this theme, and they were so engaged. They were so invested in it. It wasn’t homework, but they were doing things at home, and they were so proud of themselves. I had another student for the same activity, and her theme was courage. And she took the main character and then several of the other characters, and she wrote a poem about each one from that character’s perspective of how they were courageous and created a book of poetry. Each piece of poetry gave specific evidence from the text, and at the bottom, she gave page numbers for where it was.
I always do a one-point rubric, so they had their one-point rubric ahead of time of what the expectations were. And I always give a grade, but then I let them self-reflect, as well. And just to see their pride in what they did and how they were able to show and explain the idea of theme, much more than if I had said, “Write an essay about the theme. Give me a five-paragraph essay.” So using the framework for that, I provided lots of options for representation, lots of options for action and expression. And they were so engaged. They were advocating for their own learning and how they wanted to show it. And I think, too, they had to do so much with executive functioning, organizing, planning—much more than if I had just laid it out and said, “This is how you have to do it.” So there were so many more skills involved. I think it was a bigger takeaway for them, and something they’ll always remember.
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