March 2021 Newsletter – Universal Design for Learning: Action & Expression

The final set of UDL Guidelines has to do with the way children interact with materials and express what they have learned.  This area is called Action & Expression. Due to variations in abilities, children will interact with others and play with toys differently. For example, a child who has been diagnosed with a motor delay will likely have difficulty manipulating small toys and puzzles. This child’s physical delay in development may impact the ability to demonstrate certain skills. In other words, they may know where to put the puzzle piece but have difficulty putting it in place correctly due to the delay in fine motor development. Similarly, a child who has a strong vocabulary in normal conversations may have difficulty expressing emotions safely when frustrated or angry. Educators should be open to the fact that many factors contribute to a child’s ability to demonstrate what they know. In an early learning environment, action and expression might look like this:

  • Adapt blocks and puzzles. Create a set of blocks that has grip tape attached to it to make building a bit easier. Add wooden knobs to puzzle pieces that can be difficult to manipulate. Be sure to have a variety of toys available that meet the developmental needs of the children in your care.
  • Work with families to learn about any assistive technology used by children in your care. Some children with physical disabilities or speech and language delays use technology to assist them in the classroom. These tools help children communicate and empower children. Do your best to integrate these tools and help other children see them as a way to interact with their peers.
  • Utilize technology tools. Sometimes, children may want to produce a commercial or a video related to the content they are exploring. This is a rich learning experience that incorporates literacy, performing arts skills, and cooperation. Software programs allow children to paint, create books, and write their own comics. While these options should not replace pencil and paper activities, they can be used to enhance lessons, improve engagement, and provide an opportunity for different levels of expression.
  • Help children plan projects. Children may have lots of ideas for how a final project should look, but they will likely need your help determining all of the necessary steps to complete the project and creating a plan for when to complete each element of the project. Use picture cues, checklists, and other visuals to illustrate your timeline so it can be easily followed.
  • Work with children on their learning portfolios. Many teachers compile portfolios for individual children throughout the year. If you are not doing so already, spend time with children individually, about once a month, to review the contents of their portfolios. Explain why you collected certain pieces and talk about the learning experience with the child. Compare pieces of work and see if the children can see improvements in their skills. Use this time to identify new goals and create plans for how to achieve those goals.
  • Promote self-reflection. Walk children through social situations that were challenging. Ask children what they could try next time that might result in a better outcome. Create a cue or prompt that brings children’s awareness to their emotions or reactions. This cue should be taught to children prior to the need for its use. Help children recall times when something worked out for them and identify the choices they made during those situations. Make a plan to incorporate more of those choices in future interactions.

These are just a few ways that UDL can be adapted for an early learning environment.  Follow this link to read all of the UDL Guidelines on Action & Expression.

For the main article Universal Design for Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Representation, CLICK HERE

For the article UDL with Adults, CLICK HERE