March 2021 Newsletter – Universal Design for Learning: Representation

Another element of UDL relates to how children take in and understand information. This area is called Representation. You are most likely using your vision to read this newsletter. For some children, taking in information visually is not the most effective way. Children with sensory or learning disabilities require information to be presented in different ways. The way we comprehend new information is often tied to our previous knowledge and experiences. Things such as culture, home language, and family background will impact the children in the learning environment in different ways. In early learning environments, options for variety in representation can look like this:

  • Use multiple ways to represent information. Add images to labels and postings around the room. Use sign language, gestures, and picture cues in addition to spoken instructions. Have books on tape available for children to explore.
  • Support understanding across languages. Whenever possible integrate common phrases and instructions in a children’s home language into your conversations. Work with families to identify keywords that will support the children’s success in the learning environment.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words prior to reading them in a story. Take time to identify a few words that may be new to children in the books you read to them. Discuss the meaning of the word prior to reading the book. This way, when children hear the word in context, they will have some general knowledge about the meaning of the word.
  • Introduce the meaning of common symbols. Tell children what the plus sign (+), the equal sign (=), and others mean. Use math language throughout the day to reinforce the meaning of these important symbols.
  • Link new information to previous knowledge. Take time to review events from earlier in the day, week, or even year that might relate to current lessons. Use KWL charts (Know, Want to know, Learned) to help children identify what they already know about a topic. They can also guide educators in planning authentic and relevant lessons. Keep in mind, these activities are going to be more effective when completed in a small group first, so that children have more opportunities to participate. You can review the 3-4 small group charts/discussions at a meeting of the whole group once you have gathered information from the smaller groups.
  • Use prompts and scaffolding as needed. Some children will explore concepts and materials freely and confidently. Some children may require more focused support from adults to master concepts. Ask open-ended questions to find out more about what the child understands and guide them to further discovery with prompting.
  • Help children remember and generalize knowledge. Create a song to represent the steps of a new routine to help children commit the routine to memory. Use a familiar tune that children already know for this activity. Ask children to think of new ways they can use the information they just learned.

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 Representation.

For the main article Universal Design for Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Action & Expression, CLICK HERE

For the article UDL with Adults, CLICK HERE