Creating memorable assignments for your students

Creating memorable assignments for your students

Take a moment to think back to one of your favorite classroom assignments growing up. What stood out about that assignment? I’ll take a shot in the dark and guess it wasn’t a 5 paragraph essay, multiple choice test, or a scripted lab report. So often, as teachers, it is easy to fall back to the traditional ways of teaching. With Universal Design for Learning, we can do better and empower our students to become expert learners. Implementing UDL takes relinquishing some control as a teacher and letting our students take the driver’s seat. With UDL, our job as teachers

How to Help Children Succeed in School and Life with UDL

How to Help Children Succeed in School and Life with UDL

Have you ever hopped in your car, turned on the GPS, mindlessly followed the instructions and arrived at your destination without remembering the drive? There are multiple ways of getting from point A to point B, but so often we allow a machine to tell us which turns to take and which path to follow. We decide it knows best and we should trust it. But in the midst of this trust, we miss the shady hollows, glistening sunsets, and chaotic overgrowth of the backroads. There is beauty in it, and it remains unexplored. If you have witnessed a child

The Magic of Getting in Trouble for Something I Didn’t Do

There was only one teacher in my entire life who yelled at me. Don’t get me wrong, I was no perfect child and you’re welcome to contact my parents to verify that. In school, however, it was a different story. I was a good kid. I behaved myself and was respectful and although I was not a stellar student in the GPA department, I completed my work and participated in class. “Pleasure to have in class,” popped up on my report cards like confetti. That was until I had physical science class in high school. In all fairness, my friends

Inclusion vs. Inclusive Practice in Teaching

“Inclusion” and “Inclusive Practice” are often used interchangeably in the education world, but there is more to inclusive practice than togetherness. Inclusion takes an important step in the right direction by making sure all students, regardless of variability, are present in the same classroom. But in order for inclusion to be effective, you must also implement inclusive practice. Inclusive practice is bigger than getting all students in the same classroom; inclusive practice gives all students the opportunity to learn, be supported, and be challenged, regardless of variability. Implementing inclusive practice requires effective leadership and support, opportunities for professional development, and

Feedback is Critical to Professional Growth [Video]

Feedback is Critical to Professional Growth [Video]

Even the thickest skinned of us can feel like crawling into a cave when we hear a piece of negative feedback. But mastery-oriented feedback is necessary for growth and improvement. When I present, I sometimes pause the session after 20-30 minutes to ask my audience for feedback on my presenting style. I tell them to give me the most negative piece of feedback possible (even if they love me!). I have done this enough times to know what will be coming my way. “You talk waaaay too fast! Can you slow down?” “Your transitions are pretty abrupt. Can you be

A Universally Designed Ride on the Polar Express?

A Universally Designed Ride on the Polar Express?

I experienced something with my six-year-old son last weekend. The incident made me realize that it’s possible… just maybe…that I am nailing this parenting thing. Last weekend, we headed up to North Conway, New Hampshire with my parents, my sister and her family, my husband, and our four kids. In typical Novak fashion, we all purchased matching pajamas, rented a beautiful home called the Tin Mine Lodge lodge and spent hours eating popcorn, M&Ms, and having an epic Christmas movie marathon. On Saturday night, we had tickets to go the Polar Express. On the train car, Christmas music blared through

UDL is a Standards-Based Curriculum Design

UDL is a Standards-Based Curriculum Design

All too often, when I speak with teachers about integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into their classrooms, I get feedback that it simply isn’t possible. “I can’t provide options; I teach math.” “I have standards I need to meet, so options are off the table!”  UDL is a standards-based curriculum design. This means it can be incorporated into any learning environment, regardless of subject, content, or standards. Let me explain. When creating a UDL lesson plan, you need to start with the standard. First, determine if your standard is a content standard or a method standard. Content standards are

I’m Thankful for Teachers

I’m Thankful for Teachers

As I sit down at my computer on this Thanksgiving morning, I can’t help but think of how thankful I am for all the teachers in my life. As the daughter of two teachers, my life, from my first breath, was impacted by educators. Now, as I look back, I realize that many of the people who truly mattered to me stood at the front of classrooms. These thoughts are in light of a recent Forbes article which celebrated the “Top 30 Under 30” in education. Not a single classroom teacher made the cut. It would be ridiculous if it

Million Dollar Question: What Does UDL Look Like?

Million Dollar Question: What Does UDL Look Like?

What Does UDL Look Like? I really struggle when someone asks me, “What does UDL look like?” It is not because I don’t know the answer, in theory. It’s because I don’t know what it looks like for YOU. As the brilliant Dr. Liz Berquist explains in UDL: Moving from Exploration to Integration, “Because the implementation of UDL is variable and unique-in this sense it is a model of UDL itself. UDL looks different in every learning environment, just as it looks different in every school, district, and state. Although there are patterns to be found in this variability, there

Announcing Let Them Thrive

Announcing Let Them Thrive

This past year, I often found myself wishing I were blogging more. There is just so much to cover in education, and I want to share everything I can to help teachers and administrators successfully implement UDL and transform education. However, my lack of posts over the last 12 months wasn’t that I wasn’t writing. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I found that while more and more teachers and administrators were getting on board with UDL, the more important it became for parents to understand the UDL framework, why it is being implemented in schools, and how they