Why We Need Visual Texts in the Classroom

Lesson for the Day: Supplementing verbal text with visual text helps to create a universally designed curriculum for all learners. In “Finding the Artist Within,” Alber discusses the importance of blending traditional literacy instruction with art and media-rich text, but her ‘focused study’ design encapsulates the principles of UDL. In order for students to “become thoughtful and critical consumers of text” (p.197), teachers must use multiple representations. Some of the strategies discussed in the text are below. At the beginning of a lesson, plan for initiating engagements. These ‘engagements’ activate students’ background knowledge by providing them with opportunities to explore

Common Core: We Cannot Turn Back

There is so much energy that goes in to opposing the Common Core. How much more beneficial would it be to expend that energy trying to understand the Core and make it work? My professional opinion? Infinitely. Every student in this country, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a rigorous education. Rigor in one state should not be different than rigor in another. Since teachers design standards-based lessons, the Core allows them to design a well-developed curriculum (as the Core is not a curriculum – see post here) and choose appropriate instructional methods (like UDL!) to help all students

Common Core is Not a Curriculum

I am so lucky to have personal connections with some of the most talented teachers in the country (as evidenced by our photo at Education Nation in NYC). What do we have in common? Our support for the Common Core and our willingness to speak up about its value for students. Some opponents of the Common Core argue that the Core is a curriculum that exposes students to inappropriate content or teaching methods. This is not true. An examination of the Common Core will reveal a collection of rigorous standards, or skills, that students need to become successful adults. Instructional

Ommmmmm….UDL

I have practiced yoga for years, and only yesterday it struck me that yoga is the ultimate example of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  If you’ve never experienced the calm of a quiet mind, yoga is for you, regardless of your fitness level or age. How is it that one class can accommodate people with such variability? When moving into asanas, or yoga positions, there are always choices. For example, one yoga pose is crow, demonstrated by my cousin, Jessie Dwiggins (left). This is ultimate rigor (think Common Core state standards), but in any class, modifications and accommodations are presented as

Preparing for the PARRC: A Cheat Sheet that Highlights Instructional Shifts

The Common Core and the PARRC require the following instructional shifts. This information is summarized from the PARRC Model Content Framework, version 2.0, just in case you didn’t sit down with a cup of coffee for a close reading of the whole document! Balance of text: The balance of student writing should be 65 percent analytical (30 percent opinions and 35 percent to explain/inform) and 35 percent narrative with a mix of on-demand and extended review-and-revision writing assignments. Cite evidence: The goal of close, analytic reading is to be able to discern and cite evidence from the text to support

Want Achievement? Provide Choice

Last week I attended a Debbie Miller seminar, and her message aligned beautifully to both UDL and the Common Core. I just have to share. She began the session by explaining that the Common Core requires in-depth teaching and learning every day and a great way to promote this practice is to have students participant in daily reading workshops. This workshops should be based on the principles of choice, response, and community. These three principles all correspond to UDL guidelines. Miller suggested beginning each workshop with the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’ Universal Design always encourages teachers to heighten the salience

What’s your Essential Course of Study (ECOS)?

I am lucky enough to work in a fabulous school district – Chelmsford Public Schools – as the Reading Coordinator, K-12, ELL Director, and writing specialist at Harrington Elementary (Go Lions!). In my role as the Reading Coordinator, I had the opportunity to lead a group of brilliant teachers to create a scope and sequence for teaching literacy in grades 1-4. I was blown away by the passion and tremendous creativity of the members of my team. Working together with a celebrated former principal, Dr. Donna Murray, we examined the Common Core standards and aligned them to our Journey’s literacy program, Traits Writing, and Words Their

Narrative Writing the Common Core Way

The Common Core is raising standards for students and teachers across the country by pushing writing instruction to be text-based, a skill imperative to succeed in college and the workplace. This shift begins as early as first grade, when students are encouraged to write narratives that build on textual knowledge, as opposed to the traditional “write about your weekend” prompt. As the Reading Coordinator, K-12, I want to help my colleagues transition to the Core, and as I noted in yesterday’s post, the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) is a great place to begin. This morning I examined all the narrative

UDL and Common Core Reading

Recently, a number of teachers and administrators have asked me if UDL aligns to the Common Core. The answer is unequivocally yes. UDL is built upon principles of effective instruction, or “the Guidelines,” which embody the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   The Guidelines include the three primary principles: Provide multiple means of representation Provide multiple means of expression Provide multiple means of engagement   To help make connections clear, I created the following chart to align the Guidelines with the CCSS. In the chart, I focus on the multiple means of representation and how the principles align to the