How do you like your baked potato? Do you like it fully loaded with grated cheese, finely chopped green chives and sour cream? Or would you rather pass on the tangy taste of sour cream and have extra bacon bits for the salty crunch? Hands up if you’d rather pass on the baked potato and have a plate of hot french fries that have that fresh crunchy exterior and a light, fluffy centre when you bite into them? Stay with us here…
Universal Design for learning (aka UDL) is an artform that changes every year as we get new learners with and without disabilities within our ever-changing class makeup. You need to know when you need to plan, prepare and serve fully baked potatoes…hold up! OR even offer a menu of: poutine, potato skins, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, or something as simple as a bag of chips. *Nom nom nom...
In April, we wrote the post Beyond The Blue; The 7-10 Split Approach, where we introduced one of our favourite educators in the field of inclusion, Shelley Moore. We’ve been huge fan-girls of Shelley as her playful analogies are always spot on with the realities of what learners with disabilities and their families face in the education sector. So, what do baked potatoes have to do with UDL? Take a moment to watch one of Shelley’s 5 Moore Minutes segments, 'Dr. Baked Potato: How do we scaffold complexity?'.
So, what do baked potatoes look like in Health & Physical Education?
How do we create that “bar of options'', like Shelley says, where ALL our learners can access, process and share their learning in a purposeful and intentional way?
The Learning for All, K – 12 (2013) is an Ontario Ministry of Education resource guide that builds on the guiding principles outlined in the Education for All: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students With Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6 (2005) . Yes, we know it’s the summer time and many of our followers would rather not read a 74-page curriculum document to learn about research-informed educational approaches in UDL. So, we’ve decided to mash up the core components of UDL in order to help you wrap your head around this trending concept.
Universality and Equity
Amen to Shelley for reiterating our number one goal when program planning in any unit, game or activity in your Physical Education class: “Who is eating your potato?”. Take the time to know your learners, their likes and dislikes and the supports they may need to help them access the curriculum. Ah-hem… this also includes the learners with Individual Education Plans (IEP)! Yes chef, you need to take the time to read their IEP, which will include their must-have accommodations and specific Physical Education goals, to understand who they are and what they need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we don’t know it all. Like Shelley says, do this BEFORE you purchase, prepare, and serve the potato (or whatever you're cooking up)! Here are some guiding questions for your Physical Education program:
- What types of learners do you have in your class? Read the IEPs, growth and behaviour plans. Get to know the risk-takers or those who might require extra support or motivation.
- What accommodations will you need to provide for learners with IEP’s, and which of those could be beneficial for all your learners? Often, what is good for one is good for all - and accommodations don’t change curriculum expectations, they only help learners to achieve them in different ways.
- What prior experiences/backgrounds do your learners have regarding your units and topics in Physical Education? Start thinking about how you can provide learning opportunities that will meet them at their current levels.
Flexibility and inclusiveness
Have an open mind. Maybe you’ll be using the oven to bake your potatoes, or perhaps you’ll leave your comfort zone and give an air fryer a try for the first time. Perhaps certain customers have never tried a potato before, but you feel that this is a food that they might like. Creating personalized IEP goals for learners with disabilities can mean taking chances and experiencing some trial and error at first as you get to really know your students. Here are some guiding questions for your Physical Education program:
- What are the different approaches you will use to allow your students to demonstrate their learning? Have you tried centre-based activities, using different forms of technology?
- What equipment and materials do you use in your program to help your learners access the curriculum? Are there learners with disabilities who require adapted equipment?
- Do the equipment and materials reflect the diversity of your learners? How can you embed the different cultures and backgrounds into your Physical Education program?
An Appropriately Designed Space
Everyone has their favourite potato topping, and variety really is the “spice” of life. Ketchup, mayonnaise, sour cream - there is no wrong answer here. Some people eat with their hands, a fork or a spoon. Some prefer to eat alone or in groups. How can we offer “something for everyone” so that all of our customers are happy? In our Physical Education class, how do we create these conditions of variety for all our learners to be successful? If you check out our previous post Feeding the Senses, you’ll get an idea of how the physical space in our Physical Education class offers a variety of materials and options for every learner. Here are some guiding questions for your Physical Education program:
- Does the physical space reflect the diversity of how your learners learn best? Do your walls have meaningful anchor charts, visuals, schedule boards?
- Do your learners with disabilities have access to the mobility and assistive devices they need to be successful? (e.g. wheelchair, walker, augmentative device, educational assistant)
- Are there a variety of options in the physical space for learners to self-regulate and be emotionally comfortable and safe? (e.g. buddy bench, calming space, cart with adapted materials)
Take a break from your Pinterest feed and put a pause on purchasing pre-made Teachers Pay Teachers units. The physical space of your classroom, which happens to be the gymnasium, takes time to build. Yes, you may have your staple anchor charts, schedule boards and printed visuals as we shared in our Stepping Stones post, but TBH…. you need to put on the brakes and wait until the end of that first month (or more) to really know your potato eaters. It’s only at this time that you’ll know how to co-create a learning space that fosters engaging experiences to meet the diverse individual needs and abilities of all your learners, including those with disabilities. Here are some guiding questions for your Physical Education program:
- Is your physical space designed to ensure a positive experience in a safe, inclusive and supportive way? Think about how you can use your walls to reinforce the skills and concepts being taught along the way. Co-create a space to meet different learning styles such as an area for learners with sensory sensitivities.
- Do learners understand what the learning goal is in your lesson, and have opportunities to co-create what they need to do in order to be successful?
- How do you work with support staff as teaching partners to support learners with disabilities to meaningfully integrate and work with their peers?
Think about the learners who don’t like to eat potatoes that are baked, or the learners who fear eating baked potatoes in front of their peers because they don’t want to get singled out or laughed at for not eating it properly. How are you preparing and serving your potatoes to ensure that all your learners have a positive experience? Physical Education offers a unique opportunity for learners to learn through movement. And c’mon… our learners need to do this with a smile! It is critical that teachers provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for learning. Take the time to understand the diverse strengths, needs and interests of your class. Here are some guiding questions for your Physical Education program:
- Do your learners with disabilities receive support from a physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist? Reach out to any in-school or external supports that are available to help you program and plan for learners with physical needs.
- Are you following the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards when program planning and delivery? Make sure you follow all board safety guidelines, and if there are learners who have safety plans….well heck, READ THEM!
- Find out if any of your learners have access to personalized adapted equipment (hint: this information is under the SEA Claim section in the IEP) such as a pressure vest, walker or adapted materials to be used when performing physical activities.
UDL for ALL
Many learners with disabilities are integrated into Physical Education. This is a great subject area where learners can usually be amongst their similar aged peers and are able to follow along in an environment that is hands-on, active and motivating. We understand that the UDL approach is not easy… but c’mon, when you’re serving potatoes to a party of 25 customers you’re going to have to take the time to understand not only the content of what you’re serving but the experience that those learners are looking for while they chow down.
We love collaborating with other partners in education who recognize and respect the diversity in our classrooms. Today we’d like to give some potato-props to the educators at Canadian Intramural Recreation Association Ontario (CIRA) CIRA Ontario is a registered charity whose mission is to encourage, promote and develop active living, healthy lifestyles and personal growth through intramural and recreational programs within the education and recreation community.
CIRA recently appeared on CHCH, to share part of their exciting Summer Series, where they highlight fun and interactive games for kids on their social media platform. On CHCH this week, they shared how to create multiple variations of games and make adaptations so all abilities can play. We’re highlighting this organization because their Physical Education resources not only promote full participation in your classes, but help educators understand how they can use unique, “out of the box” resources to enhance the planning and delivery of their programs. CIRA resources help educators change the rules, equipment and boundaries of games to create entry points for every learner, including those with disabilities.
Check out their segment, where CIRA Executive, Marlee Corcoran shows a student-centred approach of how to adapt the game of Hot Dog tag, so that the learner who uses a wheelchair along with the peers in their class can all be meaningfully engaged. Marlee encourages creating games where everyone can play rather than relying on specific adaptations alone, using real examples from integration opportunities in her Physical Education class. Click the image below to see the CHCH segment, Game On!
A Universal Design for Learning goes far beyond adapting and modifying an activity in the moment to suit the needs of our unique learners. Instead of an afterthought, UDL is a framework of forward thinking that trusts educators to develop new ways of teaching that everyone can access in the many different ways they are able to. As we’ve said before, it isn’t easy. UDL in your classroom won’t be automatic at first, but over time and with the right mindset it can become second nature to you, and will be something you need to put less and less work into as it becomes synonymous with your teaching practice. Whether it is pan roasting, frying, boiling, or squashing... or even learning how to make a batch of gnochi for the first time... we want you to know that it will take time and practice to prepare and serve the best potato dish. And don't forget to have fun along the way! We want to make sure that your diverse customers enjoy the meal with a smile. Happy cooking!
CHCH Tim Bolen & the kids at CIRA Ontario