I had another amazing week in classrooms visiting middle school south and Swallow Union in search of some great examples of UDL. As always, I saw more examples than I could share in a short blog, but here are some highlights!
In many schools across the country, there is a focus on mindfulness and providing opportunities for students to decompress so they can continue to maintain effort and persistence on their academic work. Some teachers provide relaxation corners, play soft music, or provide students with fidget tools, but Ms. Egan and Ms. Manganaro have taken it to the next level with Marvel Beads. I kid you not, I have already bought some for my house. These small beads expand with water and provide a zen experience for students to take a short break before diving back into their work. I joined a student at the center, who quickly informed me that I had to wash my hands before AND after playing with the beads, and I complied. The magic of consistent expectations!
In Mrs. Keegan’s room, there was a great example of how to create authentic, engaging experiences for students for the holidays, while also aligning to standards. The class was working on their narrative writing unit, which requires students to write with relevant, sensory details. In the spirit of Halloween, students had an opportunity to design their own pumpkins, but then they had to describe them using descriptive details so other students could guess which pumpkin was theirs. The students were rapt as Mrs. Keegan read the clues, which read like short, descriptive poems and they all guessed which pumpkin was being described. Great way to celebrate the day with standards!
In middle school south, I visited Mr. Coronis’s room and saw a great example of UDL and personalized learning. At the beginning of the class, students had an opportunity to reflect on their personal progress on a number of assigned tasks including a social studies project, drafting a narrative piece, publishing the narrative or learning more about the publishing process. Then, once students completed the self-assessment, he told them to work on what they needed to work on in order to meet their goals. Some students immediately grabbed Chromebooks and went to the lounge area (I joked with the boys that it reminded me of a college dorm lounge!), other students joined Mr. Coronis for a short mini-lesson on the publishing process, while other students collaborated and worked on their individual process. There was so much action and engagement and nearly every student was working on something different. The magic was everyone was getting exactly what they need. Mr. Coronis joked that it felt a little like being an octopus sometimes as a teacher, as you need your hands in so many places so all students can work on what they need to work on. I love the analogy!
Lastly, I visited Mrs. Glinka for science. When I walked in, students were watching a short video clip of a narrated version of the story, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Next, they reviewed the properties of matter and concluded the review with an amazing solid, liquid, gas dance. If you’ve never seen it, you must ask Mrs. Glinka’s students to demonstrate. The next challenge was for students to complete a lab, where they make their own oobleck to determine the properties of oobleck based on their process and observation. Students worked with partners to explore how corn starch changes over time with the addition of water and how its mass, volume, and shape are affected. The students were thrilled and I wished I could have stayed the whole time to dive in with them. Great example of how to provide students with authentic opportunities to explore their learning through discovery and collaboration.
I look forward to continuing my learning walks and sharing some of the amazing happenings in Groton-Dunstable! Also, teachers, know that I still have slots for mini-sessions if you’d like some ideas on how to provide more choice and voice into your curriculum! And now…. for the Lesson of the Week video!