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UDL in 15 Minutes with Shannon Costley and Megan Babb

Building in social-emotional standards using a UDL lens

“By the end of the year, we had students who may have started the year like little squirrels, you know, their stuff was all over the place, but by the end of the year, their binder had their table of contents, they were able to keep track of their assignments, things were a lot better organized.” – Megan Babb, Episode 105

Students’ lack of executive functioning (EF) skills came into consciousness during the covid shut-down and as we’ve returned to face-to-face. An argument can be made that students always needed this help and the shut-down simply wore down the surface-level EF skills they had and exposed those pervasive needs. Either way, we are still facing a collective of learners who need help building EF skills.

During their episode, Shannon and Megan talk about the growth in their students’ EFs over the course of the year. They share the amount of time they put into planning units to reach these outcomes. They share their focus on prioritized content and social-emotional standards. But how did they even get started with this kind of planning? How did they weave in those standards? For this blog, let’s focus on social-emotional standards.

  1. Is there anyone in your building/district leading conversations about social-emotional standards?
    1. If yes, turn to those individuals for guidance on where to find the prioritized standards.
    2. If no, CASEL is the perfect place to start. Read about their framework and use their interactive wheel on the same page to gain your initial understanding.
  2. Start with what you know. Always begin with what you know. What content within the CASEL Wheel aligns with what you are already doing? For example, are you already working with your students on self-management?
    1. If you’re familiar with the UDL Guidelines, watch CASEL’s video about self-management. While watching that video, have the UDL Guidelines out and begin mapping how the suggestions in the video align with some of the UDL checkpoints.
    2. If you’re new to UDL, begin by reading about the checkpoints under Executive Functions and Self-Regulation. Now, watch the CASEL video about self-management and identify where you see crossover.
  3. New knowledge. What new knowledge did you gain? A strategy? A way of thinking? A different way to approach a situation? Think about how you can write this new knowledge into your unit so it is applied throughout.
  4. Collaborative planning. This kind of planning is more powerful when you’re able to collaborate with others and take on a few new ideas across several settings or adults (e.g., if you’re co-teaching, the setting is the same, but you both adopt the new ideas).
  5. This is a critical part of trying new things and it is an absolute must. You have to discuss the successes and misses. You have to name why the environment did or did not work for all of the learners – and remember, the environment is what impacts the learners, you’re not talking about what the learners bring with them.

These 5 steps used as a cycle will help you weave more social-emotional supports and tools into your environment and lesson. There are no downsides to helping learners gain EFs. These are lifelong and daily skills that need to be learned and practiced. For example, they help the individual become more socially adept and adept as an individual when there is a lack of external stimulus. They help the individual understand that there is a large goal and there are steps that should be taken to achieve that goal. They also help the individual perceive and negotiate around barriers. Ultimately, when our learners gain stronger EF skills, they are building their traits as expert learners, a goal we all need to adopt.