These are simple ideas for altering traditional teaching practices that any teacher can try if they want to do more to meet the highly diverse and unique needs and interests of their students. A great school that goes above and beyond to meet the needs of and engage their highly academically diverse group of students is the Compass School, in Westminster VT. They looked at these three principles of Universal Instructional Design and identified a number of specific strategies that they were already routinely using at Compass that fit the Universal Design mindset.
Flexible Use of Time - Allow flexibility or change the amount of time allowed for students to write or to meet expectations
Engage and Use Students' Interests - Allow assignments to be personalized, adjust "products" to address students interests, allowing for more student choices.
Differences in Learning Styles Honored--Match teaching and learning to students different learning styles/multi-intelligences.
Modify the Volume or Amount of Work or Material when needed - Reduce amount of material a student is required to read or produce based on students' intellectual, developmental, readiness level.
Provide Supports in Advance of Instruction- Offer students graphic organizers, or other supports for building prior knowledge- reading Spark notes or chapter summaries prior to reading specific sections of chapters in book - having students focus on specific passages that showcase and or highlight major pivotal points
Adjust Classroom Procedures---Modify pacing, space, breaks, and routines - Adjusting procedures or rules, provide breaks to "wake-up brain" through changing seating, allowing students to eat, drink, use manipulative or fidgets, utilizing bouncing balls/routines, flipping the "classroom" routines.
Offer Alternative Options for Learning Tasks - replace task or presentation format that is problematic for a student with another format:
instead of writing a summary, student may choose to storyboard understanding, use clay to create an object representing element of story, collage, and/or use some other art form.
instead of writing out detailed outlines, have students create an outline via Inspiration using visuals, symbols in place of words.
have students watch video/film to gather background knowledge vs. reading if appropriate.
assign chunks of assignments with each piece being recorded as grade toward final product.
Provide Leveled/Tiered Assignments - provide reading materials at different levels for different students, without minimizing challenge and rigor.
If you or your school is struggling to engage students in learning or to reach students who learn differently, then try these principles and strategies. I think you will like how your students respond.