Engaging All Learners!

Early Learning Universal Designs for Learning

This resource demonstrates strategies to support universal designs for learning within an inclusive context in the early learning classroom. The resource has been developed by Edmonton Catholics' Early Learning Team that includes: Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Educational Consultants, Emotional/Behavior Specialists, Psychologists, Family School Liaison Workers and Teacher Technology Mentors. Video vignettes are based on strategies described more fully in a comprehensive resource developed by Edmonton Catholic Schools. Additional information on Universal Designs for Learning within the Early Learning Context is located on the Edmonton Catholics' website under Early Learning. 


Broad based strategies (UDL) are not to be used in isolation or as a pull-out program for one child, but rather should become part of the daily school experience. Therapists work inclusively in the classroom and do not "pull-out" children. As all children are at different places along the continuum of development and present with a diversity of needs, you may find that some strategies are more beneficial for certain children. Given this, you may consider opportunities for implementing some of these strategies within small group settings within the classroom.

Length: 1 minute 56 seconds

Use books to Pre-Teach & Highlight

Books can be used for pre-teaching vocabulary and concepts that will be further explored in the classroom. They can also be used to highlight concepts such as words and sounds that you've already talked about.

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Length: 3 minutes 43 seconds

Choices and Contrasts

This strategy can be used to promote the child's ability to understand and explain which two objects, concepts, perspectives, ideas or speech sounds are the same or different. By using choices and contrasts, you can promote the child's understanding of categories, her/his ability to discriminate different speech sounds and the development of describing skills.

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Length: 3 minutes 53 seconds

Slide in Beside

This strategy is all about the child leading the adult. The adult is the partner in the child's play and takes note of what the child is doing: What does the child enjoy? Where is the child looking? What does the child want to talk about? What is the child's favorite play centre? The adult observes these things and then "slides in beside" to be at the child's level and become part of the play. This strategy is important for encouraging the child to take the lead in an interaction – to see what the child can already do and to value his/her interests.

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Length: 3 minutes 59 seconds

Efficient Movement and Endurance to participate in school activities

Create centres or areas in the environment that will facilitate participation in gross motor activities. Use visual supports as a provocation for these activities. Gross motor development forms the basis for coordinated movement, efficient motor planning and hand dominance.

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Length: 3 minutes 7 seconds

Use Peer Models

Children are often much more motivated by their peers than by adults in their environment. Peers can assume the role of modeling the target speech or language skill that the adult would usually model for the child.  Sometimes the adult may provide some coaching for the peers. Usually, the children know just what to do! Using peer models is a great strategy for fostering an inclusive environment where all children learn from each other.

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Length: 3 minutes 53 seconds

Use Objects as Visual Supports

Objects can be used as a form of visual support to augment a child's understanding or use of language. The strategy of using objects helps to make abstract language concepts more concrete for the child. Speech sounds can also be targeted in a tangible way using objects.

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Length: 3 minutes 26 seconds

Body Awareness & Management

Young children often do not have great body awareness and are sometimes unsure of where their limits are in space. The result is that they often bump into things and people in their environment. Improving body awareness will also improve body management in space.

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Length: 4 minutes 26 seconds

Increase child's ability to stay on task, transition between activities, follow directions and respond appropriately to sensations

To facilitate the child's ability to stay on task, transition between activities, follow directions, and respond appropriately to sensations, here are three strategies to use:

  1. Books to pre-teach e.g.  "When my Worries Get Too Big".
  2. Visual Supports e.g., thermometers to indicate engine levels.
  3. Peer Models to highlight appropriate or desired behaviors.

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Length: 4 minutes 41 seconds

Expressing What We See and Learn

Children need to be able to express what they see and learn through drawing, writing and effective use of tools. Providing materials that foster creativity will enable children to communicate more effectively.

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Length: 2 minutes 38 seconds

Integrating the Disciplines

Based on the principles of universal designs for learning, the multi-disciplinary team has established a framework for providing an integrated service model. This model is intended to meet the needs of all learners in an inclusive learning environment. The multi-disciplinary team works with the school team to embed these broad based strategies in daily teaching practices.

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Length: 1 minute 59 seconds