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Sample Lessons Using Universal Design for Learning

This is an excerpt from Physical Education for Children With Moderate to Severe Disabilities by Michelle Grenier & Lauren Lieberman.

Part III offers a blueprint for delivering lessons using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) format. The lessons included in part III are divided into two categories: (1) team sports and target games and (2) lifetime and health-related activities. We encourage you to use UDL concepts to plan lessons that create flexible learning environments to accommodate students’ unique learning styles and needs. When designing lessons using UDL, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Use multiple modalities.Because students take in information in diverse ways, consider presenting lessons visually (e.g., by modeling and demonstrating, using a video model, or using task cards), auditorily, tactilely, multilingually, and representationally (e.g., with pictures, words, symbols).
  2. Provide multiple means of action and expression. Provide multiple ways for each student to express what they know for assessment purposes. Students could show that they can serve for volleyball from the service line, half court, or throw the ball over the net. Students could show that they know how to rotate positions in volleyball by drawing a picture or typing the directions into a device.
  3. Provide multiple means of engagement. Learners differ significantly in what attracts their attention and engages their interest.

When determining what to teach students with disabilities, begin with the general physical education curriculum. Analyze the skills to determine appropriate fit. Chapters 2, 4 and 7 offer strategies to determine how to align the student’s strength with the curricula. For example, if general physical education students are working on jump rope skills, consider using a task analysis to include skills such as jumping and bouncing. You might use fitness balls, fitness ramps, split ropes, or jump rope kits. Be sure to include progressions and regressions related to the skills you are focused on.


When delivering instruction, consider motivational strategies to encourage cooperation and competition between peers. In many cases, students with disabilities want to engage meaningful ways with their peers.


Be aware of the environmental conditions to ensure safe conditions for learning. You may need to decrease extraneous sounds and change lighting fixtures to reduce stimulation. Promote social responsibility through peer and teacher modeling, and above all, have high expectations for student learning. Make sure assistive devices are routinely available, and offer choices and variety of equipment (in weight, color, texture, sound) to all learners.


When assessing your students, consider multiple means of gathering information such as a physical demonstration, a verbal explanation of a concept, or an electronic assessment. See chapter 3 for assessment ideas.


Special thanks to Anne Griffin for her input on suggestions for Universally Designing Lessons section.

Learn more about Physical Education for Children With Moderate to Severe Disabilities.