Providing Multiple Means of Representation

by Carol Seibert

This is the second installment in a four-part series discussing Universal Design for Learning. It first appeared in the LeaderLink eNewsletter.

In the first installment, we began to explore an exciting and promising framework that has been created to help educators meet the learning needs of the diverse learners in today’s classrooms—Universal Design for Learning, or UDL. Many of you thought to yourselves, “Great framework, but how the heck can I make this work in MY classroom?”

Principle #1: Provide multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge

As we explore this important principle of learning, be sure to keep the GOALS OF Universal Design for Learning firmly in mind:

  • Remove barriers to learning.
  • Support improved access to information and to learning itself.
  • Provide multiple, flexible approaches to learning that will result in success for diverse learners.

Multiple Modalities Means More Learning for EVERYONE!

Research is clear—teaching in multiple modalities increases access for struggling learners and improves learning generally for ALL learners. Increase the level of success for every one of your diverse learners by providing choice and flexibility in the ways you present information using multiple formats and media to:

  • Highlight critical features (e.g., Use different colors of highlighters to identify the title, headings, main ideas and supporting details in an expository text)
  • Present multiple examples and non-examples of a concept (e.g., Some examples of conflict are arguments and war. Non-examples of conflict include cooperating to solve a problem and working together to help someone.)
  • Support learners’ background knowledge

Yes, you CAN Provide Differentiated Instruction

When you offer learners a choice of materials from a combination of traditional text, presentation and digital media, you can realistically provide differentiated instruction within the context of your busy, diverse classrooms. Use multiple formats and media like these to support learner differences:


  • Textbooks and Trade Books
  • Newspapers and Magazines
  • Considerate, age-appropriate texts (like Start-to-Finish® books)
  • Web content on any subject at a variety of difficulty levels


  • Audio books (free, via subscription or CD-based such as Start-to-Finish books)
  • Software programs that translate printed text into speech (like SOLO®, Read:OutLoud, Aspire Reader, WYNN, TestTalker) used with text files available through the Internet and/or directly through publishers (NIMAS)


  • Graphic organizers—both print-based and electronic programs (like SOLO, Read:OutLoud, Draft:Builder®, Inspiration, Kidspiration, Visual Thesaurus).
  • Considerate, age-appropriate educational videos intended for use as learning “anchors” (like Incite! Learning Series) and/or full-length videos or video clips (available free or by subscription)
  • Graphics libraries that include photographs, illustrations and animations (available free or by subscription via the Internet, on CD) Multimedia—Text, sound, graphics, animation and video software (like PowerPoint, HyperStudio, Kid Pix)

Try Digital Media

Digital media is tailor-made to present information in multiple modes and with multiple levels of support to challenge as well as scaffold learners across a wide range of needs and abilities. And digital resources can be saved, shared and used from class-to-class, teacher-to-teacher and year-to-year, expanding the options you have available to individualize learning in your classroom. This will save you time while assuring that more learners are successfully included in meaningful learning.

UDL Support is a Mouse Click Away

In response to current research, government mandates, school/district initiatives and educator demand, educational publishers are offering an increasing number of tools to help you offer multiple means of information presentation in YOUR classroom.

Don Johnston Incorporated provides FREE templates, eText and multimedia resources to help you quickly and easily provide UDL instruction and/or content in multiple formats and media. To learn more, click on the following links:

Universally-Designed Product Information:
(SOLO, Start-to-Finish books, Read:OutLoud and more)

Downloadable Resources on Don Johnston Incorporated website:
(including SOLO® Templates and Read:OutLoud Supported Reading Guides, Co:Writer® Topic Dictionaries)

Links to Internet Text Resources
General education sources, Library of Congress, the Gutenburg Project, Science, Social Studies and Literature/Language sources for eText

Don’t forget to check out these two SOLO Assignment Templates for teaching and practicing reading strategies using the CRISS strategy approach:

Authentic Questions—CRISS strategy style

Add your own eText to use with this template guiding learners through asking and answering meaningful questions while reading.

Concept Mapping—CRISS strategy style

Complete this graphic organizer to map key story elements.

Up Next: Part III—Providing Multiple Means of Expression

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