Providing Multiple Means of Expression

by Carol Seibert

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

Any teacher or parent can tell you that no two children learn in the same way or at the same time. This diversity among people is what makes our world so interesting, our relationships so unique, and teaching so challenging!

In the last two issues of the LeaderLink, we have begun 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.

This month, we are going to offer some ideas about integrating the second Principle of UDL into your curriculum.

Principle #3: Provide multiple means of expression to give learners alternatives for practicing, applying and demonstrating what they know.

Leverage Learner Strengths…

Diverse learners benefit from choice and flexibility in accessing information/knowledge (Principle #1). So too, individual learners demonstrate their knowledge, thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills in uniquely-individual ways. They will experience greater learning in an environment of choice and flexibility when practicing, applying and demonstrating their skills and knowledge.

As the teacher, you can create this environment by using multiple formats and media (print, electronic, audio, video, multimedia, internet, computer software, etc.)

Learners can practice and apply new skills and knowledge with appropriate supports.

  • Computer software supports expressive tasks, allowing learners to brainstorm and organize their thoughts; plan a project/written report; overcome mechanical barriers to writing such as spelling and word selection; perform mathematical functions; use charts/graphs/graphics to support their thinking; edit and revise using text-to-speech support, and much more.
  • A variety of grouping, teaming, mentoring and peer tutoring opportunities leverage and build individual learner skills.

Learners can benefit from ongoing, timely and relevant feedback to stay on track as they practice, apply and demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a variety of contexts and to a variety of audiences. Learners use modes of expression that challenge, engage and motivate them, acknowledging their diverse interests, personalities and ability levels.

Variety is the Spice of Life… and Learning!

I have always been extremely jealous of people who can draw. My expressive strength always seems to center around words—both written and spoken—but I would dearly LOVE to illustrate my ideas with visual images. Drawing my own pictures would be the coolest thing ever, but the advent of computer technology has come to my rescue. I can find and incorporate clip art, illustrations, photos (even great digital photos I take myself!), simple animations, sound and even video into my writing and presentations. This has greatly expanded my ability to effectively express my thoughts and ideas in ways that will engage a more diverse audience.

When you offer your learners a variety of ways to practice, apply and demonstrate skill and knowledge using a combination of traditional text, interactive and digital media, you open whole new worlds of learning, expression and communication. You can use multiple formats and media to motivate diverse learners and support your learners’ diverse needs, interests, skills and talents: i.e., text, auditory, visual.

Support and Encourage Expressive Diversity

Digital media offer a tremendous variety of ways for diverse learners to practice, apply, demonstrate skills/knowledge and express personal thoughts and opinions while providing various levels of support.

Don Johnston Incorporated provides FREE templates and multimedia resources to help you quickly and easily provide a range of opportunities for learners to practice, apply and demonstrate skills and knowledge, and express thoughts and opinions using multiple formats and media.

Next installment, Principle #4: Providing Multiple Means of Engagement

Email your questions and comments about UDL to Carol Seibert at:

To learn more, go to the following links:

Universally-Designed Product Information (SOLO®, Read:OutLoud®, Draft:Builder®, Write:OutLoud®, Co:Writer® and more):

UDL Professional Development

… from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

Downloadable Resources

… from Don Johnston Incorporated (including SOLO Templates, Co:Writer Topic Dictionaries):

… from CAST (Teaching Every Student (TES) Website)

Related SOLO Assignment Templates for teaching and practicing reading and writing strategies the UDL way

GIST Strategy
Teach learners to use prediction as a comprehension aid when reading expository text.

Word Choice – 6 Traits Style
Help learners identify strong word choice and develop strong voice. Learners read a passage to find words or phrases that create mental images or pictures in their heads.

Success for All Students: UDL Principle #3–Multiple Means of Expression



  • Printed/Handwritten
  • Electronic Support
  • Alpha Smart/Dana/Neo
  • Franklin Electronic Dictionary
  • Computer Software:
  • SOLO (Read:OutLoud, Draft:Builder, Write:OutLoud)
  • Word Prediction Support (Co:Writer)
  • Web-based dictionary and thesaurus
  • Spreadsheet
  • Database
  • Graphic Organizer

  • Write a(n)
  • caption for a picture
  • paragraph or essay
  • report
  • song
  • article
  • poem
  • book
  • survey
  • letter
  • journal entry
  • play/skit
  • poster
  • table
  • database


  • Pesentation
  • Recording
  • Tape
  • Digital (MP3, .snd files, etc.)

  • Live presentation such as a(n)
  • interview
  • debate
  • radio news report
  • song
  • Recorded presentations such as a(n)
  • interview
  • news report
  • public service announcement
  • radio advertisement
  • song/rap
  • radio show (circa 1940’s radio)


  • Still Images
  • Moving Images (with/without sound)
  • Live
  • Video
  • Digital

  • Still images without sound such as a(n)
  • chart/diagram/table
  • drawing
  • painting
  • photograph
  • collage
  • sculpture
  • model
  • Moving images with/without sound
  • play/skit
  • mime
  • movie/Documentary
  • interview
  • animation
  • multimedia presentation (PowerPoint, etc.)
  • commercial (video)
  • mock trial
  • dance


  • Interactive
  • Live
  • Computer
  • Internet
  • Collections/Displays
  • Live
  • Digital
  • Service projects

  • Create/participate in simulations (internet, computer-based or off-computer activities)
  • Peer mentoring
  • Create an exhibit
  • Plan and carry out a service project
  • Create and display a collection
  • Research and display a timeline/family tree/etc.

Up Next: Part IV — Providing Multiple Means of Engagement

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