Harvard Ed Portal

When: April – May 2016
Where: Allston, MA
Institution: Harvard Ed Portal
Facilitator: Doris Sommer
Sessions: Five


For five weeks starting on April 6, 2016, local Boston Public School teachers met at the Harvard Ed Portal to discover ways in which they could engage all learners in analyzing complex texts through art. The teacher training workshop, Implementing UDL through Pre-Texts Cultural Agents, was developed and facilitated by Doris Sommer, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and founder of Cultural Agents at Harvard University, Hilary Shea, Inclusion Specialist in the Boston Public Schools, and Paul Tritter, Boston Teachers Union Director of Professional Learning.


Twenty-five teachers collaborated to create barrier-free lesson plans which incorporated the principles of Universal Design for Learning. The lessons all included an art activity to ensure high levels of engagement. The art activities ranged from song-writing and dance to mask-making and quilt-making. The teachers will now spend the rest of the year integrating the Pre-Texts and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into their lesson plans.


Here is a comment from one of the participants:


The third and fifth grade teams at my school are participating in the Pre-Texts series of workshops at the Harvard Portal. I am a special education teacher of 2nd and 3rd graders in Boston, and am interested in adding to my ‘bag of tricks’ to engage my students in rich content while giving them many opportunities to work with and play with texts. The Pre-Texts workshops are helping me discover ways I can do just that. I find that the activities we have done in the workshops have been inspiring to me in that they give me a good vision of how to expand on the types of activities we already do in class. The routines and protocols that we have used as part of ‘the Pre-Texts way’ give opportunities for my students to become empowered to interact with each other and the text. Incorporating movement, music and art into these activities for literacy reminds me that these things are actually possible to do on a more regular basis instead of only once in a while. Since my 3rd grade team has attended these workshops, we have planned for our upcoming literacy instruction using many of the ideas that were generated during the workshops, so this has been very helpful. 


– Barbara Reid, Guild Elementary