During this round of inquiry, my colleagues and I were interested in helping students develop and master scientific academic language through multiple means of expression and engagement. We looked closely at best practices for supporting early elementary students as they build their mastery of academic concepts in science. We were eager to find an approach that felt both developmentally appropriate and rigorous, and one that would engage all learners as the current pandemic moved us to a distance learning model. To find an approach that would support and engage all of our learners, we began by looking at Universal Design for Learning and Culturally Responsive Teaching as a foundation for our research. Through interviews with experts, looking at the current body of research, and reflecting on student strengths, we decided to initially focus our research on movement as a means of expression. Movement and wiggling is a natural urge for many young learners. Rather than trying to fight or stifle the childlike urge to move and shake, inviting movement into academic lessons is a great way to build on student strengths (Gore, 2020.) We dug into the research on what movement could look like in a science lesson, and then expanded our scope to other means of expression as well. We explored the benefits of multiple modalities in our teaching as well as the benefits of multiple means of expression in early childhood education. For this line of inquiry, universal design for learning felt like a fitting launch point for our research. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is “a way of thinking about teaching and learning that helps give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.” (CAST 2020). UDL offers flexibility in the ways students access material, engage with it and show what they know. The framework for UDL is designed to push student thinking and help them make meaning and internalize their learning. UDL felt nicely aligned with our previous study of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) on several major points. The major points that we drew from our study of UDL and CRT were to be careful not to look at differences as deficits, and to look at barriers to learning from within curriculum, instruction, and assessment methods rather than as deficits within the students (Kieran & Anderson, 1208). It also stood out that both UDL and CRT are intentionally built into teaching practices, not implemented as a reactionary measure after an issue arises. Implementing UDL and CRT are ongoing processes that require regular reflection, differentiation, and tweaking. Dosch and Zidon (2014) described the practice of differentiation as a repeated cycle of teaching and assessment in which assessment informs the next steps of instruction. The whole point of UDL and CRT are to create environments and practices that meet each learner's needs in a relevant way. If a system is not working for a child, there is no benefit in holding on to it. The ultimate goal of all of this learning is to implement teaching practices that develop “expert learners.” For specific guidance on how to do just that, we looked to the UDL framework. The UDL framework is divided into rows that build upon themselves as you move down the framework (Gravel, J.). The “access” row includes the guidelines that suggest ways to increase access to the learning goal by recruiting interest and by offering options for perception and physical action. This is the first row in the framework. The second row, or the “build” row, includes the guidelines that suggest ways to develop effort and persistence, language and symbols, and expression and communication. Finally, the “internalize” row includes the guidelines that suggest ways to empower learners through self-regulation, comprehension, and executive function. (CAST). One of our goals in this lesson study was to push students to reach the “internalize” step, where they could make meaning and apply their own scientific learning. We wanted students to learn about lifecycles, grapple with scientific terms, and apply those terms in a way that felt meaningful and relevant to them. From the UDL framework, we developed several teaching goals for this lesson study. Our instruction goals were to chunk science instruction appropriately, create opportunities for students to process information before application/assessment, and develop processing activities that support engagement and personal connection. These goals were aligned with the different rows of the framework, and build from “access” to “build” to “internalize.” In order to achieve these instructional goals, as well as the learning goals we developed for our students, we needed to look closely at the needs of a kindergarten classroom and specifically at the strengths and needs of our focus students. Of our focus students, one is an English Language Learner and two are working on specific speech and language processing and production goals. Focusing on these students and their assets allowed us to design lessons that were beneficial for the entire group. For example, we knew that we wanted to create nonverbal engagement options so that these students could participate fully without the barrier of language production. Within the UDL framework, “the guidelines for multiple means of engagement prompt teachers to consider ways to create student-centered learning, including the use of student choice on authentic and relevant learning tasks.” (Kieran, 5.) We introduced and reinforced scientific vocabulary and the concept of insect life cycles through many means of engagement. Tasks varied from direct instruction via asynchronous videos, observation of life cycle stages in real time, recreation of life cycle stages through food diagrams, physical representation of life cycle stages through yoga, and more. One of our goals was to make the learning fun and to help all students feel successful to increase engagement. In order to increase engagement, it is vital to create a “climate of engagement in the classroom to help children focus on their learning, support learning specific skills and concepts, and provide children positive associations with learning.” (Jablon & Wilkinson, 13.) When students were having fun and engaged in their learning, they were able to gain mastery of the scientific concepts and push their thinking toward the “internalize” section of the UDL framework. The academic content for this unit helped inform our lesson goals for our focus students, and shaped our practices as we moved through the lesson study design process. Our academic focus for this lesson was academic language in the context of a science classroom. As kinder students moved through the semester, they engaged in a project all about bugs, and learned a lot of new bug vocabulary. A lot of this vocabulary was highly specialized, and included words that students would not encounter in informal, everyday language. Science is a subject steeped in specialized vocabulary, and because of this we may think of it as a language all its own (Smith-Walters, 59.) We knew that we wanted to create opportunities for students to grapple with this specialized vocabulary and make meaning, rather than learn the 1:1 dictionary definition of each word. One of our approaches, developed through our UDL research, was to create options for multiple means of representation. We read mentor texts with examples of what multiple means of representation could look like as a support for specialized scientific vocabulary. One such example suggested that teachers begin by building on student inquiry and prior knowledge of a topic. Once students begin making connections to the vocabulary words they are learning, they are primed to build on that knowledge and eventually represent their understanding (Straits & Stone, 66.) Several of the teachers and authors we researched suggested whole body movement as a means of representation that keeps students engaged and helps build new neural pathways in the brain that can increase retention of academic vocabulary. This lead us to total physical response, or TPR. As my colleagues and I next looked at different ways that students could express their thinking, interest in total physical response grew. Total physical response is a learning strategy that requires students to respond to teacher prompts through physical movement rather than, or in addition to, language. Students respond to verbal teacher input with physical movements, the purpose of which is to create a brain link between speech and action to boost language and vocabulary learning. Both anecdotally and during interviews, teachers spoke highly of TPR as a tool for vocabulary learning. In particular, we saw TPR come up frequently as a tool for helping English language learners develop mastery of academic language. In one interview, a teacher told me that she has not seen any other vocabulary building tool yield engagement and excitement that matches the engagement and excitement of TPR. She mentioned that it is a strategy that comes highly recommended by Project GLAD, an organization that trains teachers in research-based practices (Gore, 2020.) Through these conversations, our excitement about TPR grew and we began to seek out empirical evidence of its effectiveness. This proved to be an interesting and challenging journey, as much of the research available about TPR is either outdated or discusses that further research is needed to determine conclusiveness. We looked at several studies focused on teaching vocabulary in a foreign language setting that were also applicable to our interest in academic language/English language learners. One such study looked at two different strategies, Total Physical Response (TPR) and the Keyword Method (KWM). It found that both strategies were effective in increasing students' vocabulary retention both the next day and two weeks later. However, the keyword method had a larger effect size than the total physical response (Khorasgani & Khanehgir, 162.) The article indicated that more research is needed in order to fully understand best strategies for teaching new vocabulary to young learners. These results appeared in several other studies we read. TPR was a strategy that seemed both developmentally appropriate and engaging for the kindergartners, but my colleagues and I came to wonder about empirical evidence of its effectiveness. This led us to believe that more research needs to be done regarding TPR. Relying on the wisdom of our colleagues and our own classroom TPR trials, we decided to make TPR a component of our lesson study without making it our sole focus. Though we felt brief disappointment about the inconclusive evidence for TPR’s effectiveness in improving academic language retention, we took a step back to look at all that we had learned so far. We realized that we had been looking for a “magic bullet” strategy that would dramatically improve retention and mastery of scientific vocabulary for every student. This, of course, does not exist. Our research showed us, instead, that no single strategy will be right for everyone. Multisensory learning, or engaging all the senses, has been proven to build new neural pathways in the brain. Creating opportunities for students to express their learning in many different ways helps them find a means of expression that is right for their learning style, which deepens the connection between what they have learned and their world. Constructivist pedagogy, such as that recommended by Vygotsky, requires students to be actively involved both physically and mentally and to learn in authentic contexts, applying their knowledge to real world situations (Smith-Walters, 62) With our unexpected shift to distance learning, maintaining student engagement and supporting all learning styles felt more pertinent than ever before. In her article, “Four Core Priorities For Trauma-informed Distance Learning”, Newhouse outlines four key priorities to keep in mind as we planned and implemented distance learning with our students. These are predictability, flexibility, connection, and empowerment. We felt that our lesson design highlighted flexibility and empowerment by giving students opportunities to make decisions with the teacher and have choices in their learning. Instead of prescribing that all students must represent their thinking using TPR, we developed a lesson series that was flexible to student needs and included opportunities for many different means of representation. “Giving (students) ample and varied opportunities for practice, ongoing support, relevant feedback, and multiple ways to express their learning” (McPherson, 231) This brought all of our research full-circle, and anchored us once again in Universal Design for Learning. UDL gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn and provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution, but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs (Tobin, 14) In sum, our dive into the literature took us down many different avenues during this cycle of lesson study. We went down pathways that felt like a natural fit for our students and their assets, and went down others that left us confused and disappointed. We had big aspirations to chunk science instruction appropriately, create opportunities for students to process information before applying it, and design processing activities that supported engagement and personal connection. Through this process, we pulled out the ideas and strategies that felt right for our learners, and embraced their differences and needs as the inspiration for our lesson design. Individual differences are usually treated in research as sources of annoying error variance and as distractions from the more important “main effects.” We learned that it is important that teachers do not slip into this same deficit-based mindset in the classroom. “UDL, on the other hand, treats these individual differences as an equally important focus of attention” (CAST). Anchoring our research in UDL allowed us to focus on student differences as strengths, and to intentionally design lessons that built on these strengths.