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Guest Post: An Exceptional Education on the Unique Learning System

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I am so excited to have Susan Elorza from An Exceptional Education guest blogging today.  Susan teaches 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in a self-contained classroom in Las Vegas and is working on her master’s at UNLV.  And that’s just her professional life!  I am particularly excited because Susan is going to blog about one of my favorite topics, the Unique Learning System.  I have blogged about ULS a number of times in the past and I absolutely love it.  If you want to read more about it, see my earlier posts on what it is, resources on the web, and organizing materials for it.  And, if you are interested in trying it, their summer unit is up and you can get the whole unit for free to try it out by registering at their site!  So, with all that awsomeness going on…I turn you over to Susan who is going to talk about how she uses the ULS with her students!

Finally! A standards based curriculum for students with disabilities

If you are an educator of special learners and haven’t yet heard of ULS (Unique Learning Systems) I am thrilled for you to read this post! I am by no means an expert and this is my first year using ULS but I can tell you I am completely and totally impressed! As most special education teachers I struggled from` the very beginning with providing practical and realistic curriculum while also aligning my lessons with the common core. I still remember when I first transferred into a self-contained classroom from only previously teaching general education…I asked my principal what curriculum I was supposed to use. He literally said, “Whatever you want”. Uh…. excuse me? I felt lost and insecure and started to mix a little bit of this and create a little bit of that. I seemed to manage but boy did it feel like a lot of work and a lot of “creativity” on my end and in the back of my mind I always felt like there were a few whose needs I was not meeting.  Later in the year I was selected to participate in a pilot research program later to find out the program was to implement the use of Unique Learning Systems in my classroom. So….without further adieu here is why I am such a believer in this program.

* Unique provides everything! All of the lessons are written for you and they are differentiated. It is all done for you! I can’t believe I have my non-verbal non-writing students engaged and participating the same lessons as my higher functioning students.  Here is an example of the differentiated worksheets.
 As you can see there are worksheets that have pictures (symbolstix), some created so the student is able to trace, and then the highest level requiring the student to write the words independently.  ALL of the lessons included in ULS are like this. They are all differentiated for you. I can’t tell enough how this has affected my instruction in so many positive ways.  To be able to include ALL of my students and at a reasonable level enabling them to achieve some level of success makes me a very happy teacher. The math and social studies are the same way…all differentiated for you. ULS also incudes instructional targets that are aligned to the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics
Another really convenient part of ULS is the suggested monthly lesson plans. 

This is a sample of two day’s worth of lesson plans. Unique includes a monthly theme such as “electricity” or “government” and I know those may sound like difficult topics but they are broken down so that government is taught through making choices and other lessons that the student’s can understand and relate to. You can follow ULS with fidelity or you can customize it to work best for your students…it’s all up to you.


So far, I have been implementing ULS primarily as whole group. I chose to conduct most of the lessons whole group as so much of our existing curriculum is in small group and this give the students an opportunity to work as a group on the same lesson with the differentiation already being done for you. As you can see in the above photo I use my ELMO (projector) to display the stories, which we read whole group and then individual students will take turns coming to read portions. I let them use the microphone (which they LOVE). Although not all of my students are readers there is no shortage of volunteers! The use of pictures throughout allows them to read or better be able to read the stories. After the whole group reading I will display the comprehension worksheet on the large screen while the students have their own copy on their desks. We complete the work together. For those who are not able to write I have the picture pre cut so all they need to do is follow along and glue the correct photo in the answer space.


If you are a data person or data “geek” as I am you will love this program. There are pre and post assessments that monitor and track the progress of your students. It’s such a great feeling to see my students grow every month. ULS puts the data into really nice graphs that are simple and easy to understand. How nice it is to bring a graph into an IEP for one of my students. I think it’s wonderful as an educator, it’s impressive to show administration, and even better to show parents the progress their child is making.

Finally, to read more about what Susan does hop over to An Exceptional Education and say hi!  Do you use the Unique in your classroom?  How has it worked for you?  Talk to us in the comments below!

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: An Exceptional Education on the Unique Learning System”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am so interested! I used to have a subscription to News 2 you from this site, but did not know about the ULS. I see it's $429 for a year subscription. Any ideas on how you purchased or got your subscription?? I was thinking of maybe donors choose?

    The Bender Bunch

    1. I'm not sure how Susan acquires the ULS although I think her district purchased it. Most of the districts I work with have purchased it when teachers have made them aware of it. The experiences I have had with most teachers have been similar to Susan's in that people weren't always sure what curriculum to give them. I have had situations where the special ed. director was waiting for the teacher to tell her what curriculum she needed and the teacher was waiting for the director to give her a curriculum. So, making administrators aware that it is out there is key. Also, you can download the summer unit for free and try it out–I've had a number of teachers I work with who do this to decide if they like it and then they can present it to their administration. It would be a great donors choose project as well I would think. Let us know what happens!


  2. Our county bought the ULS for us. I love it. This is my first year using it. I am learning new things about it daily. When I explain the program to my parents, they love it. The system is so worth the price. It cut out a lot of work for the teacher. I use to spend hours on board maker to create lessons. Now with ULS I do not have to use board maker as much.

  3. Our county bought the ULS for us. I love it. This is my first year using it. I am learning new things about it daily. When I explain the program to my parents, they love it. The system is so worth the price. It cut out a lot of work for the teacher. I use to spend hours on board maker to create lessons. Now with ULS I do not have to use board maker as much.

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