Mel Levine and UbD

  • Reading: You should have received a copy of Dr. Mel Levine’s A Mind at a Time in your course Prep-Packet. Please read Chapter 2 “The Ways of Learning”, Chapter 5, “Ways with Words: Our Language System” and Chapter 8, “Some Peeks at a Mind’s Peaks: Our Higher Thinking System.”

Well, that’s one required chapter down. Actually, I finding myself very interested in the things Levine writes in A Mind at a Time so far. My son, Dylan, is three years old and doesn’t talk, excepting mumbling “M” sounds. We have had him evaluated by a speech therapist, who agrees he needs to begin regular speech therapy and have been working with him at home with some simple sign language commands, identifying pictures in books, and making environmental noises (animal sounds). But I look at him and worry about how he will do in school with a teacher who doesn’t understand and writes him off as stupid. I also am angrier and angrier about how my oldest daughter, Sarah, has been treated in school. She has ADD, and her teachers have given her detentions for doing things she has done as a direct result of the fact that she has attention problems. It has never worked. I try to be supportive of teachers since I am one myself, but I have grown increasingly frustrated with how schools handle kids like Sarah. Almost every meeting I’ve had with teachers is “She’s a bright girl,” but… That tells me they feel her problems are a function of her intellect instead of one area of her brain — one learning system, to use Levine’s term. She is gifted artistically and she has highly developed language skills. I think she would make a wonderful children’s book writer and illustrator one day. But school is really hard for kids who have attention difficulties. The second chapter of Levine’s book, which I just finished, gives me a great deal of hope for Sarah. She will make it through school OK, probably with some run-ins because of her attention, but I really worry about how Dylan will be treated.

Now that I know what I am going to be teaching next year, I want to begin lesson planning. I had to turn in the copy of Understanding by Design: Professional Development Workbook to our school library. I simply need to buckle down and purchase some more professional development books for my own library. I spend too long with them to check them out of the library. Meanwhile, I did make some templates for unit planning utilizing the UbD method. If you would like them, I have them available in Word or PDF. If you don’t have a word processor that reads Word documents, download the PDF. Otherwise, I’d recommend downloading the Word document so that you can tweak it and actually use it for planning.

3 thoughts on “Mel Levine and UbD”

  1. Oh dear. You might want to read Thomas Sowell's "Late Talking Children" or his Einstein Syndrome

    I went to a speech Sowell gave and he said the most vitriol he's ever experienced (and he is a controversial figure) was from his articles and speeches on late-talking kids.

    Here's another resource for you, from Sowell's website. I'm not sure if it is up-to-date.


    A new group of parents of late-talking children is being formed by Professor Stephen M. Camarata of Vanderbilt University. He is a Professor of psychology and director of the Scottish Rite Child Language Disorder Center. In addition to his professional interest in this area, he has a late-talking son and was himself a late talker. Whether to join this group or for other information regarding late-talking children, Professor Camarata can be contacted at:

    Division of Hearing and Speech Science

    School of Medicine

    Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, Tennessee 37232-8700

    Telephone: (615)297-0500

  2. I want to share with you a brief look at Levine's Educational Care.

    If I were starting on my journey of learning about attentional difficulties and learning disabilities, I would start with Dr. Mel Levine's Educational Care 2nd edition (ISBN 083881987)–with a couple of caveats or Readers Beware.

    1. Levine's approach does not readily map onto IDEA formulations and school preconceptions. He says,

    "This book continutes to advocate for the informed observation and discription of students without subjecting children to eligibility formulas and labels."

    So the reader has to be able to hold two "mental maps" in mind — (a) the concepts and labels presupposed by IDEA, special education, and the school; and (b) Levine's eight neurodevelopmental constructs.

    2. Levine's language is formal and academic. Let me quote you a passage so you can see what I mean.

    "This book presents what is called a phenomenological model. It is a model based on clinical, educational, and research experience, a model that favors informed observation and description over labeling and that takes into account the great heterogeneity of children with disappointing school perfomance. As its basis it takes makes use of analyses of phenomena that are known to hinder academic performance in children at different ages. This model places a strong emphasis on identifying and using the innate strength of these children. This approach is also developmental in that it recognizes that both that children's brains change over time and that school continously changes in terms of the leven and complexity of demands placed on children. Therefore, the phenomena that cause difficulty differ in their manifestations as children age."

    This of course would not be a problem for you, but it is for a lot of parents. I recommend Developing Minds Video Library (URL, if you want to cut and paste:… or read the Learning Base (URL, if you want to cut and paste: articles at All Kinds of Minds.(URL, if you want to cut and paste:

    "To aid in interpreting observable phenomena, alll the currently known, academically relevant neurodevelopmental functions can be devided into eight categories which we call the neurodevelopmental constructs:

    Attention Controls

    *Mental Energy Control

    *Processing Control

    *Production Control

    Temporal-Sequential Ordering

    Spacial Ordering


    *Short-term Memory

    *Active Working Memory

    *Long-term Memory

    Language Functions

    *Receptive Language

    *Expressive Language

    Neuromotor Functions

    *Gross Motor Function

    *Fine Motor Function

    *Graphomotor Function

    Social Cognition

    *Verbal Social Abilities

    *Nonverbal Social Abilities

    Higher Order Cognition

    *Concept Formation



    *Understanding and Using Rules

    *Mental Representation

    *Critical Thinking

    In the book, the chapters are divided up into sets of observable phenomena grouped by educational themes. After presenting some of the issues, Levine discusses how parents and schools can collaborate to help the child address the specific issues, and recruit the student's strengths to work around the issues.

    Weak Attention Controls

    *Mental Energy Control

    *Processing Control

    *Production Control

    Reduced Remembering

    *Problems With Short-term Memory

    *Insufficient Active Working Memory

    *Incomplete Consolidation in Long-term Memory

    *Reduced Access to Long-term Memory

    Chronic Misunderstanding

    *Weak Language Processing

    *Incomplete Concept Formation

    *Weak Spacial Processing

    *slow Data Processing

    *Small Chunk-Size Capacity

    *Excessive Top-Down or Bottom-Up Processing

    Deficient Output

    *Weak Language Production

    *Disappointing Motor Function

    *Persistent Organizational Failure

    *Problematic Problem Solving and Strategy Use

    Delayed Skill Acquisition

    *Slow Reading Development

    *Inaccurate Spelling Patterns

    *Impeded Written Output

    *Underdeveloped Mathematical Ability

    Poor Adaptation

    *School-Related Sadness

    *Bodily Preoccupations

    *Noncompliant Behaviors

    *Social Inability

    *Lost Motivation

    The last two chapters cover provision of "educational care", followed by 30 pages of resources for students and schools to use.

    The Concept of Educational Care (p. 14)

    Too frequently education is viewed by both educators and students as a process in which skills and knowledge or conveyed or imparted by teachers to learners. In such a context, there may be little regard for the individual needs of the learner. Often it is assumed that what is good for one student is good for all students. In this book we will suggest a very different approach. We propose that just as health care is a system thrhough which medical professionals tend to the specific needs of patients, so education needs to be a system that delivers care to individual students. health care needs vary considerably from individual to individual. Not all medical conditions require the same medicine or the same level of health care. Education too should provide a form of individualized care and, in addition, it needs to do this with compassion. As we have described, children arrive at school each morning with a wide range of strenghts and weaknesses, and therefore, with diverse educational care needs. While we cannot (and should not) individualize all learning for all students, in so far as this is feasible it is imperative to try to do this for all who are most in need. As with optimal health care, there should be good prevention (of complications), accuracy of diagnosis, strong advocacy, and responsible management.

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