Tag Archives: individualized teaching

Planning Individually

individual-plan

Often times when I talk about planning for children, eyes widen at the thought of planning for each child in the classroom. There are many benefits when every child is considered in what goes on an activity plan. Children’s needs are met and they receive the quality care and education that they deserve. Below are some questions and thoughts around why planning individually is necessary and important for all age groups.

Why is planning for individual children important?

Every child is unique. This uniqueness should not be forgotten about or suppressed because group care is a reality and necessity for families. Although it may feel overwhelming at first, it is doable to plan for individual children within a larger group. Children benefit from individual planning when all aspects of development are considered. When you value a child’s uniqueness and learn about their strengths, these strengths can be used as tools to support other areas of learning and development.

What is considered when planning for individual children?

First and foremost, you need to understand child development when considering how to plan for all children in your care. This will help you plan for appropriate expectations and guidance no matter what age group. Children develop and learn in a certain sequence and there is a set of milestones to help assess if children are on the right track. Each child develops at their own rate and providing an enriching and open-ended environment can help children to achieve those milestones. In order to truly grasp “Approaches Towards Learning,” caregivers and teachers need to understand that their own agenda may not be the most appropriate for children. To truly support children’s learning and understanding of their world is to offer choices and freedom to play at their own risk.

How can you create a plan?

Routines and experiences can be individually planned for each child in your classroom and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may seem. Planning for routines means we consider how children may need support during events that happen consistently throughout each day, such as diapering/toileting, mealtimes, drop-off and pick-up.

Consider a newborn infant that is beginning group care at 6 weeks of age. They have already developed preferences. Their experiences and interactions with other people are their family. The family can give information about how much an infant is eating, how often, how they like to be held or not held. Gathering this information is all a part of planning for the individual child.

Experiences and activities can also be used to plan individually. A specific activity can be available to the whole group while intentionally giving a child that may need extra practice with a certain skill. Integrating learning concepts into a child’s favorite learning center, such as providing pretend cookies and a cookie sheet with a grid taped to it can be a way to introduce math concepts in the dramatic play area. Open-ended activities can offer many ways for children to use materials how they choose to and can offer insight on how to plan for each child

Although planning individually can seem daunting at first, there are several ways to simplify the process. Find time to observe children in the environment, watch and listen to what children have to say. Ask them what they want to learn about. Remember to consider every child in your care!

Is Yours or Mine the Best Practice?

This guest post comes to us from 4C Professional Development Specialist, Debra Chin.

best-practice

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. –Isaac Newton

As early childhood professionals, many times we claim something that we do daily is the best practice. Like the little boy described above in Newton’s quote, the moment we found or researched something, and thought the data showed a certain practice that seemed to serve the best to children, we “published” a best practice from our own lenses. I caught myself using the term “best practice” numerous times while I was coaching or presenting training. Then, a tiny voice crept up asking me, “Before you open your mouth trying to defend yourself with so called “best practice” and criticize others, do you know what others’ practice derived from?” I thought I had found “a smoother pebble or prettier shell,” yet Newton’s quote reminded me that “the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” I pause and think…

Each child is a unique person. Each of them has his/her own previous experience constructed from the interactions he/she has had with his/her peers, family and community. A practice that we entitle the “best” could be diverting from those unique experiences that we have learned from each child and each family.

We often promote independence and value children’s learning through free exploration of materials. We encourage children to openly express opinions for themselves.  We may expect children at a certain age to be able to use simple words to express their feelings. However, some of our children may come from families that value dependence behaviors, and expect young children to first develop an ability in following guidance from adults, instead of initiating activities independently.  Children may be expected to “be seen and not heard,” and are encouraged to develop a skill of listening patiently to others prior to that of speaking out. Sharing emotions may not be valued by some families, and instead viewed as something to keep private.

Best practice is not a set of rules, but requires more talking, clarifying, listening, understanding and perhaps negotiating.  Negotiating difference begins with us as teachers or administrators clearly understanding our own preferences and where they come from. I think the message that I’d like to share with all of us is to humbly learn from our children and families about underlying reasons of each practice that seems awkward to us. Through a manner of honoring those different practices, we learn the hopes and dreams of each family for their children which will provide us with a rich source of information to develop a practice that would best facilitate children’s learning and development. Meanwhile, this same reflection goes with the work that we have with our fellow professionals. None of us should proclaim our practice is the best without the willingness to be open to learning from each other and to expand our view of practices based on what we learn, for the best interest of young children. Then we could proudly say that we have a best practice.

The importance of intentional teaching

I ran into my mentor teacher from my preschool practicum recently and it had me reflecting on what I learned from her about being intentional in my teaching.

Intentional Teaching

How do you make time to individually plan for each child in your care?

When I was smack dab in the middle of my practicum, I was a college student, just trying to get through it. I would have a good idea that I saw on the internet or remembered from somewhere and want to try it out. I would run the idea by my mentor teacher and she would ask me what felt like a hundred questions. Why did I want to do it? How was it relevant? How would I implement it? How did it align with the state standards? What questions would I ask? How would I introduce it? How would I wrap it up? At the time it really felt nit-picky and unnecessary.

Not only did she have me reflect on my activities, but she also taught me how important details of the implementation are. For example, when making a literacy interactive chart, the words needed to be two finger lengths apart. She taught me there are certain fonts that support children’s development more effectively than others. I learned how it’s as important to plan for transition time as it is to plan the activities and experiences around the classroom. For example, instead of ending circle time so all the children can line up to wait to wash hands, plan a song that sends some children to wash hands and some stay. I learned that even time outside and time in the muscle room need serious consideration about what materials to put out. The longer I spent in the classroom, the more I came to understand how important all those details are. We have to be very intentional about what we plan for children and it has to be based on the individual needs of the children, not just some cute idea I saw on the internet.

I have to admit, at first it felt very overwhelming. The prospect of being in a classroom someday, writing my own lesson plan for every day of every week of every year felt impossible. In a classroom full of children, how was I going to have time to plan experiences for individual children and think about all the questions I know my mentor teacher would ask? It was hard at first but gets smoother with practice. The best first step is to be aware of the things that need to be considered when planning for your classroom.