Individualization is a way to personalize or adapt the way we teach something to make it fit a child’s need or interest. By individualizing, we are redesigning a teaching strategy to make learning easier and more effective for a student or a small group of students who need more time, more information, or have some other interests or needs that cannot be covered as the activity was first designed.
As mentioned, individualizing can be seen as the process of adapting something. Now, we can also associate the question “Why individualize?” with the question “Are we all the same?” All human beings are different. We all have different ways of learning and challenging ourselves. And because we are not the same, it is necessary to adjust and customize lesson plans. When we individualize, students feel that what is taught is relevant to them and can relate to and identify with it. We individualize because all our students come from different places, have different abilities, talents, and process things differently. It’s our job to teach in a way that each child, regardless of their skills and abilities, is able to understand, internalize, and carry out all educational activities effectively.
When to Individualize?
We adjust our lesson plans when it represents a greater challenge than the one anticipated at planning time. We individualize when an activity does not seem interesting, fun, or challenging enough for the children. We individualize when we realize that a student or a few students did not have the expected participation or performance. That is when we evaluate our teaching method and adjust it, so children can understand and thrive. Individualization is when we realize that there are children who need more, and we offer them the one-on-one time they need to express their frustrations and doubts, and so they can work more calmly.
How to Individualize?
The process begins right when we realize that it is necessary to adjust an activity for a student or a certain number of students. The way we individualize should always be based on children’s feedback, type of activity, age group, children’s abilities, etc. Here are 10 ways to do it:
- Revising the language and vocabulary used in an activity to more familiar and simpler words
- Breaking the activity into small parts or steps to make it easier to do
- Offering extra time for an activity
- Substituting the tools used during an activity for ones easier to handle
- Providing additional assistance, such as verbal cues or reminders
- Changing the environment to a quieter one that makes it easier to focus and work on a task
- Giving positive reinforcement as students work to increase their confidence and self-esteem
- Offering encouragement, such as high fives, thumbs up, or clapping
- Allowing children to choose a favorite song as a background sound and soothing tool
- Setting up clear goals and expectations along with short and simple ways to reach them
As educators, we find ourselves with lots of planned interactions and activities for children. We try to achieve so many goals as we try to follow and do what our curriculum expects. However, engaging with children and individualizing to meet their needs and their own expectations should always stay number one on our to-do list.