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Using Individualized Learning in a Preschool Setting

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Jonathan Wylie • updated: 10/9/2012

What is preschool individualized learning? Why is it important and how can you implement it in your own classroom? This article will help you get started.

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    What Is It?

    Individualized learning in a preschool setting can take on many different forms. First and foremost, it requires patience and dedication from the teacher, as well as top-notch organizational skills. The teacher must have ample time to observe the students in her classroom and be able to implement lesson plans that cater to each of her student's needs individually. While lesson planning can still be organized in a general format, it will also be necessary to outline specific goals for each student.

    In some cases, it may only be necessary to implement preschool individualized learning in only one area, such as speech development. In other cases, the full curriculum will be affected.

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    What Does It Look Like?

    The usual lesson plan can still be utilized when beginning a preschool individualized learning curriculum. Instead, what will change will be the specific, child-centered goals for the lesson. While your class-wide lesson plan should always be posted for parents to look at, the individualized learning goals should be something that only teachers are privy to.

    Your plan can take on the form of a class list, with space for comments. For example, if your lesson plan includes an easel painting activity, your individualized plan may look like this:

    • Ryan: encourage Ryan to explore color mixing with primary colors; discuss secondary colors; mention tertiary colors if interest continues.
    • Nick: show Nick a mature grasp with the paintbrush; encourage Nick to use the mature grasp; show him how to make long brush strokes
    • Hannah: encourage Hannah to finger-paint; allow her to use plastic gloves if necessary

    From these individual notes, we can gather that Ryan will be exploring the properties of color mixing, and the teacher will focus on new vocabulary such as "primary and secondary colors". Nick may be needing to move from a palmar grasp to a mature grasp, an important pre-writing skill. Hannah may be experiencing sensory or texture issues, and the finger-painting activity is a way to make her more comfortable with touch.

    A teacher should always observe her class as much as possible in order to gather anecdotal notes regarding the progress of the preschool individualized learning. Keep index cards and a pen in your pocket during the day to jot down any notes you can. Make sure you notice which plans are working and which are not and adjust your planning accordingly. Be sure to recopy your quick notes into each child's individual portfolio as needed.

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    Why Is It Important?

    Individualized learning is often easier to implement in preschool than in later years. Often, preschool classrooms feature more than one teacher and lower student-to-teacher ratios. It is easier to spot learning differences in preschool classrooms than in school-age classrooms.

    Not only do children develop at their own rates, but they often learn in very different ways. While one child in your care learns best by listening, another child may be a visual learner and need to see what is being taught. Giving each child the opportunity to learn in the way that is best for them means that you are giving them the confidence they need to be independent learners.