Teaching can sometimes feel like a frustrating exercise in “teaching to the middle.” By knowing how to individualize lessons for your students, you can make sure each and every child is learning in a way that they learn best AND gets them excited.
Get to Know Your Students
Figure out what interests them and what gets them motivated. This will, of course, be different for every kid and for every age. Some kids love cars, others love animals, others love certain shows or characters. Part of this, too, is learning how each kid learns. Some kids like to sit back and see a few examples and others learn best by doing. Some kids are visual and some need to hear the information. Just about all kids learn better with hands-on activities.
Also keep in mind different learning needs, like the kid learning English who needs visuals or the kid with an IEP who needs a model to understand. Just like you get to know your co-workers and students’ families, get to know your students, too.
Get Creative to Individualize
This may take a little bit more work initially, but the payoff is huge! What you want here is to basically “mix-and-match” your kids’ interests with what you need to teach them. Then figure out lessons that combine the two. You are taking your lessons and individualizing them! If you need to teach rhyming and Jose and Amira both love race cars, then do a lesson about race car rhymes. If you need to teach simple addition and DeShaun, Ivy, and Maria all want to be vets when they grow up–make your lesson around animals coming to a vet’s office. If you need to teach the concept of satire, and you know that Jamie is a big political buff, use that!
Not Every Lesson Will Interest Every Student
While this is true, you can try to make sure every student has something each day that they are especially interested in. That means that if 80% of your class is really into the movie Finding Dory, for instance, then you can go wild with making Finding Dory-related lessons. But don’t forget about the 20% that is not motivated by that. If you have one kid, and one kid only, who is super into robots and not much else, individualize something on robots to get him fired up each day. For older kids who you might teach shorter class periods instead of a full day, try to give each child something individualized once every 5 lessons or so.
For learning styles, you can really fit a lot of these into a single lesson. It’s possible to teach every lesson to every child in the way they learn best! How? Just explain it in several different ways. For instance, if you are teaching solving for x in simple equations, you could try:
1. showing several examples on the board,
2. verbally explaining the concept,
3. showing it with pictures instead of numbers, and
4. having students get up to physically represent quantities.
This way, if a student doesn’t get it one way, they are likely to understand one of the other ways. Individualizing your lessons will really get your students motivated to learn and will make you a better teacher! Have fun with it. 🙂