While facilitating provider trainings at centers and schools I’m often told how “individualized” their program is. Yet during observations I feel that many teachers and caregivers are individualizing their classrooms for their own needs and goals. Often their own instruction style or creative classroom set up is evident, but the curriculum remains group focused. It’s easier that way.
When I was the preschool teachers of 19 students in Los Angeles I found it difficult to individualize my classroom. I didn’t have an assistant and many of my students didn’t even speak english – making it difficult to understand their needs and develop individualized goals. Yet I made it a priority to discover ways to encourage each child’s interests and assist with individual struggles.
At Adventure Academy it’s much easier to individualize with the low ratios and multi age programming. The multi age programming helps keep perspective of developmentally appropriate practices. This does not mean age defined activities are offered. This means students at lower developmental levels have access to higher learning tools encouraging their growth, but at their own speed.
Adventure Academy uses many curriculum options for our tots to teen level students. One curriculum we enjoy is Mother Goose Time, which is preschool focused, but all ages enjoy the thematic studies. While tots simply listen in on the themed stories and explore new materials, young discoverers learn to follow directions in using the provided materials, and older explorers adventure beyond by researching the unit further.
This months study unit is “Discover the Desert,” which brings warm ideas to our snow covered location. The concept of a desert is thawing our frozen brains and showing me who has any understanding of what a desert is and what is different from that location and our own. Last month we discussed healthy life styles, which included food groups. Before transitioning to the new theme we had to discuss the difference between desert and dessert!
Last month we also discussed how our students are growing and as we learn about desert life we’ll learn about what things grow in the desert and what we can grow in Northern Michigan once warm weather finds us again! We’ll eat our ice-cream for dessert and think of warm places and talk about things that are fun in the sun. We’ll talk about activities we enjoy in different seasons and different locations.
I’ll learn about the unique things each child likes and dislikes and use that in my lesson planning. Although we’ll have group activities around the theme I’ll offer individual activities for each child based on their talents and needs. Although I’ll have a lesson plan for each day it’s a flexible plan that changes as the group or even one child challenges me to do so.
Typically I follow the lessons as presented in the curriculums, however this month I had the children help me plan out the months daily topics. It was interesting to see which students wanted to follow the plan exactly as presented, which wanted topics modified and which wanted completely different and seemingly random themes instead.
If you discuss their thoughts further you’ll find no idea is random – they got to that concept some how – and that train of thought opens up their world of interests and personal goals and teaches you how to teach them best. Learning to step back and let them teach you is the best way to individualize your program. Listen to their ideas and follow their lead – teaching them to be tomorrow’s leaders.
We have a couple part time spaces left in our program for future leaders. For more information about Adventure Academy email Christi@MiFamilies.com. For more information about other programs – such as our provider trainings – visit www.MiFamilies.com. To network with other providers and parents feel free to stalk us on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube…
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