Individualised learning is not only important but a necessity in the pre schooling age. The needs of each child are unique and we can’t generalise the learning to cover curriculum to make the child learn. The key to early learning is getting children interested in learning. Ofcourse this is easier said than done, however if activities are designed correctly tuned to the needs of the child, then learning occurs naturally.
Early age learning requires children to be attracted to the activity first. Meaning the child needs to get interested because the external learning actually matches the internal need. And internal needs are different for each child and hence individualise learning is important.
What is Individualised learning
Learning that is tuned to the individual needs of every child can be termed as individualised learning. Imagine a class of 3 year olds, one child wants to flip at picture book while the other child of same age is peeling an orange. Each child Is free to choose what he/she wants to do while the teacher is observes both the children to understand how the children respond to the activity and making notes. The teacher can then present more activities so that the child enjoys coming to school and then introduce challenging concepts using the scaffolding principle. This way the learning is tuned to the needs of the child and encourages the child to learn first using what he/she is comfortable with and then expanding his/her horizons.
Lets look at the factors that influence individualised learning
Dr. Maria Montessori observed there are certain periods in the life of your child termed as Sensitive Periods or developmental milestones. During these periods, the child has an overpowering internal curiosity and sensitivity to a particular skill or knowledge. She has a spontaneous desire to engage in the particular activity and she repeats it until the skill is mastered. This sensitivity lasts for a certain period and doesn’t recur.
There are specific ages for example language love is from birth. The babbling, cooing, and various sounds a baby makes is to communicate its thoughts to the doting parent. The picture shows various sensitive phases from birth to six years
During these phases there is a natural urge for a topic and educators must feed that urge. This helps the child to learn with little conscious effort. Educators need to understand the sensitive periods for each child.
But these sensitive phases don’t occur at the same time /age in children, they occur in patches or in bursts of time. For example we had one child who had tremendous urge to repeat every word said in the class in all languages, so she could repeat what the teacher said in english, what the didi said in marathi and what the hindi teacher says in Hindi. This lasted for 1 week, and then again reemerged after few weeks. Our educators had to include a lot more oral language during this time since the child was hungry for more language. Teachers must first satisfy the needs of the sensitive period.
Same age different abilities
I cannot stress enough that abilities can differ even if the children are of same age. We have many examples of children in our school, at 18 months some can speak in sentences while some still point rather than talking. Offering the same activities to both the groups of children will make one group extremely bored as the activity doesn’t challenge them while the other will feel the activity is too ahead of their ability hence not do it. We have to make sure each child’s ability is clearly understood by the teacher and the work presented helps to expand on their existing abilities.
Interests should drive activities not outcomes
Children below the age of 6 are sensorial learners. They want to explore the surroundings around them with all their senses. They have varied interests, not all children have the same interest. For example, one 3 year old would love to use a crayon and draw on paper, however another 3 year old loves to do pouring and grain sorting activities. In both cases the outcome is improvement of fine motor skills however the approach to achieve them is different. There should be range of activities available in school that interests each child. We cannot use the same activity for all children just because want a specific outcome.