By Teachers, For Teachers
Teaching to the middle does not always work in today’s classrooms. Today’s classrooms have a range of students with different needs, that’s why you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Each student is unique and learns in a different way. You may have one student who learns better kinesthetically, while another learns best visually. You may have an analytical learner or an interpersonal learner, or even a few students who need to use all of their senses in order to understand a concept better. In order to ensure you are meeting the needs of all of your students, you may have to use teaching strategies to individualize instruction. Here we’ll take a quick look at what individualized instruction is, the purpose for these teaching strategies, as well as a few specific ways that you can use it in the classroom.
The individualized instruction strategy means you are focusing on one students’ specific needs. You are essentially providing guidance and support services through a variety of different teaching strategies that will help the individual student understand concepts better. The overall goal of the strategy is to maximize the students’ success by meeting their needs and assisting them in the learning process.
How does each individual learner process what they learn? Teachers often ask themselves this question in order to understand each one of their students. While we already know that all students learn in a way that is unique to them, we are also searching for how we can best reach each of our students. The purpose of using individualized instruction is so that we as teachers can ensure all students’ needs are being met. For decades, experts have been theorizing on how to best reach each individual child. You may have heard of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, where he described eight different intelligences that students can fall under. Teaching to the student versus teaching to the masses can ensure that all individuals’ needs are being met.
As much as we would love to work one-on-one with each individual student all day long, we simply cannot. However, there are a variety of ways that you can use this teaching strategy in the classroom. Here are a few effective ways to use this approach to support the development of your students’ skills.
One way that you can teach to the strengths of all learners is by using the multisensory approach. Multisensory learning involves using two or more senses in one activity. For example, you may have some students who learn best visually, audibly, tactically, or by moving their body (kinesthetically). When you create activities that incorporate all of the senses that allow students to see, hear, do, and touch, your students will be able to better process the information that is being taught -- in the best way that works for them.
Another effective teaching strategy that helps to individualize instruction is to scaffold. Scaffolding is what is known in education as a bridge that is used to build upon what students already know. In other words, it’s a structure that allows students to gradually reach higher levels of understanding. The goal of scaffolding instruction is to meet the individualized needs of all students. Teachers can do this by building upon each students’ experience and knowledge as they learn, as well as modeling and having students practice these skills.
The easiest and most effective way to scaffold instruction is to start by teaching students a new strategy when the content is familiar to them. Then, over time, you can present new content that is less familiar so that students can apply what they have learned previously. Overall, when you scaffold instruction in the classroom, you’re providing an incentive for students to take on an active role in their own learning.
Do your students like baseball or football, dancing or cheerleading? Are there more cat lovers or dog lovers? When you know your students’ interests, you can then tailor activities that will help to meet their individual needs. By incorporating what students love into your activities and lessons, you an easily individualize instruction that will meet the needs of all learners. You can easily do this by giving your students an interest survey. If you find that the majority of your students are into sports, then you can tailor your activities to incorporate sports. If you find that most of them like music, then you can incorporate music. It’s a great way to meet the needs of your students while motivating them to learn more about what they are interested in and love.
Every student can benefit from individualized instruction. When you understand that learning is not a “One-size–fits-all” approach, it’ll make it easier for you to teach to your student’s individual needs.
How do you individualize instruction in your classroom? Do you have any tips or teaching strategies that you would like to share? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say on this topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.