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How Do You Meet the Needs of Your Individual Students with Varying Skills and Abilities?
Last week I wrote an EXTREMELY LONG post about meeting the needs of your individual students. Each day I've thought about the post since, I've cringed. I wasn't happy with it at all. Today I deleted it. Instead I'm writing a bunch of smaller posts with a better balance of quality and quantity. So here goes...
I have four very different kiddos with very different skill levels and abilities. Dinomite, age 7, is incredibly smart in the areas of science and history. However, he really struggles with language and math. He has delays in fine motor skills. His muscle tone is a little low. Dinomite is Autistic and has been flagged for a learning disability in relation to his writing. He also suffers from anxieties and Neophobia. Bulldozer, age 5, is very smart, and also Autistic, with auditory processing issues and ADHD tendencies. His fine motor skills are delayed. He has low muscle tone. Princess, age 4, is brilliant, with an IQ of 131. She is reading, writing, adding, subtracting, telling time, counting money, diagramming sentences etc. Unfortunately, Princess (adopted through foster care), suffers from PTSD episodes on a regular basis. She has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Affect. Her behaviors can be extremely trying and often get in the way of her success as a student. Sunshine, age 2, (also adopted through foster care), is more delayed than any other child we've had. Still in the process of being diagnosed, she is quite the puzzle.
How do you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities?
Here's what we've chosen to do:
1. Use a Montessori inspired approach to learning.
Our kiddo chooses their own work each day. There are several activity trays set up on shelves. Activities vary in level. Each kiddo progresses at their own pace.
2. Incorporate motor development tasks within the daily learning time activities.
Each of our units includes motor development activities. In the Montessori world these are referred to as Practical Life Activities.
3. Keep writing to a minimum.
It may sound crazy, but it has helped immensely. The kiddos know that they will write in their journals each day, in the capacity they are able. They also complete two worksheets with minimal writing required. All other activities are free of writing.
4. Use hands on manipulatives with visuals.
These activities have proved to be extremely successful and beneficial for all of our kiddos. Those who struggle with writing are not hindered in areas of study, due to a writing component they're unable to complete. One who learns at a more advanced pace and is still very young, is able to understand more complicated subject content, because of the manipulatives and visuals.
5. Eliminate testing and grading.
My kiddos know how to complete an activity or they don't. Each week I try to design activities that require the kiddos to generalize information they have learned. Completion of the activity shows mastery of the skill. I continue to present a specific activity until all kiddos have mastered it. When it comes to their writing, spelling, math facts, etc. I don't correct their work. Most often they're able to self correct, using a control, as spoken of in the Montessori Method. When there is not a control, they progress naturally. They're able to develop the necessary skill. I learned long ago not to expect a child to master a skill at a specific time or age. They will do so when they are ready. In my opinion, it is unfair to grade a child's speed of development.
I would love to learn about the ways you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities. Every child is different.