What Individualized Education Looks Like
Individualized education, what does that mean? What does that look like? Does it mean that students are working independently throughout the week on activities that are tailored just for them? Does it mean that within a group project, there are elements required to stretch each student?
In the elementary school, individualized curriculum takes on many forms. In the mornings, students are grouped by their developmental level—rather than their grade or age. This allows us to teach students at their own levels. While this is a great start—it is not all that we do. Within our classes, teachers are regularly differentiating their classes. In Megan’s reading and writing group, when students finish an activity early, they have a Think-Tac-Toe of activities to choose from. This choice of activities ranges from additional support activities to extensions for students that need more challenge. In Jill’s reading and writing group, students are reading different leveled books to meet the span of comprehension levels and then coming back together to have discussions about Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama. In the lower grades, students work in guided reading groups specific to their emergent or fluent reading levels. This idea of teaching a class with individual learners in mind continues into the afternoon. For example, students in the second and third grade social studies class are learning about the early history of Jackson Hole. Students worked in pairs to create a poster depicting interesting and important facts about their focus group (i.e. trappers). Once completed, students choose from eight activities based on a think- tac- toe board.
Some students might be creating a brochure convincing residents of the east coast to move west, while another student is online reading primary sources and writing about how their focus group would react to actual headlines of the times, while yet another student is creating a cartoon depicting how the ecology of Jackson Hole has changed with the increase in settlers. Not only does this choice reach a wide range of learning styles, it also provides an opportunity for students to take their knowledge about this place to the next level of analysis.
So, what is individualized learning at Journeys School? It is a belief that each student is a unique learner who has both strengths and challenges which need to be supported and stretched by the teachers and the curriculum. It is the idea that every student is an individual and what works for one may not work for another. It is the idea that requires us as teachers to dig below the surface of the child to uncover what makes that child feel inspired, engaged and passionate. It is a curriculum and classroom expectation that asks student to Learn, Think and Act—not all the same--- but in their own unique way.
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