Adapting Lessons to a Child’s Learning Style & Stages

If you use lesson plans from Earthschooling or another program or even if you use recipes, lessons or instructions from online BLOGS or websites you will usually receive specific instructions on how to do an activity. However, I often find that the child will need this activity adapted to their own learning style and needs. One of the main ways I find myself adapting my lessons is in the category of “styles of expression”.

If you think about all the people you know you will realize that everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. Some use music, some use words and some like to yell, whisper, be direct, be indirect, write a poem, build something or use another method of expressing what they are feeling or what they want.

Now think about what we are doing as we teach. We are expressing ourselves. And then, in turn, we are asking the child to express what they have learned back to us in the form of a report, test, quiz, project, writing, art project or other method.

In both cases you have some “wiggle room”. As a teacher you could decide to demonstrate with a hands-on display if you are  a very visual and sensual person. If you like to be very expressive with your body language you may choose to present lessons as  performance art pieces. If you are more eloquent in other ways you can express yourself in those ways. There are many ways to tell stories and many ways to teach. You do not need to do it “exactly” as it says in the lesson plan. You can take the lesson plan and adapt it to your own style. Whenever you do this the lessons will be easier and more effective and exciting for the student. That said, it is always good to practice styles “out of one’s comfort zone” now and then and sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice. At circle time a teacher who is not comfortable singing may end up singing and at story-time a teacher who doesn’t feel they have acting talent may want to try performing a story.

In the case of the student you can also give them a fair amount of choice in how they express themselves. Keep a list of the goals you have for each week or month in the categories of writing, reading, painting and other lessons. This list will help you make sure that the student is getting the bare minimum of these activities. However, beyond that, you can give the child a lot of choice in how they express themselves.

This week with Sofi is a good example. I had originally planned to do a beautiful colored pencil or watercolor of Buddha who we are studying during our Ancient India unit. However, she saw the clay on the table from the lesson the week before and wanted to create the Buddha in clay. She shared with me that she is really enjoying the clay. I will keep that in mind for future lessons. Steiner was also a big fan of using clay to allow children to express themselves in the lesson.

In any case, I changed the lesson plan from painting to sculpture.

The next day I was planning to have Sofi write a summary of a lesson in her Main Lesson Book. However, instead she gave me a really nice “summary speech” when I was video-taping her. I didn’t ask her to do this and was surprised. She had already written a number of notes in her book during the lesson so I marked this lesson complete after her verbal presentation. Once again I changed the lesson from “written report” to “verbal report”.

I find myself doing this a lot with Sofi, especially. She is a very creative and willful choleric child and is extremely motivated by her own ideas. As long as she continues to express the lessons back to me in some way (so I know she is learning) and as long as she keeps up a minimum of drawing and writing each week, I am happy to keep modifying the lessons as needed.

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