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Topics in Early Childhood Education


Child Centered Planning: Individualizing for Success

Child Centered Planning: Individualizing for Success


            The benefits of child-centered, or individualized, planning are easy to see.  Children get fully involved in activities, actively explore their environments, feel proud when they can do things for themselves, and enjoy playing and learning with others.  Individualizing gives each child the capacity to grow and learn now and in the future.


            In the preschool classroom teachers engage in an ongoing cycle of individualization: assessment---planning---implementation and ongoing assessment.  Teachers us a variety of strategies to get to know and plan for children, build partnerships with parents and assess children’s progress.


            Individualizing is most successful when staff and families build strong partnerships and communicate frequently about a child.  By combining the information gained from the two perspectives, families and staff can use the curriculum to plan and implement an individualized education.


            Child-centered planning is an ongoing process that continues throughout a child’s participation in our preschool classrooms.  To effectively individualize, teachers must remember to:


·        Use multiple sources of information including parent reports, ongoing observations and reusults of standardized screening and evaluation instruments to learn about needs, interests, abilities, culture, home language, and life experiences.

·        Develop a partnership with each family to share information about a child’s culture, life experiences, skills, needs, interests and abilities and plan how to encourage growth and development at home and in the classroom. 

·        Plan ways to address individual needs through all aspects of the curriculum—the learning environment, daily routine, and interactions.

·        Document children’s work using a variety of strategies including observation, parent reports, and examples of children’s work.



Individualizing in the High/Scope Classroom


            Many strategies used in the High/Scope classroom reflect an individualized, or child-centered approach.  For example, teachers can:


·        Provide materials such as blocks, pots and pans, and dress-up clothers that children can use in different ways and according to their abilities, interests and skills

·        Intorduce new materials and activities in response to children’s changing needs, interests and skill levels

·        Offer outdoor play opportunities in an environment that includes a variety of equipment and activity choices

·        Plan small group activities that include built-in opportunities for children to decide how they want to participate

·        Reflect the children’s cultures and home languages in play materials, songs and stories, books and tapes, activities, labels and signs

·        Use a flexible approach to routines and transitions so that a child can eat when hungry or finish a painting before getting ready for the next activity

·        Include large blocks of time in the daily schedule  when children can decide what to do, what materials and equipment to use, and with whom to play

·        Use positive approaches to guidance that match a child’s temperament and ability to use self-control

·        Tailor the level of encouragement and support in response to each child’s ability to handle frustration and challenges



Additionally, the High/Scope curriculum components support individualization. 


The learning environment responds to a range of skills and interests; reflects and supports children’s cultures and home languages; offer challenges that are not too difficult or frustrating; encourage exploration and self-expression; can be used in different ways by various children and can be adapted for children with disabilities.


The daily routine allows children to choose which materials to use; decide how they want to use the materials; take part at their own skill and ability levels; choose to participate or not to participate; express their own ideas and feelings. The sequence of activities is flexible, responds to teachable moments and reflects children’s needs and developmental stages.


Adult-child interactions match each child’s need for guidance, adaptations, support, and encouragement. 


Observation and assessment allows the teacher to observe children to learn when and how to interact with them in ways that foster growth and development.



Child-centered teachers, eager to individualize, will not expect a child to change so that they will fit the curriculum.  It is important to adapt the curriculum to fit the needs of each child…the key to individualizing for success.





Links of Related Interest

High/Scope Research Foundation

Early Childhood Education Online

Early Childhood Educators & Family Web Corner

Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children