Children in my pre-school are of varying ages – 2.5 – 4.5. Also, each child is at a different stage of development. For eg. some kids have good spoken language development, but are slow in fine motor skills. Some children are ahead in reading but behind in writing skills while it may be vice-versa for others.
I think the biggest difficulty in this scenario is to make sure every child feel successful as well as challenged. You cant give children too easy tasks all the time – else they will get bored. Also, you cant give children too difficult tasks all the time – else they will be discouraged. If the task is such that they can keep feeling successful at every step, then gradually you can increase the level of difficulty until they finally learn some new skill. Moreover, all this has to be done without increasing my lesson planning work – It is just not practical to make a separate plan per child!
The skill I developed over the course of this year is presenting the same activity at different levels according to the child’s age. For e.g. if it is a cut and paste craft – I may cut all the pieces for the very younger ones, cut some for the older ones and not help the oldest ones at all. If an older child finishes his craft too fast he helps out in a younger ones work too. With this process, over time I have seen scissor skills emerge and strengthen across all age groups. Children went from cutting a paper randomly into little bits, to eventually cutting approximately over the image, to cutting on lines, to mastering curves and other tricky cutting too.
Similarly in academics, if we are doing reading – younger kids might just look at pictures or do letter recognition while the older ones sound out the words. In the beginning when we were doing phonics, while the older kids named the words (eg A for apple, ant etc), younger kids drew the pictures or sometimes just erased the board! But I feel just listening and being in a stimulating environment helped all the kids learn a lot.
When we started out with writing (pre-writing activities for younger ones) – some older children quickly reached a stage where they could think and write out a whole sentence, while others could just do one or two words. At such times, I would focus on the emerging positives eg- good letter formation and keep encouraging all the kids. Eventually, every child developed the ability to express thoughts on paper.
As the year slowly culminates, it seems quite amazing how far each child has come in this short span of time!