Individuality during Early Years

Individuality; Image source: Needpix
Individuality; Image source: Needpix

Individualized teaching is probably the most challenging, yet essential, part of the entire teaching-learning responsibilities of a teacher. In every classroom children from different backgrounds bring in their own unique traits and needs. The teacher’s job is to ensure an inclusive environment for all children with providing attention to the individual needs of each child. The first step of individualized instruction is: getting to know the child and identifying the child’s interest, needs and abilities [1]. For ensuring this, the teacher has to be diligent about identifying the unique traits and needs of each child and utilize those for creating such learning opportunities that would ensure engaging and effective learning experience for every child. Therefore, observing children, through different situations and activities, is essential to plan and implement effective classroom instructions based on each child’s needs. Following is a case story which has been developed considering the different dimensions of individuality. Here, the child’s unique characteristics in terms of his socio-economic status, family culture, personality, temperament, learning style and interest have been explored which will have an impact on his classroom performance and behavior. The purpose of this case study is to explore and identify the unique dimensions of an individual child, and to propose how a teacher can adapt his/her classroom strategies based on those dimensions.

Tools and Techniques

To conduct this case study two major qualitative techniques have been used: i) interview, and ii) observation. The parents (mother and father) and the caregiver at the day care have been interviewed. The child has been observed a couple of times during the day in his daycare and once at his home after his return from the daycare. A couple of open ended questionnaire have been used as a tool for conducting the interviews. For observation, a simple checklist, developed based on the dimensions of individual, has been used. The subject for the case study named Shuvo [2] has been chosen purposively considering the possibility to observe as many dimensions as possible and easy access to information from various sources. Both his day care and home environment were accessible and his parents were open to share information about him.

Case: Shy Shuvo

Shuvo is a 3 years and 4 months old boy. He is ready to step into his first schooling experience from this year in August. His parents brought admission forms from all well reputed English medium schools around the upscale place where they live. They are quite anxious about him getting into a good school because they believe that there is no alternate to good quality education. Both of Shuvo’s parents work in a well reputed development organization. His mother is a mid-level manager while his father is a senior researcher in that organization. Both of them are highly educated. Therefore, putting Shuvo in a good school is a high priority for them.

Initially they were quite worried before Shuvo’s admission interviews because they thought that being an introvert kid, Shuvo would not respond properly to the questions that the interviewer would ask him. Although Shuvo grew up in a large and vibrant daycare with 30 other kids since he was only six months old, he is a shy kid in front of people who are little known or completely stranger to him. He is friendly with his peers and acquaintances. At his day care, he is active and has a couple of close friends with whom he plays most of the time. But he takes time to open up in front of any newly met person. Therefore, before his admission interviews his parents put effort to prepare him for it. They counseled him and made him rehearse for the interviews.  Shuvo did not disappoint them and finally got through to the final call for admission in a school which was one of the top in his parents’ list.

Shuvo lives in a unitary family; in an upscale flat. Both of his parents are usually busy with work. His father often has to go on officials tours outside the country for a couple of months. His mother remains busy with professional commitments and household chores. They belong to the upper-middle class social strata. Shuvo has a caregiver at home with whom he spends most of his time once he is back from his day care. He also spends a lot of time at home with laptop and smart phone where he listens to rhymes in the internet. He loves music and rhymes. He also likes the visual effects with animation that is available now-a-days with the rhymes and poems. At his day care, he attentively watches the cartoons and animated videos. He has already learned lots of rhymes, poems and songs from his day care. At home, he recites those by himself while playing or watching videos on the internet. However, he is shy to recite those in front of outside people. The only interactions with outside people, apart from his day care and his parents, occurs during his occasional visits either to some big shopping malls with indoor kids’ parks in the town or to some relative’s house once or twice a month. His maternal grandparents live in Rajshahi and his paternal grandparents passed away long ago. Once a year they try to visit Rajshahi.

As an individual, Shuvo is very organized. He likes to keep his own things in place and also helps his mother to put things in place. He is usually active; likes to run around, ride his bicycle and climb up his wardrobe. But he also likes to play cooking with pots and pans. The inclination for this play grew in him because he sees his father supporting his mother in cooking when their household support is on leave. Usually he is a manageable kid; he is not fussy about food, and eats and sleeps on time. He is also keen on completing his task. If he gets stuck while making a structure with blocks or solving a puzzle, he shows patience and tries again and again to solve it. But he has strong liking and disliking. If anything he dislikes once, it is nearly impossible to make him like it again or adjust with it somehow. He is sometimes stubborn in his choices and decisions. For example: if he decides not to eat any particular food or do any particular task, it is very difficult to make him do that. If he’s forced to do it, he gets angry. Once he gets angry, he becomes more stubborn. For this reason, seldom he gets beaten by his mother. However, with love he melts faster. His parents are quite eager to know how Shuvo will cope with his school environment which he’ll start in a few months.

How a pre-school teacher can support Shuvo to reach his full potential

In the above mentioned case study, there are a number of information available that are unique to the boy’s characteristics which his teacher will have to take into account while planning for any classroom activity or instruction for him. Having carefully observed, Shuvo’s teacher may identify some of the key dimensions of his characteristics and take the following steps to create effective and responsive learning opportunities for him.

The first this that is noticeable here is that it will be easy for Shuvo’s teacher to engage his parents in his learning process because his parents are educated and conscious about the quality of education for their child. However, in this regard, the teacher may also be cautious about any sort of parental pressure on academic achievement from his parents.

In terms of his personality, it is apparent from the case study that Shuvo is shy and takes time to open up in front of newly met people. It is important to support a child to overcome his shyness because shy children results in less behavioral engagement in the classroom compared with their peers [3] and lower levels of behavioral engagement in the classroom are linked with lower-level academic skills [4]. To address this issue, Shuvo’s teacher has to be responsive about the fact that he may not interact with his peers and respond to the classroom activities immediately after joining the new school. His teacher has to give time and slowly involve him in social interactions with his peers. In this regard, the teacher may plan an activity where in small groups every child in the class will tell a few lines about him/herself and others will listen and ask question if there is any. Then the teacher will reshuffle the groups and this way all children will be able to know about each other. This sort of activity will slowly help Shuvo to open up. Here, the idea of creating small groups is important because Shuvo and some others like him may not open up in front of the big class; they would rather be comfortable in small groups. To further support Shuvo in the class initially the teacher may take support from his parents. S/he can ask his parents about Shuvo’s interest and plan activities accordingly. The teacher may also suggest his parents to create more opportunities for social interaction for him. Since Shuvo has already been to a day care and comfortable with mixing and participating in activities with other children, it is just about time that he would open up and perform actively in the class.

It can also be inferred from the case that Shuvo might have a visual and an auditory learning skill. Learning through music, rhymes and colorful videos may be effective for him. The teacher may plan group work and turn taking games based on music and rhymes. Pictures, flash cards, graphical presentation, color coding, map etc. can be effective learning tools for him. It is also important to keep him engaged and active through movement because he is an active boy and may get bored if activities only require sitting or standing in one place. The teacher may sometimes plan for learning through outdoor activities which will keep children like Shuvo involved and interested in the learning process.

Shuvo’s teacher can also build on some of his strengths such as: being organized, persistent and not holding stereotypical gender role. During the play time the teacher can engage him to organize the toys and put those in place which will also work as a model behavior for other children. Since he is persistent in completing a task or solving a problem, the teacher can put him in group works with problem solving tasks where he’ll be able to support the group with his unique quality of persistence. Shuvo’s teacher can also utilize him during the play time as a model to break stereotypical views of gender roles. Since, inculcated by his family culture, Shuvo is already comfortable with tasks that are perceived to be so called ‘girls’ task’, it may encourage other children to develop a sense of sharing responsibilities with their counterparts.

Finally, the teacher has to be responsive with love and warmth for developing Shuvo’s potentials. Since he has strong liking and disliking and may get upset if not responded with care, it may hamper his emotional development if not handled properly. The teacher has to be cautious about making him understand through verbal counseling and positive physical gesture if any situation of tension arises. Ignoring him or reacting to his actions in a negative manner may cause more grievance and stubbornness in him. The teacher should also aware his parents about this issue so that they can support him to cope with his emotions in a positive manner. Therefore, for children like Shuvo, love is the best tool which will help them reach their potential.


Just like the case of Shuvo, every child has his/her unique qualities, interests, learning style and abilities. It is not possible to help them reach their highest potential if their individuality is not nurtured. In school, if teaching learning methods fail to respond to individual needs, it will result boredom and reluctance in children. If teaching instructions are not individually as well as culturally responsive, this will further pose a risk for the children of ‘virtual exclusion’ from the school and a lifelong negative impact on learning. Therefore, teachers have to put in more effort in getting to know the children so that they can craft “a special mix of instructional ingredients” for every child [5]. According to Boat et al. (2010), “Teachers who know about the children can then create learning opportunities based on that information and support their learning through instructional strategies that promote growth” [6].


[1] Boat, M. B., Dinnebeil, L. A., and Bae, Y. (2010). Individualizing Instruction in Preschool Classrooms. Dimensions of Early Childhood. Volume 38, Number 1, p. 3.

[2] The name Shuvo is a fictitious one. It has been used for maintaining confidentiality.

[3] Skinner, E. A., Kindermann, T. A., & Furrer, C. J. (2009). A motivational perspective on engagement and disaffection: Conceptualization and assessment of children’s behavioral and emotional participation in academic activities in the classroom. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 69, 493–525.

[4] Hughes, K., & Coplan, R. J. (2010). Exploring processes linking shyness and academic achievement in childhood. School Psychology Quarterly, 25, 213–222.

[5] Darling-Hammond, L. & Bransford, J., (Eds.) (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 358-389.

[6] Boat, M. B., Dinnebeil, L. A., and Bae, Y. (2010). Individualizing Instruction in Preschool Classrooms. Dimensions of Early Childhood. Volume 38, Number 1, p. 3.

About the author

Rafiath Rashid Mithila

Rafiath Rashid Mithila

Rafiath Rashid Mithila is the Head of Early Childhood Development programme, BRAC International, Bangladesh and PhD researcher, University of Geneva.

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