Applying personalized learning: Every learner is unique!!!

Applying personalized learning: Every learner is unique!!!

Some practical activities towards personalizing learning

Learning is a complex process that we have been trying to unravel for at least 4.000 years.
There are a lot of uncertainties and many scientific discoveries every now and then  overturn long established beliefs. One of the few certainties though, is that we learn in many different ways and no student is identical. Luckily,  for the school I work at,  Doukas, every student is regarded as a unique personality and technology is used to accommodate personalized learning to the learner's benefit.

Contrary to the  sought after uniformity in my school years , as a teacher I gradually discovered that every student is a different personality with different strengths, weaknesses and interests. I have always believed  that personalized learning is placing  the learner at the very  center of the learning process and catering for their needs is the top priority.  Let me clarify that I am not talking about pampering but about empowering learners.

Motivation makes the world go round!
Very often students see no relation between what they are taught with their daily life and interests. Boring meaningless drills and gap fill exercises that are obsessed with accuracy usually cram the syllabus. It is no wonder that learners  often display lack of motivation.

Taking into consideration their schematic knowledge (knowledge of the world), their interests and their daily life when designing the syllabus and adapting activities and projects can make a huge difference in your teaching. Communication in order to convey a message about your daily life and interests or express your opinion on a topic that concerns you is meaningful. It  is highly likely to activate the learner's  communication strategies and stimulate motivation for further study to accomplish the task. All ice breaking activities I know of and oral examinations at all levels urge candidates to talk about topics related to their experiences. It is definitely easier to start talking about something relevant to you rather than start talking about the effects of globalization the minute you meet someone. On that note,  you can find below some practical activities:

1. Create your own  scrapbook
With very young learners, resort to the standard " learning technology". Ask them to create their own scrapbook where they can write about themselves and their friends. Below you can find a sample written by my students last year (3rd graders)

Alexandra is my best friend. She and I went to the park today.

2. My story (any level from A1-C2)
Ask students to narrate a story to the class. Before narrating the story, they have to write on a piece of paper if their story is true or fake. Their audience will have to guess if their story is true or not.

Technology at the students' service
Blogs, web 2.0 tools, educational software and Learning Management Systems (LMS)  provide opportunities to learners to express their views, create their own projects expressed
From the blog created by 6th graders.
Special thanks to their teacher, Nancy Tassiopoulou.
or supplemented  with drawings or cartoons and learner made videos with strong visual and audio elements. All these are done in a safe environment that gives the learners the opportunity to develop 21st  skills such as communication combined with academic skills in a context that is learner  friendly and is part of their every day life.

My budgie, Mitsos is very sociable! :)
3.  My ... (A1-C2 CEFR levels)

Ask learners to take photos of people, pets , places and objects that have a special meaning to them and ask them to share with the person sitting next to them or their group why this is important. Learners are far more likely to learn and use adjectives describing physical appearance, personality and properties for a familiar figure rather than care for a photo of a celebrity.

4. "What if....?" (A2-C2 CEFR levels)
What if you became a prime minister for a week? What if you became the school principal ? What would you do?
Environmental, educational and social issues are not obscure or left to the "professional saviours" when you challenge your students to express their stance and the course of action they would take to deal with any of the every day issues they experience one way or another.

Building confidence
Inviting learners to present their favourite areas like computer games/technology or pets and allowing them to be at the "helm" of the class while sharing their knowledge can boost their confidence and inspire them to see English as a medium of communication rather than a chore that has to be done in order to please "mom and dad"!
A few last thoughts
This is only one aspect of personalization in education. Flipped classroom, Learning Management Systems and learner autonomy can boost learning to the maximum by allowing the learner to gain thorough knowledge in areas they are interested in. But it would not be fair to devote only a few lines to such an interesting approach so I promise to write soon a post on personalized learning and its potential.

Dimitris Primalis



  1. Hi. I'm a Peace Corps English teacher in Ecuador. This information was interesting and helpful. Thanks! ~ John

    1. Thank you, John! All the best with your mission!

  2. Hi Mr. Jim,

    Congrats on the Microsoft Award!

    Andrew Mouza Γ2

  3. Nice article i was reached for a good tips.thanks for sharing your blog.
    personalized learning software