Multi-age Classroom

This is my 18th  year teaching in a multi-age classroom so I am planning on having a number of posts on my experience teaching in this setting. I think you may be surprised that it actually may sound a lot like your own classroom. This post will highlight our goals and multi-age philosophy. 

My classroom is a mix of 1, 2 and 3 graders and is a choice for our parents in our district.  A multi-age grouping means that children are grouped together in one classroom and stay with the teacher for that period of time.  So typically I have my students for three years.  We also have siblings in the same room if parents would like it this way.  I have had many siblings in my classroom and it is wonderful to experience.  

 Our goals at a glance

-to allow children to evolve developmentally
-to encourage children to take personal responsibility for their learning
-to foster a cooperative spirit
-to celebrate individual differences
-to encourage risk taking
-to build leadership in all students
-to create a cohesive family atmosphere

Our multi-age philosophy

Our program recognizes that children are individuals and every child is unique.  The program accommodates the broad range of children's needs, their learning rates and styles, their knowledge, experiences, and interests to facilitate continuous learning.  It achieves this through an integrated curriculum incorporating a variety of instructional models, strategies and resources. 

Multi-age provides a classroom climate that is noncompetitive and encourages children to learn form one another, as well as from their teachers.  Diversity of skills and knowledge is accepted and accommodated by grouping and regrouping children for an effective instructional program.

I will be completely honest here and state that these goals, and the entire multi-age philosophy has been harder to facilitate these last years do to the rigor of testing, and the common core.  After all most multi-age classrooms started in the realization that children develop differently and that it didn't match the grade-level structure.  

I personally work toward these goals but the struggle is with the curriculum expectations and our students development.  I have always excepted where my students are in the learning process and teach to their needs.  I have had a variety of students from extremely high functioning to below average but I am always able to teach them at a continuous progress and they grow as learners. Having students for three years you see the process over an extended period of time.  That is probably the biggest benefit and highlight as a teacher to see your students grow and learn and they do not grow and learn all at the same time. I could go on and on here about some of the problems with the thinking of our educational and political leaders but my colleagues and I share the multi-age philosophy and vision of students and work the best at establishing this in our classroom.  Fortunately we have the support of our families.

So we continue to refine and and develop our multi-age program.   

Here are just a few benefits that I see in my classroom.

-My olders (3rd graders) have the opportunity to demonstrate helpfulness, reinforce learning skills, leadership, patience, and tolerance and model both social and academic behaviors for younger students.  (This is huge)  My third graders, olders we call them have a huge responsibility and every year I am always so proud of what they bring to the classroom.  When they are third graders I have already had these students for two years and by this third year they certainly have it figured out. They shine in the classroom and the youngers look up to them.  They display patience as they help the younger students and feel a sense responsibility to do this.   

-I am able to develop meaningful relationships with my students and share common experiences with them over a long period of time.  It is always sad to see them leave my classroom, I am grateful they just move across the hall and I still can check up on them.

Students here are reading together their reader's theater scripts. This one is from my FABLES unit.
Students here worked together to cut out pictures of adverbs, the groups were mixed and each group had a
different part of speech to work on.

These students are working together practicing a fairy tale play.  When you have a mixed group of learners, this type of activity is very engaging and the olders in my classroom take charge of the activity. The script the students are working on is from a fairy Tale unit.
I work hard to add creativity and art in my classroom, my students worked with help from their classmates to complete these desert animal creatures.  They also did a report on these animals.

That is all for now, please look for more posts soon on my multi-age classroom.