Q&A #4747

Multi-age classroom teaching

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From: Kristina (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Sep 26, 2000 at 10:13:32
Subject: Re: Multi-age classroom teaching

I taught a multiage class of 1st and 2nd graders for three years.  With all
honesty I can say that it was a wonderful experience! Kids at this age enjoy
school, like working with others, and help each other when they know that
helping is valued. If I had a choice I would rather teach a multiage 1/2 than
a single grade class for either 1st or 2nd grade. It is hard for me to know
what a specific school district is looking for in a multiage teacher, but
I'll do my best to give you some things to think about.

First, think about how you will build community.  How will you make your
class feel like one class, and not like two small classes pushed into one
room? How will you create an environment with minimal competition and with
maximum cooperation? How will you teach the students to accept and value
differences (differences in ability, differences in opinion)?

Second, think about the academic environment. How will you meet the varied
academic needs in the class?  How will you make sure the older students don't
play the role of "tutor" all the time, but instead recieve appropriate
challenges themselves? When will it be appropriate to work with the whole
class? Small groups? Grade level groups?

There are challenges for the teacher. For example, if the curriculum is
"text-based" (meaning that 1st grade has a math book that it "must" do and
second grade has a math book that it "must" do), you will want to think of
ways to teach "despite" the text.  It is hard to make a group feel like one
class if math and reading are always taught by grade level. In some ways it
defeats the purpose of having multiage classes. My recommendation would be to
determine the important concepts and skills that should be taught and then
decide how to group students so that it is not a straight split between
grades.  Introduce concepts and activities to the whole class, then meet with
small groups while the rest of the class is working on other assignments.
When possible, mix these groups. Pull groups for extra practice or for
enrichment depending on their needs. Math and reading require the most
planning since students really do work at different levels. You will want to
develop a lot of independent activities, centers, games, practice assignments
so that students can work independently while you meet with small groups.
Management is very important because you cannot rely on the fact that you can
teach the whole class together.

Social studies and science are easier to plan than math and reading because
they are less driven by level of acheivement.  Older students can read aloud
directions or information. Younger and older students can work together to
collect data, make posters, answer questions.

I feel as though I gave you a lot to think about without offering a lot of
answers. Please write back if I can follow up on anything.

Good luck!

 -Kristina, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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