Multi-Age Classrooms

 

Staring in September 2015, Our Lady of Victory School will be transitioning to multiage classrooms. Multiage classroom are nothing new. They have existed for centuries especially with schools who have a lower student population. Research into multiage classrooms in the 1980's and 1990's confirmed the benefits for teachers and students who were in this type of classroom setting. 

Moving to multiage classrooms, there is a plan, properly set forth, with research, knowledge and understanding, and with students best interest at heart. Our Lady of Victory School has a history of having to splitting then recombine later. This has caused stress on the teacher, a curriculum issue, and does not benefit all students.

2016-17 school year will have the following grades/homerooms:

Kindergarten

1/2 - A

1/2 - B

3/4 - C

3/4 - D

5/6 - E

5/6 - F

7/8 - G

7/8 - H

All school divisions in Manitoba have multiage schools (ie. Winnipeg School Division, Louis Riel School Division, Pembina Trails School Division, etc.). The Manitoba government supports multiage (referred to as multilevel) which has been formalized in a document entitled "Independent Together". It is common practice in Canada and the US.

Benefits to Being in a Multiage Classroom

 

  • Focuses on the developmental stage of each learner not the grade.
    • A child who is born December 31 at 11:59 pm and another child who is born 2 minutes later on January 1 at 12:01 am are put into different grades.
    • It is ridiculous to think that students are put into a grade based merely by their date of birth.
  • Students learn to be self motivated by personal reflections and goal setting which drives them to be active learners in the class.
  • Students receive varying methods of instruction for varying abilities and learning styles.
  • Provides opportunities for ongoing relationships with the same teachers, to minimize adjustment to new routines and increase instructional time.
  • Integrating curriculum and using inquiry-based learning to develop skills and allow each student to explore topics of personal interest.
  • Grouping students flexibly to build relationships based on shared interests rather than ages.
  • Every 2 years, students will have an opportunity to switch classrooms allowing students to work with new students and be separated with students they don't work well with.

 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Multiage

 

  1. What happens with new students coming into a multiage classroom? Do they miss curriculum?
  2. Does it benefit students who are academically strong or those who struggle?
  3. How do you know they are meeting their own grades outcomes?
  4. Isn’t multiage the same thing as split classes?
  5. Only students who are independent learners do well in a multiage class.
  6. Who decides what class my child is placed into? Do I have a say?
  7. How are teachers able to teacher to 2 grades at once?
  8. With regards to math, I am concerned that my child won't get the best education and attention they need?
  9. How are teachers able teach to a wide range of student abilities?
  10. What’s the biggest difference between single grade classroom and a multiage classroom?

 

1. What happens with new students coming into a multiage classroom? Do they miss curriculum?

Yes and noNew students coming in could potentially miss out on some science and social studies curriculum; however, these curriculums are designed to be taught in a spiral design where students would receive these same topics in a later grade again. ELA and Math would not be missed as the topics are sequential and build on ability and students, students entering the classroom would be taught the basics and progressed to a level that challenges them but yet allows them to still be successful.   

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2. Does it benefit students who are academically strong or those who struggle?

Both. Multilevel classrooms allow for continuous progress. All learners can be challenged. In a multilevel environment, students do not need to spend time on concepts and skills they have already mastered. Students who have not attained specific learning outcomes by the end of a school year have the opportunity to achieve them the following year. In multilevel classrooms, all students are expected to attain the learning outcomes, and time becomes a variable that can help them do so.

Multiage benefits all students.  The research shows that students in multi-grade classrooms perform as well or better than students in single grade classrooms academically.  Their greatest gains tend to be in language and reading.  

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3. How do you know they are meeting their own grades outcomes?

Regular Assessment. Multilevel classrooms are built on the premise that diversity is not a challenge to be overcome, but an asset and a resource that promotes learning. In reality, all classrooms are diverse. By the time students are eight years old, their academic performance in a single-grade classroom may span three or more years. In addition, students bring to the classroom a wide range of learning approaches, developmental stages, aptitudes, interests, experiences, cultural backgrounds, and personalities. Thus, there are no homogeneous classrooms.

Students are individually assessed regularly to ensure that curricular outcomes for each grade are being met. 

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4. Isn't multiage the same thing as split classes? 

No. Placing students from several grades in one classroom does not in itself create a successful multi-age classroom, however. Multi-age classrooms are based on a student-centred, subject-integrated approach to learning.

A two-year commitment to a multilevel classroom also enables teachers to initiate a two-year plan for curriculum implementation in content areas, such as science and social studies, rather than teaching two different programs simultaneously.

Multilevel classrooms are built on the premise that diversity is not a challenge to be overcome, but an asset and a resource that promotes learning. In reality, all classrooms are diverse. By the time students are eight years old, their academic performance in a single-grade classroom may span three or more years. In addition, students bring to the classroom a wide range of learning approaches, developmental stages, aptitudes, interests, experiences, cultural backgrounds, and personalities. Thus, there are no homogeneous classrooms.

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5. Only students who are independent learners do well in a multiage class.

No. Homogeneous and heterogeneous groupings of students remove the need for students to be independent learners. When students are in groups, they learn with their peers instead of having to do it on the own. This allows for collaboration, sharing knowledge, asking questions, and helping one another all without direct teacher involvement. 

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6. Who decides what class my child is placed into? Do I have a say?

All involved contribute to the decision. Student Services, teachers, the student, and parents/guardians all have a say in where the student ends up. An information sheet is given out in March to be filled out by parents and child together. The information sheet asks who the child works well with, who they don't, and if there is someone they would like to work with. This sheet combined with the conversation with the outgoing teacher and student services, will be the basis for what will be the best placement for the child. Social dynamics, academics, and behaviour also factor into the decision.

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7. How are teachers able to teacher to two grades at once?

Through planning. This is not an easy answer nor is it short. Simply put, teachers will teach to student abilities. Usually put in groups based on ability, teachers will have different expectations for different groups. Personal goals will drive students to strife for more, setting the bar higher. Teachers will have grade-level outcomes in mind when assessing student progress; however, only at the end of the two years will students have to achieve grade-level outcomes. 

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8. With regards to math, I am concerned that my child won't get the best education and attention they need? 

Not to worry. Math class can be taught in many different ways. It will be up to the teacher to choose how they will setup and give instructions. Workstations or work centers are two common ways in which students, grouped by ability, work their way around from one station to another. Each station reinforces the concept they are learning. On station is with the teacher. They teacher may reteach, introduce something, or assess where students need help. In this setup, everyone is busy and they all at some point get that needed time with the teacher. Once again this is just one way of teaching math.

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9. How are teachers able teach to a wide range of student abilities?

Teachers do already. Teachers are already challenged with a range of student abilities whether in multiage or not. Multiage programming recognizes that each student is at a different stage of learning and focuses on the developmental stage of the learner; of necessity, the focus moves to individual learning along a continuum.  Students learn to set personal learning goals, assess themselves, and reflect on their own learning. Teachers will plan lessons keeping in mind differentiated instruction and universal design to be able to accommodate what ever ability students may be at.

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10. What’s the biggest difference between single grade classroom and a multiage classroom?

Continuous Progress. Multiage classrooms allow for continuous progress. All learners can be challenged. In a multilevel environment, students do not need to spend time on concepts and skills they have already mastered. Students who have not attained specific learning outcomes by the end of a school year have the opportunity to achieve them the following year. In multiage classrooms, all students are expected to attain the learning outcomes, and time becomes a variable that can help them do so. 

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Additional Information

 

If you are looking to further your knowledge on this topic, we have provided some articles that may interest you.

 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiage Classrooms in the Era of NCLB Accountability

Independent Together - Manitoba Government Document

Learning Together: Research into Combined and Multi-age Classes

Multi-Age Teaching

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyYG2YiYTVQ

Multiage Learning Youtube Channel - great source of explaination 

 

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