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Ask an Expert: Are multi-age groupings good for kids?

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of mixed-grade classes. My son will be in first grade next year and has the option to be in a first and second grade blended classroom? – Lakewood dad

A. As you consider sending your child to a multi-age classroom you may want to ask the important question:

Is the multi-age grouping in the school environment due to class size, student numbers or classroom space OR is the grouping a result of the school’s educational philosophy?

By asking this forward question, you can tease through the intent of the administration and be able to make an informed decision.

As an educational consultant in the Denver area, I have seen many public and private schools use “multi-age classrooms” as a technique to merge two grades that are “too small in numbers” on their own. By combining the two grades, schools can save money on teacher’s salaries and free up facility space.

On the other hand, there are educational philosophies such as Expeditionary Learning and British Primary that depend on multi-age classrooms as a way to implement their values and mission around “how children learn best.”

Benefits of multi-age classrooms

  • Ideally, children stay with the same teacher for two or three years. When teachers know their students at this level, they can build deeper relationships and dive deeper into educational content.
  • Children learn from each other and older students “consolidate” their learning by teaching.
  • Multi-age classrooms give children the opportunity to experience “rites of passage” by being the youngest and then the oldest. They develop strong connects with others across grade levels.
  • Multi-age classrooms breed leadership skills and decrease bullying.
  • The developmental stage of the child is considered, as a result children have more time to blossom, without “performance” pressure.
  • Teachers in multi-aged classrooms are typically uniquely trained and often use a project approach and have strong abilities in differentiation.

If these benefits sounds appealing to you AND your administration and school have experience and a support structure in place for multi-age teaching then a multi-age grouping could be a perfect fit. Let me know what you decide.

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