What is a Multiage Classroom?
Multiage classrooms are made up of a mix of abilities and ages, reflecting the natural groupings found in our neighborhoods, communities and in the world. Since students are not grouped based solely on academic ability or age, there are many opportunities for the exchange of ideas, modeling of behaviors, practice of responsibility and nurturance, as well as development of leadership and social skills. Students in multiage classrooms may have the same teacher or teaching team for more than one year.
Several principles and practices are foundational to multiage classrooms:
- The teacher is the facilitator of learning (rather than the keeper of knowledge)
- Attention is focused on the education of the whole child
- An integrated curriculum featuring developmentally appropriate, child-centered, continuous learning is key
Will my child benefit from a multiage experience? YES!
As a younger child in the classroom
One major advantage to children in multiage classrooms is the modeling that takes place. Younger students will imitate academic and social behaviors demonstrated by older children. Since older students develop their leadership skills in a multiage classroom, younger students are given opportunities to engage in more complex activities than they could initiate on their own.
As the older child in a classroom
Older students in a multiage classroom gain confidence and experience leadership roles as a result of modeling and "instructing" younger students. When older children 'teach' newly learned skills to younger classmates, they strengthen their own understanding of these skills. Every year or two, depending on the length of the program, students in multiage classrooms become the experienced students in the room.
For all the children in the classroom
Students in a multiage classroom learn in a natural setting found in real life in which people of different ages and abilities learn from each other. Additionally, they benefit from having more than one year with the same teacher or team of teachers, which allows for more continuous learning and helps some student begin the year without anxiety since they know they will be returning to the same teacher and many of the same classmates.
The benefits for children, socially and emotionally, are consistently higher for multiage classrooms. The affective domain is greatly impacted by multiage classrooms. From his review of the research, Miller (1990, 7) notes, “When it comes to student affect, the case for multigrade organization appears much stronger, with multigrade students out-performing single-grade students in over 75 percent of the measures used.”