Middleburg Community Charter School has six, mixed grade classes. Children are grouped together with two grades in each classroom: Kindergarteners and 1st Graders, 2nd and 3rd Graders, and 4th and 5th graders.
According to researchers, some of the benefits of multi-age learning include:
- Hands on and experiential learning
- Students work at own pace (uneven development patterns)
- Teachers stay with students (looping) so time taken to teach class rules and routines is not wasted at the start of year learning a “new teacher” – the teacher picks up where the student left off
- Learning is spread over more than one year – students can become more like experts by immersing in specific learning areas
- Being in the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development (social to individual thinking) – younger students can “appropriate” (mimic) the language of older students who use the language of math, writing, science… more like an expert – built in ‘apprenticeship’ learning model
“Mixed-aged grouping helps children develop social skills and a sense of belonging”
(McLellan & Kinsey)
In a multi-age classroom:
- Authentic learning (in the real world adults have to work with people of all ages)
- Built in peer teaching within multi-grade class and between classes (“situated responsibility”)
- More beneficial when teachers understand and value ML – as it requires more work to coordinate stations with different goals and expectations
- Increases student perspective to interact with students of varying ages
- Common practice in Gifted Programming (all intelligences)
- Increased engagement (self directed)
- Parent involvement in co-learning (relationship between school and home tends to be more meaningful)
“Students show increased self esteem, more cooperative behavior, better attitudes towards school in general, increased pro-social (caring, tolerant, patient, supportive) behavior, enriched personal relationships, increased personal responsibility, and a decline in discipline problems” (Macka; Johnson & Wood; Stone; Anderson & Pavin; Uphoff &Evans; Grant; Guttierrez & Slavin; Lodish; Katz, Evangelou & Hartman; Miller; Villa & Thousand; Pratt)
How does multi age learning take place at MCCS?
- Everything we do begins with the Virginia Standards of Learning.
- Student work is examined and diagnostic tests are administered to determine what students have mastered and what they still need to work on.
- Themes are chosen for each quarter from the Science or Social Studies curriculum so students may concentrate on individual skills.
What are we doing so far?
- In math, we focus on problem solving followed by teacher-led mini lessons with pairs or small groups of students, while the other students work with manipulatives at stations to demonstrate their “know how” independently..
- In Grade 4-5 Social Studies, when students are learning about Virginia, one group starts out by mastering the writing of a paragraph, which leads to mastering a three-paragraph piece of writing by the end of the year. The other group begins by polishing work on the three-paragraph piece, so that by the end of the year they have a solid five-paragraph essay, ready for middle school.
- In grades 2-3 the students are learning about magnets. One group completes the scientific method – while the others work on detailed labeling of diagrams. The use of the word “repelling” is heard in both groupings. Stations are set up for students to work at their own level so when students complete one task they can move on. Students also have access to the next grade work.