Published Date: 07/01/19
The benefits of mixed-age classrooms are numerous. They can boost self-esteem in children and improve academic and social skills in both younger and older students. You may have a traditional structure now where children are separated by age and be interested in moving to mixed-age groupings in the future. We’ve got these helpful tips so you have the confidence to make the switch.
1. Use open-ended materials
Children of different ages and abilities can use open-ended toys together. A two-year-old may still be learning to stack 6-8 blocks, while a five-year-old can build sophisticated cities and bridges. Both are learning from the experience. Loose part materials are fantastic at inspiring creativity in children of all ages. What does a three-year-old do with string, a plastic container, and cork? How does it differ from what a six-year-old creates? A young child in a sandbox may be working on fine motor skills by scooping sand and pouring it through a funnel, while an older child may create a castle, complete with a moat.
2. Design classrooms intentionally
When designing, look at the room through the eyes of the children who will be in the room. Walls should be decorated with materials that are engaging to children of all ages, at all levels. Seating should be comfortable for children of varying sizes. Regularly reevaluate the room to ensure all children are being served well by it.
3. Engage older children
It’s critical that older children not be bored in mixed-age groupings. A great way to ensure that is to designate responsibility to them. The older children become the class helpers, gathering and setting up materials for the lesson. Engage them to do head counts and lead the line. If you have children in the class learning to read, help them read aloud to others.
4. Flexibility is key
In your first years of working in mixed-age classrooms, you’ll likely find that your lesson plans and activities need tweaking. Be flexible, allow children to communicate their needs, and respond to them accordingly.
While families may initially be somewhat trepidatious, they’ll quickly see how their child blossoms in this structure and tell others about your exceptional learning environment.