Schools and Students Might Benefit from Repealing Grade Level Segregation
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Many schools are structured in a way that separates students by grade level, but is it time for a change? Categorizing children in this manner may be detrimental to their social as well as academic development. Studies have shown that children who attend multi-age classrooms, those that teach a variety of ages in the same classroom, learn more efficiently and are also more prepared for dealing with the outside world.
The Multi-Age Classroom or Mixed-Aged Grouping
A multi-age classroom is one in which children of different ages are grouped together and are also taught together across the curriculum. These children are not given separate work or assigned separate seating, due to their ages, but are encouraged to work together to complete the assignments and projects. This type of instruction has shown to create children who work well together and blend well socially in society.
Multi-Age Grouping and Social Skills
When children learn to work together with all age groups, rather than to separate into age-related categories, this prepares them for the outside world. In the outside world, people are not separated by age. When you go to the gym or to the store, you will come across people of all ages. At a park where children enjoy socializing, the other child won't always be the same age as your child. At the library, museum, or zoo there are children and adults of all ages. When your child grows up and goes to work, the people he or she works with will not likely be all one age. Not only that, but at work, the position you are given does not factor in your age. It is based upon your experience, just as is the model of the mixed-age classroom.
Schools that use multi-age grouping methods have been proven to be more effective in developing vital social and academic skills. Much of this may be due to the fact that when children are grouped together, they are welcomed to advance at their own individual level, not a level they are required to be in, due to age. This allows children to advance when they need to and also to get more practice when needed. This model generally allows for children to go beyond their grade level in one subject if they know the facts as well as to gain more practice in weaker areas.
Choosing Mixed-Aged Grouping to Help People Work Together
If a child does not learn how to interact with people of all ages, this can cause differences in many aspects of life. Another factor that can cause these differences is when children are disciplined for working together or talking to each other. While there is formal time where children do work quietly, in a multi-group classroom, you will usually see children discussing things together and helping each other solve problems. It's amazing how much one child can help another. Not only can they explain the way they do things, but by nature, children look up to each other, and like to please each other. This quality is what brings this process together. When children want to please each other, they will work harder to do so, which is great for their academic achievement.
"Traditional" Classrooms Used Mixed-Age Learning Methods
If you think back to when the traditional schoolhouses were run, you will recollect from studies that these were run with multi-age grouping. After some point in time, schools slowly began to conform to the rules that we know today. While there are times that children work together in a traditional school setting, the time spent doing this is usually limited to certain projects and certain times. Even worse, the time spent with children of other ages may only be done during recess or if it is done at other times, it is on a strict and limited schedule.
How to Implement Multi-Age Learning
There are a variety of ways to give your child an education that involves multi-age learning. There are private schools who implement this structure as well as many early learning centers or daycare centers. The most common of these is probably the in-home childcare center. This is a home in which the person who lives in the home provides childcare services. Since these services are inside of a home, it is more difficult to separate the children, so by default, most of these types of centers are run with the multi-age factor. However, it is still important to check with the caregiver to learn his or her policy on this. The smaller children might still be kept separate from the larger children for a variety of reasons. Some people feel that smaller and larger children should be kept separate for safety. Others feel that if they are nurtured and supervised correctly, there is no need for separation. Keep in mind that many schools and centers that offer multi-age grouping often will be on the higher end of pricing, but they are also often on the higher end of quality as well.
If you would rather not send your child to an expensive school, another growing option is homeschooling. Homeschooling is almost always centered around multi-age grouping. If a homeschooled child has siblings that automatically defaults the multi-age factor. Also, many homeschooled children enjoy learning with others, rather than staying at home, so many parents will combine resources and share tutoring duties. Usually, the children learning together will be of different ages because not all parents will have only one child and rather than spend the whole day going over one level at a time, homeschool can be structured to fit all age and grade levels. The children of lower grade levels may be working on addition at the same time that others are working on multiplication because the parents can go over each lesson one at a time. Then, when instructions are finished, the children can work together to figure out the problems.
How is a Child Tested for Skills in a Multi-Age Setting?
You may be wondering how the parents and teachers will know if a child is grasping the concepts or just getting the answers from the peers. Well, just as in regular school settings, the children must still take tests for assessment. During testing time, the children will not be allowed to talk to each other. This is the main quiet time in many of these types of schools and homeschools. It is still important that the teachers and parents know where the child stands in grasping their skills. They have just decided to think outside the box and try a proven method that is often overlooked.
Can "Free" Schooling or Unschooling Help My Child Succeed in Life? by Lyn Lomasi
Should All Schools Go Back to Mixing Age Groups? by Lyn Lomasi
Critical Issue: Enhance Learning Through Multiage Grouping by NCREL
Multi-Age as a Class Placement Approach by Seattle Schools
Children's Social Behavior In Relation To Mixed-Age Or Same-Age Classrooms by Early Childhood Research & Practice
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