As an educator and lifelong learner, I am always searching for ways to structure our school to allow children the best environment for learning and building a solid foundation that will serve them for a lifetime.
One of the recent topics that has piqued my interest and research was how children have not been developing socially as they have previously. Some would like to attribute the increased violence and distance from one another on technology, but there are other factors at play. One major contributor is a lack of empathy and not feeling connected to a “community” or peer group. When researching how to combat this in the preschool and early childhood setting, blended or mixed aged classrooms have been shown to increase empathy and a sense of community within the classrooms.
Blended age classrooms are not “new” or “trendy”, in fact that is how the one room school house was structured up until the industrial revolution. Mixed age classrooms are a pillar in the Montessori method of teaching and supported by many child development specialists, such as Lev Vygotsky.
What are the short and long term benefits?
- Allows children to learn more advanced problem solving and conflict resolution by having a greater span of ages within the classroom.
- Allows for a more natural family and community feel within the classrooms.
- Encourages more prosocial behaviors such as sharing, helping, and empathy.
- Children have more opportunities to learn from each other and become role models as well as leaders within the classroom.
- Increases exposure to more diverse abilities to prepare them to be successful in school.
- Allows children with disabilities an opportunity to interact with peers of varying abilities.
- Allows the teacher to provide activities that encourage new skills as well as review skills already taught, which gives the opportunity for mastery.
- Allows children to progress at their own rate.
- Allows the teacher to form longer and deeper bonds with children and parents.
- 10.Encourages teaching that is open ended, discovery, and play based.
- 11.Allows children the opportunity to be the youngest and the oldest child, in turn. This gives children who have a fixed role in life: the big sister, the little brother, etc. the chance to have all the roles. The “little sister” can have the chance to emerge as a leader or “older” child within the classroom community.
Will your child get board with learning in the same classroom for more than one year?
Studies have shown that when children are allowed to truly master a concept, they are happy to show and share with others. In a blended age classroom, this gives the opportunity for the more experienced child to teach a less experienced child their knowledge. When they have the opportunity to teach, they are able to develop pride in the knowledge or skill they have learned and they are also able to show compassion or empathy for the child they are able to teach. This contributes to creating a community of learning within the classroom we are searching for.
What age span will we have in a classroom?
We are going to have Preschool encompass 2-3 year olds and PreK encompass 3-5 year olds. Three year olds will move from Preschool to PreK at around 3 1/2 and when they are potty trained. We use the term “around” because we want to make sure that your child has had the chance to evolve as a leader and role model within the classroom before we move them over to PreK. This allows your child and family less transitions than the previous Preschool to PreK 3 to PreK 4. Now they will only have one transition from Preschool to PreK.
We are excited to be able to offer our children more opportunities to develop socially and academically and we hope you are as well. We are also keeping ratios smaller than the state required ratios so that teachers can focus on developing relationships and giving more attention to the children in their classrooms.