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Multi-age classrooms
School teachers tell me what you think!


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#1 Threelittleducks

Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:38 PM

Hi there

We have started to think about primary schools. There is a nice primary school near us that has around 450 students. From year 2 and up all classes are multi-age classrooms. In my day, composite classes were the exception and not the norm.

The school puts some good spin on why multi-age classrooms are great. So I'm after some feedback from those that have either taught or have children in these types of classes. What are the positive and negatives? What questions should we be asking?

Thanks for your feedback.

Cheers


#2 MissingInAction

Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:44 PM

I think they're great if your child is doing well.  

I think there is some potential for problems IF your child is REALLY REALLY struggling.


I would, however, be more concerned about the quality of the teacher and the school as a whole OVER the type of class it is.  A good teacher will make it work for everyone.  A teacher who is struggling will struggle to help those who are struggling regaqrdless of the type of class.



#3 Musk Sticks

Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:53 PM

I loved being in composite classes as a kid.

I agree though with pp that it might not be so good for a kid who is having difficulties.

#4 Kay1

Posted 15 February 2013 - 03:03 PM

My son was in a Year 1/2 composite last year in Year 1 and this year is in another 1/2 composite in Year 2 (different mix of kids).

Last year he had a great teacher and it seemed to work fine. This year he also has a great teacher so hopefully it will go well also.

#5 ~sydblue~

Posted 15 February 2013 - 03:05 PM

When I went to primary school(many moons ago) we had k-3 in one side of the 2 room building and 4-7 in the other.
I loved and thrived in it, but my brother didn't.
So I think for some kids it is a good thing.

#6 LiveLife

Posted 15 February 2013 - 03:27 PM

teachers will say that all classrooms are  multiage rooms and that they have to differentiate in a normal classroom for up to a four year spread in abilities.  Those of us with kids at either end of that spectrum are often complaining about lack of appropriate differentiation and thats in a straight year level.  So if you complicate it even further by having composit classes then it just means the teachers have to cater for an even bigger scatter of abilities and I can only see that that means even bigger problems differentiating.  So if your kid is roughly average Id be happy, Id be very concerned if he is either end of the spectrum.

#7 JaneDoe2010

Posted 15 February 2013 - 03:36 PM

ANY class, even if it is a straight grade class not composite, can have a 3 year age range in it, from kids who went to school quite early, then the ones right on age, to the ones who started late. And out of those kids, they can have a huge range of abilities. It all depends on the school and more specifically the teacher in how they personalise lessons and tailor work to individual needs.

#8 unicycle

Posted 15 February 2013 - 07:56 PM

LiveLife was emphasising that the spread is likely to be even greater in a composite and that this can have implications for children at either end of the curve. This has been our experience.

#9 katrina24

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:03 PM

I like multiage classrooms. While the age range is greater I don't find much impact on ability range.  My children go to a school with all multiage except FYOS.  I think the overall values and philosophy of the school plus the quality of the teachers is much more important than the class make up.

#10 liveworkplay

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:15 PM

I think it is the new "it" pedagogy and it is yet to be seen if it will work with our system.

QUOTE
ANY class, even if it is a straight grade class not composite, can have a 3 year age range in it, from kids who went to school quite early, then the ones right on age, to the ones who started late.


Not where I live! There is a maximum of 11 mths, 28 days. Holding back is unheard of and early entry is so hard to qualify for, I have never known anyone to do it. I suppose if a child was held back (again, very very rare) you may get a 1ry, 11mths, 28 day gap but never 3 years.

#11 aidensmum

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:22 PM

Our school does a 5,6,7 multiage. It's not a composite of two ages put together. There is a philosophy behind it and is run by experienced teachers who work their butts off. We love that kids are grouped according to their abilities rather than their age and there are lots of nice social benefits.

#12 Julie3Girls

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:28 PM

I don't think multiage classes have any impact on academic acheivement compared with straight class.

Any class, regardless of whether it is a straight class or a multiage class, will potentially have kids in the very bottom bracket who need a lot of help. And will also potentially have students who are in the very top bracket, who also need attention, extension.

My dd3 is in a 1/2 (yr1). There are a few special needs kids. My dd is at the other end, working above average. For her, the composite class is a bit of advantage, she has the yr2 work right there in front of her if she needs to be extended. In a straight yr 1, she wouldn't have that, and would need the teacher to specifically find more advanced work for her.

So With a straight yr class, the teacher needs to extend some kids, cater to some special needs.
In a composite class, the teacher might need to extend some kids, cater to some special needs.

I've had kids in a 1/2 (yr 1), a 2/3 (yr3), a 3-4(yr3), a 5/6(yr5), a 4/5(yr4), a 5/6(yr6)

All of them with good teachers, none of them having an negative impact academically.

The only negative I  have come across is from a social point of view. And that is very individual ... My dd1 didn't do well in a class with older kids .. She didn't fit, and had a lot of anxiety.  But that was a very personal affect based on individual circumstances.

My dd2 has thrived in composites, and I see a lot of benefits socially for her, giving her a much wide spread of friends across multiple years.

#13 Threelittleducks

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:30 PM

Thanks for the replies so far. I'm still learning how the school manages its multi-age classrooms and am not yet sure if it will suit our two...they are still too young to know for sure.

As far as I know, in Qld it is highly unlikely to have a three year age gap given how strict the age cut-offs are. It is very unusual for kids to be held back or sent to school early. So the spread of ages you are talking about is unlikely to happen within the one grade.

The school in question also does every grade post year 1 as a multi-age classroom. The school is large enough to not do this, but they have chosen to do it. So there is no choice at all. Our duo will also be the youngest in their cohort as June babies (30 June cut-off in Qld).

I'm interested to hear of more experiences, so thanks.

#14 Expelliarmus

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:57 PM

I've never taught anything but Multi-age classes. I don't have anything to compare it to but struggle to see why parents think it is so bad.

#15 libbylu

Posted 15 February 2013 - 09:10 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 15/02/2013, 09:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
ds attends Montessori which is multi-aged.  It goes 3-6 yr olds, 6-9 yr olds and 9-12 yr olds.

In the right setting, I think it's brilliant.  It's one of the appeals of Montessori for me.  When the children are younger they have older role models, and when they are older they become leaders to the younger kids.

I agree with pp; it's the overall values and philosophy of the school that matters.


I agree with the above. Ours is a local state primary school with preps separate, but yrs 1-3 together and yrs 4-6 together.  It seems to work fine. The older kids know and look out for the younger ones and they find it means there isn't any bullying.  The kids also develop excellent leadership skills.

#16 Julie3Girls

Posted 16 February 2013 - 08:20 AM

QUOTE
The school in question also does every grade post year 1 as a multi-age classroom. The school is large enough to not do this, but they have chosen to do it. So there is no choice at all. Our duo will also be the youngest in their cohort as June babies (30 June cut-off in Qld).

You could actually see this as an advantage of multiage classes ... In a straight year class, yes, your children will always be the youngest.
In a composite, yes they will still be the youngest when they are in the lower class, but they will also get the opportunity to be in the older half of the class. Gives them the chance to not be the youngest, to be the older, more experienced child in the class, leadership/mentoring etc.

#17 Rolex

Posted 16 February 2013 - 01:05 PM

QUOTE (aidensmum @ 15/02/2013, 08:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There is a philosophy behind it and is run by experienced teachers who work their butts off. We love that kids are grouped according to their abilities rather than their age and there are lots of nice social benefits.

This is exactly why I love multi-age classrooms, and they are different to composites.  Our school is 100% multi-age, including prep (P/1).  Kids are grouped according to their ability for each subject, rather than just the number on their birth certificate, with 2 teachers per class.

I must admit I had my doubts when I first heard about this school, but visited with an open mind, and I now wouldn't want to go to a primary school with single grade classes.

Edited by Rolex, 16 February 2013 - 01:06 PM.


#18 kpingitquiet

Posted 16 February 2013 - 01:18 PM

As a gifted kid, I would've loved it if I were in the youngest part of a composite, and hated it with a fiery passion if I were on the older end.

#19 jks91

Posted 16 February 2013 - 01:55 PM

No recent experiences here, but I was in MAG (multi-age group) classes all through primary school.  In hindsight I would say that they really depend on the teacher and their experience in order to work.

I was in the following combinations - Prep/1/2, 3/4 (in year 3), 3/4/5 (as Year 4 and 5 - the worst class of the ones I was in), and 6/7.  I really believe that it takes a brilliant teacher to teach a MAG class well, this is from the perspective I have now of course.  The only years where I believe I suffered were in Year 4 and 5 where we had a very new teacher and a lot of special needs students/not much by the way of education support aides.  I was a gifted student and at the upper age of the groupings in Year 2 and Year 7 there was always opportunities for extension.  Never had this in the middle years, Years 1-3 and 6-7 were brilliant.

I would have no hesitation putting my child in a multi-age class, I really think that the  benefits outweigh the negative aspects original.gif

#20 shellyb

Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:52 AM

Hi, We are in Brisbane at a small school and my dd is in grd 3 in a 3/4/5 class. There are 7 in grd 3 and all very bright. They have an awesome teacher and have all had extension pretty much from the start. They have separate swimming/art/music all of which there are only the 7 of them in the class. The homework actually has her thinking and she's buzzing with excitement every time I pick her up.

Again she is in the lower grade & very bright not sure how it is for the kids in the higher grades, given the grd 3 kids do so well in the maths games they do together. Given their teacher is very popular and he talked about extending them all hopefully everyone is happy.

#21 shellyb

Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:52 AM

Oops double post...

Edited by shellyb, 17 February 2013 - 07:53 AM.


#22 ThatsNotMyName

Posted 18 February 2013 - 01:12 PM

I've seen a lot of comments indicating that average & bright students do well in composite classes, what about under performing students? Our DS has just started yr1 in a 1/2class in an all composite class school. He was performing a little below expected levels in Kindy last year and I'm concerned that this style of class structure may not be best suited to him sad.gif I've just had a call this morning to say he'll be getting extra learning support (with his reading which should flow on to writing) which is wonderful but I worry that it's going to be an uphill struggle all the way through. It probably doesn't help that he's one of the younger ones in the year too, just turned 6 in mid Jan. Now I'm second guessing our decision not to hold him back sad.gif Any thoughts on this kind of scenario?

#23 Expelliarmus

Posted 18 February 2013 - 01:48 PM

Younger students often experience success because more competent students model to them.

#24 TeaTimeTreat

Posted 18 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

No composite classes was one of the many reasons I chose DS current school, I am not a fan of them as I think in order for them to work well you have to have a very good experienced teacher and the right mix of kids, if that could be guaranteed I might go for it but since it cannot I am very happy for him to be in single year level classes.

I suppose I feel straight year level classes are the more failsafe option.

All of the high schools around here do not have composite classes either.

#25 Julie3Girls

Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:02 AM

QUOTE
I've seen a lot of comments indicating that average & bright students do well in composite classes, what about under performing students? Our DS has just started yr1 in a 1/2class in an all composite class school. He was performing a little below expected levels in Kindy last year and I'm concerned that this style of class structure may not be best suited to him  I've just had a call this morning to say he'll be getting extra learning support (with his reading which should flow on to writing) which is wonderful but I worry that it's going to be an uphill struggle all the way through. It probably doesn't help that he's one of the younger ones in the year too, just turned 6 in mid Jan. Now I'm second guessing our decision not to hold him back  Any thoughts on this kind of scenario?

It will be no different to a straight class.  It's all going to depend entirely on the teacher.

A good teacher will be able to support students at both end of the scale, regardless of the type of class.  Regardless of the range of kids, the kids at the bottom end of the scale, and the ones at the top are the ones likely to fall through the cracks. A 1/2 class doesn't offer any obvious benefits to the a yr2 student working at the very top of the class, unless the teacher caters for that, on an individual basis.

My dd2 was in a 1/2 in yr 1.  She was working up at the top level of the class.  There were also kids in the class at a very low, below average level, who were in reading support etc. The teacher was able to cover all levels.  if it was a straight yr 1 class, my dd would still have been at the level she was at, there would have still been the kids at the bottom level. So it would have been about the same in terms of range of academic abilities.

As for age, I don't see it as that much of an issue in the classroom. He actually wouldn't be that young for the grade at our school, we have kids in yr 1 turning 6 right up until July this year.  So 6 in Jan would put him pretty much in the middle. (Although I am aware this varies a lot). The majority of the kids don't seem to have any problem with the age range. Particularly as they get used to it right from yr 1.  They still find appropriate friends, based on shared interests, not necessarily age,

This year, my dd3 is also in a 1/2 class yr 1.  They have 3 SN kids in the class, as well as a couple who are borderline I'm guessing. The teacher is fantastic, catering to the individual kids,  so that ALL kids are being given the help they need. I know my friend with a little boy with major learning issues can't say enough good things about the class. Because of the TEACHER.




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