Multi-Age Classrooms

Willow’s Engaging Multi-Age Classrooms

The Willow School believes in the small school concept.  Our school is like a large family- a nurturing, caring place where older children act as leaders and role models much as older siblings do in a large family.
Our student/teacher ratio is 7:1.  This enable teachers to individualize the program for each child. Having a small class size also allows each teacher to know their children well and serve them not only academically, but socially and emotionally.
  • Multi-Age program creates cooperation instead of competition
  • Children motivate and encourage each other
  • Students learn and accelerate at their own pace
  • Research indicates that multi-age instruction has a significant positive impact on student attitude

What is a Multi-Age Classroom?

Multi-age education is the practice of teaching children of different ages together in the same classroom without dividing the students or curriculum into steps labeled by grade designations. Students stay with the same teacher for 2-3 years, with only the oldest students advancing to the next group. Programs are planned which are developmentally appropriate for each student regardless of their age or grade level. The multi-age philosophy recognizes that students learn better when they have role models they can turn to for assistance, and when they are able to practice their skills by demonstrating to others. The multi-age class, similar to the Montessori school concept, is based on a more family-oriented structure where difference is accepted, and nurturing is valued and encouraged.

How are students taught in a multi-age class?

In a multi-age class, students are taught in groupings that maximize the potential of their learning. Students learn from the teacher and each other, and the teacher plans for, and expects different outcomes for each child dependent upon their stage of development. Maria Montessori did a lot of research about how effective this style of teaching is in school.

Will my older child be expected to “teach” the younger children?

As in any class, the responsibility for the teaching rests with the teacher. In a multi-age class, older students naturally want to help younger students and frequently do so. Research has shown that when students teach information and skills to their classmates, their academic performance improves. They reinforce their own knowledge and skills, which in turns builds their self-confidence and self-esteem and they come to a better understanding of the subject matter.

Won’t my younger child be overwhelmed by the older, more competent children?

Most students are sensitive to the needs of those who are younger and want to help them fit in. They show them where everything is, help them to read and write, play with them and look after them on the playground, and enable them to accomplish tasks far more complex than if they were in a single grade class. In a multi-age class, younger and less able students have their needs met much more quickly and more often.

Won’t my young child pick up bad behavior from the older children?

Because the older children fulfill a nurturing role, there are less behavior problems in the multi-age classrooms. Also, the fact that all the older student’s practice being leaders in the class helps to alleviate the pressure between older students competing for the role of “boss” in the classroom.

How do teachers manage to teach all the different age levels?

Teachers in a multi-age class are very aware of each student as an individual. They focus on what each student knows, and needs to know, rather than on the body of information that has to be transmitted to the class. Because students remain with their teachers for more than one year, teachers get to know each child very well. Teachers use strategies such as personal learning plans, team teaching, grouping for skill learning, cooperative learning groups, interest groups, peer tutoring, and one to one instruction.

What about my gifted child?

Students in our multi-age classes learn to take responsibility for their learning from the beginning. They are encouraged to set goals and challenges for themselves and the teachers facilitate whatever it is they need to achieve them.

How will my special needs student be provided for?

Special needs students will receive the required help, but the labels tend to disappear within the multi-age classroom. All students are judged on their personal development level and differences are accepted by the students. Multi-age classes help blend the age and ability differences that are obvious in one-grade classes, and the students are very accepting of the differences within their classroom, because they expect them.