I never thought about working in a one-room schoolhouse or a multi-age classroom. I have taught a combination classroom, two grades, but never more than that. So many things must happen at each developmental level, I never could see how it worked.
The first two months of the school year I still couldn’t quite figure it out. As I said before, there had to be some way to make it work, if they did it that way for decades and people learned! So I set out to find the clues, the good in a multi-age classroom. I found two articles online, interviewing successful one-room schoolhouse teachers. So I emailed one and she responded! Joan’s words of wisdom were perfect.
Here is what I learned and have put into practice:
Independence is key! Students of all ages can move through lessons at their own pace as long as you have the materials prepared. Preparation is crucial. I spend about an hour each morning making sure that each child has their reading and math prepared and ready for them in addition to my normal setting up. This process really works for my students. Each child is learning and progressing. I have started using Daily Five. This is a wonderful strategy that Joan recommended and that I have had HUGE success with.
Students must have plenty to do. You can’t just fill them up with busy work. They must have meaningful activities and learning opportunities that enrich their learning day. I think this is where I struggle the most. However, I have some wonderful things that we are doing that fit with our theme. Right now, my students are working on learning to mix primary colors to make all the secondary colors they need for their Christmas gifts.
You must teach children how to problem solve. Having three grades and four ages really makes it tough with behaviors and attitudes. Each age group is exactly where they should be developmentally but you put that in with another group and it causes problems. Children need to know how to communicate positively and respectfully, even when the other child is “so wrong.”
Finally, I have to be willing to change. My class set up, teaching, and lessons often need tweaking. If something is not working I have to adjust and figure out how to make it work. This keeps me on my toes.