Why combination classes?
Whenwe have too many students for one grade, but not enough to make afull class – two grades are combined. With class size limits set atstrict guidelines of 20 to 1 in the primary grades and the economicnecessity of filling each classroom to its maximum size, there isvery little wiggle room.
What does the Research Say?
- Regardless of grade level assignment, children in a given classroom perform at varying levels, often times spanning more than one grade level. In other words, the designation of “second grade” does not mean that all children in that classroom perform at the “second grade level” in all subjects.
- Therein lies the need to consider the individual differences among students and why teachers today use many different teaching strategies to address the varying skill levels within their classrooms (small group instruction, leveled books/assignments, pre-testing, contracts)
- Stated another way, grade levels are not “pure” but are groups of students whose only common denominators may be chronological age and uninterrupted progression through the system.
- Additionally, scope and sequence of the curriculum does not, in any way, inhibit teaching across grade levels.
- Contrary to popular belief, older children in a combination classroom are not “naturally held back” in their instruction. If it does occur, it is the result of something other than the fact that it is a combination class.
InstructionalStrategies - How will my child get the appropriate curriculum?
- Large Group Instruction: used for general topics and themes that apply to all students.
- Small Group Instruction: used for specific curricular topics that apply to each grade level. Used for students who have mastered one concept and are ready to move to the next.
- Team Teaching: sharing students with other grade level teachers for special events, activities or topics. This often allows the combination class teacher to work with a smaller group of students while one grade shares an activity with peers in another classroom.
- Team Planning: Teachers at each grade level get together and plan. They share materials to assist the combination teacher with planning for two grade levels.
- Individual student practice--just as in a regular classroom, teachers meet individually with students to support and challenge their learning. All students work with grade level appropriate materials. Groups of students are flexibly created, modified, or disbanded as needed when new academic challenges arise just as they would be in a regular classroom.
Who is placed in a combination classroom?
- Students who are independent workers.
- Students who socially interact well with peers and are confident.
- Students who are average ability or above (need not be gifted) but without learning, behavior, or attention concerns.
Who teaches these classrooms?
- Teachers with an interest in the multi-aged approach.
- Teachers who have experience teaching at one or more of the grade levels.
- Teachers who have experience and skill with differentiating the curriculum to meet the varying needs of students.
- Promotes leadership, confidence, and independence particularly for the older grade level.
- Optimal learning environment without the distractions of behavior issues.
- Teachers have blocks of time for instruction with just one age group, while the other students are out of the classroom for PE, science, and library. This provides a small student to teacher ratio for more intensive, individualized instruction.
- Teacher time is not fragmented with behavior issues.
- Promotes cooperation with peers v. competition at a grade level.
- Provides opportunities for younger students to experience peer support and cross-age role models.
- Learning is often accelerated due to the more homogenous make-up of the class.
- These classes feature very high levels of enthusiasm, excitement about learning, and intellectual curiosity.