The Mixed Age Classroom
Montessori education differs from more traditional methods in a variety of ways. Our mixed-age classrooms are one of the most obvious examples. Rather than grouping children by chronological age, our classroom environments include children of various ages.
This method is extremely beneficial to us.
There are numerous advantages to having mixed-age classrooms. Among the key points are:
Leaders and role models
By bringing children of various ages together in one room, the younger children are exposed to a variety of older children who serve as role models for them. Children often learn best from one another, and when a six-year-old observes an eight-year-old at work, they quickly understand what is expected and what kind of work awaits them in the future. For the older students in the class, there are numerous opportunities for them to serve in leadership roles, developing skills that will be essential as they grow into independent members of their communities.
Flexibility in skill progression
Learning is not linear for any of us. There are periods of rapid growth, periods of steady progress, and periods of plateau. This is normal and will vary by subject for individual children. Children can work and progress at their own pace in our classrooms. When we don’t rely on standard grade levels, these lines become even more hazy.
Solid interpersonal bonds
When a child is in a class for at least three years, the guide has the opportunity to get to know them as a person, not just as a learner. Rather than having to start from scratch each first month of school, the child-teacher-parent team is already established and can collaborate on a deeper level and with a better understanding of strengths and goals than they would otherwise be able to.
Social opportunities have improved
On all levels, diversity is important, and this includes spending time with people of various ages. We have so much to learn from one another, and children learn so many skills from their interactions in a mixed-age classroom, such as empathy, patience, and cooperation.
Multi-age classrooms are a much better representation of real life, and we believe that children benefit from these early experiences.
What did Dr. Montessori think about it?
Maria Montessori had a wonderful command of the English language. While she was a scientist who relied heavily on her observations, her descriptions and explanations frequently captivated her audience. Her remarks on the multi-age classroom were no different.
“Our schools have shown how children of different ages help one another. The younger ones watch what the older ones are doing and ask all kinds of questions, and the older ones explain. This is really useful teaching, for the way that a five year old interprets and explains things is so much nearer than ours to the mind of a child of three that the little one learns easily, whereas we would scarcely be able to get through to him.
There is harmony and communication between them that is not possible between an adult and such a young child. There is a natural mental osmosis between them.
People are concerned about whether a child of five who is always helping other children will make sufficient progress himself. But, firstly, he doesn’t spend his whole time teaching, but has his own freedom and knows how to use it.
Secondly, teaching really allows him to consolidate and strengthen his own knowledge, which he must analyze and use anew each time, so that he comes to see everything with greater clarity. The older child also gains from this exchange.”
How we dissect it
In general, the classrooms are divided into age groups that roughly correspond to the planes of development.
- Infant/Toddler – Children aged 0-3 have specific (and similar) developmental needs that are sometimes separated into two separate environments.
- Early Childhood – We combine what is known as preschool and kindergarten in other places, with children ages 2.5 to 6 working together.
- Elementary – Montessori elementary programs either have a range of ages from 6 to 12 or divide the classrooms into ages 6-9 and 9-12.