Google+ bakers and astronauts: Multi-Age

11 February 2010


I'm feeling a new challenge in the classroom.  It is one that I am up for, I think, but one that I need to think about more.

We are now a multi-age classroom, rather than just PreK.  We are now a collection of three-, four-, and five-year-olds.  I taught multi-age at the beginning of my career, and it did not feel like this.  Perhaps I am blocking out some of my past experiences!

So much about our group is now on a larger spectrum:  interests, physical needs, emotional responses, social behaviors, attention span, and language.  Each part of the day needs to be thought about in a new light, I think.  I'm beginning to think about differentiation strategies - for ESL students, for younger students, for older students, as well as for different styles of learning.  Our classroom environment has to be re-evaluated.  Some of the topics that are on my mind right now are:
  • The need for quiet spaces and the need for very active spaces
  • The activities we can share as a whole class and the activities that need to be in smaller groups and one-on-one settings
  • How our days is balanced - everything from choice time to transitions to rest time to outdoor play
  • Our classroom community and how we welcome younger children into our established community
  • Following the interests of the children as we enter our new unit of inquiry
The idea of including children of multiple ages together does have many benefits, I think.  Older children are able to share their knowledge and expertise with younger children, acting as mentors.  Partnering children in mixed groups like that can work very well in some situations.  We will also be able to differentiate to interest groups and to specific topics, such as reading different stories to different groups of children, and playing different math games with different groups of children.

I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the bumps in the road that will inevitably be there as we become a true multi-age classroom.  This has to be approached with open-mindedness, patience, and a lot of daily reflection.


  1. yes. i understand the challenge. my goal is to find things that the youngest feel successful at while the oldest feel engaged in.

    tricky at times.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kristin - I'm sure the challenge is felt by many!

    I failed to mention that I feel a lot of pressure around the topic of inquiry - how do we involve evryone in meaningful ways? How different will the different roles be?

  3. What I like best about my multi-aged classroom is that my older kids, the ones who have been with me for 3 years already, can actually step in and act as assistant teachers. They are often much more effective than I am at teaching certain skills and concepts.

  4. Aiiieieee! Congratulations! What happened - why the shift? A few tip from a school that shifted to a multi-age 1-5 group?
    Hiding spaces. Tons of research talks about the need for 'secret space' and for 'forts' and I found that this gives a break to both the older and the younger - for different reasons. Build a hiding space!

    Good luck - I'm excited to see where this goes for you. I'd also look at some of the research out there on family care - there is some interesting work happening on mixed-age group, although much of it is a large mix, not 3-5...

  5. I think it is exciting - thank you for your comments! I agree about the hiding spaces. I'm thinking about a table with curtains around it, perhaps up against a wall somewhere. So often you see those spaces but teachers are so afraid to let kids out of their line of vision. I think I can trust these children and give them a true private space. And if it works well, a few spaces might be in order!


Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

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