The hallmark of multi-age education is teaching to the needs of each individual child. It exists for the benefits of the students. The class usually consists of widely diversified strengths, interests, and abilities.
Students in this classroom are given suitable activities for their individual capabilities — meaning often, students will not be working on the exact same thing.
In my classroom, I group students both homogeneously and heterogeneously: sometimes they’ll be grouped based on skill level and/or ability, and sometimes I will create groups of diversified skill levels and abilities. This way, students are able to learn from each other and grow as a learning community, embracing the plethora of multiple learning styles and strengths in the classroom. Students are also given opportunities to work independently and/or with a partner. Instead of constant competition, children learn to see each other in terms of unique qualities and capabilities. Research shows multi-age classrooms to be a developmentally appropriate format for early childhood education.
The biggest misconception of a multi-age classroom is that the teacher “teaches down” to students, or that students are placed in a multi-age classroom because they are high performing. Both are far from the truth! A multi-age approach to education supports the notion that children are whole entities whose learning is reflected best along a continuum — not all children are at the same place socially, emotionally, or academically at any given time, regardless of age. Like any classroom, differentiation is key to student success, and this is the hallmark of multi-age education. I believe in guiding students to work towards their personal best within their unique zones of proximal development, so differentiation is part of my every day lesson planning.
If you have any questions regarding how a multi-age classroom works, please ask!
If you are interested in reading more, here are some great resources: