Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why a Multi-Age Classroom?

One aspect of a Montessori classroom is that there is a 3 year age span among the children.  In Pre-Primary, it's 3-6 years old.  In Lower Elementary, it's 6-9 years old, and in Upper Elementary it's 9-12 years old.  Maria Montessori found this to be most beneficial for children and now, educational research supports this practice, although it's typically only found in Montessori schools. 

There are many wonderful benefits to the multi-age classroom:
*  Children learn from one another-they learn by observing and interacting
*  Young children learn higher level cognitive and social skills not only through mental development, but also by observing others as models.
*  Collaborative learning is encouraged-I am amazed everyday in my classroom how children of different ages are interacting and learning from one another. The older children in our classroom are encouraged to give lessons to younger children and it's amazing to watch the older child solidify what they know by teaching it to the younger child and it's just as amazing to see a young child's eyes focus intently on the older child as they give a lesson-this is more powerful than an adult giving a lesson.  They connect more deeply with other children.
*  Multi-age grouping helps children develop a sense of community and supports social development.  As I watched my students work this week, I was thinking how wonderful it is that they all have different interests and choose different work at different times. Children in this environment learn to respect others as individuals.  We don't all have to be 'the same' or it doesn't have to be 'fair and equal' when all children are being respected for who they are.
*  Children work at their own levels, which may vary in different curriculum areas.  Groups are flexible and often differ depending on interest, subject matter, and/or ability.
*  Curriculum and materials are multidimensional and concrete.  Children re-explore the same materials at different levels.  For example, the geometric solids can first be sensorially explored by a younger child. An older child may want to name them, match them to cards, or even trace and cut them out.  When these materials are used often and at different levels, the opportunities for learning are endless.
*  Multi-age groupings lends itself well to the inclusion of children with special needs into classrooms with typically developing peers.  The benefits of inclusion for all children have been demonstrated and they range across all developmental and educational domains.
*Children who are given the freedom to interact with children of different ages build a sense of themselves and a sense of confidence that provides a foundation for them which will help them move through life with the belief that they can try new things, and not be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.  

Montessori philosophy supports multi-age grouping and Montessori teachers have implemented it for over 100 years.  This concept has recently moved into the mainstream due to the work of many educational theorists and researchers.  Some states are now recommending their preschools and elementary classrooms implement multi-age grouping.


  1. For a few years, my friend has been trying to tell me about Montessori schooling and what it includes. It was always difficult for me to understand, but this helps me understand part of what makes it so different. I really want to make sure that my kids have a good elementary experience, and it seems like being in an environment like the one you describe would be really beneficial. I might go into a classroom to see what happens in there, and then I might enroll my kids in a Montessori school sometime!

  2. I have a cousin who went to a Montessori school but never really knew what that meant. I didn't know that they had multi-age classrooms. It seems like there are a lot of benefits to having a multi-age classroom. I had no idea that it actually helpful children to develop their sense of community and social development. I may have to look into a Montessori school when my kids get a little older.