(update - Peter posted a follow-up blog on split-grade classrooms here-- ed.)
I am going to meet with a bunch of principals a week from Friday. One of the things they want me to talk about is advice for supporting teachers with split classrooms. Some districts call these rooms multi-age classrooms. I like the term, but I only use that label when the decision to combine two grade levels into one classroom (like mixing first- and second-graders in one classroom) is done intentionally—for clear instructional purposes. This is not usually the case.
Most decisions to combine two grade levels into one classroom are made because of enrollment. These decisions are done out of necessity—not instructional design. Most teachers I know avoid split classrooms if at all possible. Splits present lots of instructional challenges to us. Because of this, the principals I know try to vary the person assigned to teach splits each year. I suppose this is good—because the challenge is so hard. But it seems like just when a teacher figures out how to teach in such a complicated situation, the year ends and all of that good experience goes out with them. The new teacher starts from scratch.
So, in order to prepare for this presentation, I thought I would ask the blogosphere your thoughts on this.
- What are the biggest challenges you or your teachers face teaching a split classroom?
- Being a Writer and Making Meaning users—How do you decide which grade level to teach?
- How do you support the varying levels of learners in you classroom?
- How can principals best support teachers who are faced with split-grade classrooms?
Please post your comments below or sign up to receive more information. I would love to hear what folks think. If I get enough interest, I will post the presentation I come up with here in a week or so.
[We have published another blog on split grade classrooms from a school-wide approach.]