Bringing together children of different ages - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 12-12-2003, 12:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Does your school have any activities in which children of different ages are brought together to learn together, or socialize, or do sports? A criticism one hears about schools is that the children are artificially divided into groups by age. Anybody see anything different at their kids' schools?

Thanks.
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#2 of 10 Old 12-12-2003, 03:39 AM
 
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Last year ds was in an "alternative" ps kindergarten and the school had a buddy reading program for the kg and 3rd grade. On Thursdays they'd get together with their buddy and the 3rd graders would read to their kindergartners. DS loved going up to the 3rd grade classroom and always made a big deal of saying "hi" to his buddy when we saw her in the hallway. The extra time being read to was not as important for him (we do it together daily) as it was for some of his classmates.

The school also had "Open Community Time," when all the students, teachers, administration and other staff join together during designated times to participate in group activities. The groups were smallish and mixed age. Last year's theme was "Social Justice Through Literacy."

This year at Waldorf, the grade school children, grades 1-5, share recess time and have monthly assemblies with presentations by each grade.
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#3 of 10 Old 12-12-2003, 08:09 AM
 
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At our school, similar to Marsh, it is mostly this buddy type stuff that happens, and mostly for the kindergarteners. 5th and 6th grade students are buddies to them for various reasons and events. In fact, there is a program called Cradle to Cubby, in which 1st grade students are paired with a baby for annual reunions, sharing books, etc. By the time that baby comes to kindergarten, s/he has a 5th or 6th grade Pal that is known quite well. The program is an organizing nightmare for the staff in charge, but it is great for the kids!! My daughter was part of the first 'class' of babies reaching k-garten.

However, academically, I do not see many (any) opportunities for learning together, except during assemblies, at our school.

 
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#4 of 10 Old 12-13-2003, 12:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Dd's school is so large that all the children don't fit into the gym at one time, so even assemblies are organized for primary, junior, and intermediate grades. Also, since the children sit in lines in their own classes, they don't have a chance to interact at assemblies anyway.

The Learning Buddies program is well established and popular, and the kids are very sweet. Last year, dd's grade 7 friend made a beautiful Christmas diorama for dd. This year, dd is in her first year of being the older child, and it is fun to listen to the children in her class bragging about their Grade 1 proteges.

Marsh, could you expand on the "Social Justice Through Literacy" program? What sorts of activities would the groups do?
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#5 of 10 Old 12-13-2003, 02:01 PM
 
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The reason that schools separate students by age and grade level is a practical matter.

Also, liability insurance would frown on larger, older children running around smaller, more vulnerable children.

Fire regulations for gyms and enclosed areas have a say also about how many bodies can be there at any one time.
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#6 of 10 Old 12-16-2003, 12:12 AM
 
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Montessori schools strongly believe in the benefit of mixed-age classrooms. At my daughter's school the preschoolers are 3, 4, and 5; lower elementary has 6, 7, and 8 year olds; and upper elementary has 9-11 year olds. (These ages are general guidelines; if a child is unusually far ahead in skills and maturity, they might be a little younger when they move on, or they could be a little older if they are a little behind in skills or maturity.) My daughter was granted an exception to start when she was 2.5 years old, and it's really a neat thing to see her interacting positively with kids up to 3 years older than she is! It's great because she has a peer group of kids around her own age, but also fits in with the older kids (esp. the older girls who love to "help" her) and can learn from them.

Carol
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#7 of 10 Old 12-16-2003, 04:33 AM
 
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Bestjob, here's a link to the Open Community Time page that lists the activities they did:

http://www.cpsd.us/kingopen/OpenCommunityTime.html

Also, more info, if you're interested, about the social justice aspect of the curriculum from the FAQ area of the site.

"King Open materials say the school has a social justice curriculum.
What does that mean?

There is no one way to answer that question. At the most basic level, it means that King Open has always committed to treating each child as a valued individual within the school community. The teachers and administrators take each child's personal and academic development very seriously. At another level, it means that the children are taught from kindergarten to respect differences among themselves and more than that to find these differences interesting. They are encouraged to take pride in their own cultural backgrounds and to understand why other people are also rightfully proud. From the earliest days of kindergarten, they are helped to recognize sources of conflict between each other and how to talk about such conflicts and to resolve them fairly. As they grow older, they are encouraged to use this knowledge when thinking about history, politics, and current events.

At the intellectual level, students are introduced early to the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout our curriculum, we ask students to consider the stories of people from many different backgrounds who have worked and taken risks to improve society."
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#8 of 10 Old 12-31-2003, 10:52 PM
 
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Dd's school does something called "book buddies," where the kids are paired with a child who is a couple of years ahead. They meet periodically and read together.

On the whole, I'd rather they spend most of their time segregated by age. I think the mixed age thing is largely a waste of academic time. Dd has plenty of time to socialize with kids of different ages in other venues, like Y-guides and gymnastics.
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#9 of 10 Old 12-31-2003, 11:20 PM
 
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This is something that I am thinking about too. I really feel that there is SO MUCH value to kids being in mulit-age learning environments. I see it already in my 3.5 year old son - he learns so much from older peers - even just a year or so older - and intereacts with them easily. OTOH he seems to have problems when he is in a single aged setting.....it is making my schooling decision all the harder.

Grace - photographer, wife and mom to 4 great kids (Ethan 5.00, Ainsley 4.02, Owen 12.04, and Ellis Ann 10.07) :
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#10 of 10 Old 01-01-2004, 03:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by EFmom
On the whole, I'd rather they spend most of their time segregated by age. I think the mixed age thing is largely a waste of academic time.
I disagree. Even if every child in a class were born in the very same month of the same year, the levels of maturity and capability and interest would be vastly different, so only one-on-one teaching could ever truly meet your goal of not wasting academic time.

I believe that education is about more than just learning and regurgitating facts. Children can learn many things from other children who are not their own age. My daughter is the very youngest child in her preschool class. When she began, it was hard for her to be away from me, but the older girls in her class are particularly nurturing. They took her under their wing with a supply of hugs and encouragement. She learned that she can rely on others to comfort her; they got a chance to practice the nurturance that they've been learning as they've gotten older. Everyone benefitted. My daughter also benefits from sometimes observing older children doing work that is more complicated than what she can do. The older children benefit from sometimes getting a chance to teach the younger ones a new skill, thereby testing and solidifying their own knowledge of that skill.

Another strong benefit that I see, especially at the elementary level of Montessori education, is how children learn to work collectively regardless of age. There isn't any bullying or superiority of the "I'm the 3rd grader and you are a measly 2nd grader" kind. I remember all too much of THAT from when I was growing up, and would be delighted if my daughter never had to experience that ignorant and artificial herd response.

Of course, in a traditional classroom setting, interaction is severely limited and children are not allowed to choose their own work or their own pace. Teachers are overburdened by teaching strict curricula and making sure "no child is left behind." If you aren't going to allow children any freedom of work or choice or interaction, then I suppose it matters less whether they get to spend any time with older or younger children.

Still, I think mixed-age work is a very good thing. After all, relating to and working with people of all ages and skill sets is a realilty of life, and they're going to have to eventually. Not to mention (from an academic standpoint) that some children learn far more easily when working with children closer to their age, than with an adult leading a large-class setting. Why rob children of the chance to develop relational skills and understanding, while also facilitating the academic education process in a new way that might actually be better for some children?

Carol
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