Montessori Matters: Mixed Age Classrooms

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A student of mine recently asked me which of the three ages in my class I liked best. I demurred. I like them all, just for different reasons! Which naturally led to her wanting to know my reasons for liking each age. My answer?

FIRST-YEARS

I like the first years because they bring new eyes and new energy to the classroom. They’re excited about everything. It’s not just the classroom that’s new to them, it’s the people, the work, the teacher and the rules. The learning curve is sharp, even if they’ve been at the school their whole lives. As much as we strive for consistency, I’m a new personality to them and they’re new to me. It’s grounding for them to go from being the oldest in their previous classroom to being the youngest in their new one.

SECOND-YEARS

My second years know the routine. They’re glad not to be new to the classroom anymore, but nothing is old yet. There’s still a lot for them to learn and be curious about. They often enjoy attacking assignments or projects they did the previous year because it allows them to see how far they’ve come. And now that they’re older they can act as peer tutors to their younger brethren. They’re feeling some of the responsibility and maturity that goes hand-in-hand with all the progress they’ve made.

THIRD-YEARS

The third years have been through the trenches with me. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them learn, grow and develop in amazing ways. Often times they walk a fine line between being ready to move on and notreadynowaynotnowthanksverymuch. What’s amazing about third years is their ability to put everything they’ve learned into practical application. They do some really fun stuff and, if I’ve done my job correctly, they do it under their own steam. I get to sit back and offer a little guidance here and there, provide a tool when needed, and watch it happen.

The honest truth is, my classroom wouldn’t be the same if any of the age groups went missing. They’re all pieces of the puzzle that makes our classroom unique. There’s value in a classroom where a first year can look at a third year and see what they’ll be doing in the future. Similarly, what better way to demonstrate to a ten year old how far they’ve come than to put them in the same classroom as an eight year old?

So really, truly, Susie*. I like all the ages in our class the best.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent*
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