Ideas for Teaching a Multi-Grade, Multi-Age, or Multi-Level Class

Teaching a multi-grade classroom has its challenges. Even a single-grade classroom has students learning at different levels. Many things you do in a single-grade classroom to accommodate those differences will apply to the multi-grade classroom as well.

Teaching Using Themes
If you are in a school that allows flexibility, then teaching by themes is a great way to address varying levels of student ability. Here are some helpful hints:

  • * Social studies and science themes lend themselves particularly well to teaching a range of levels and skills. Adaptable themes that I’ve taught include habitats and biomes, landmarks, countries, and simple machines.
  • * Once you have chosen your themes, it’s good to get a variety of books at different reading levels for your classroom library (usually borrowed from your media center). Include fictional books as well as informational books. Other supplies (photographs, souvenirs, etc.), where applicable, should also be made available in the classroom.
  • * Students do not need to be grouped by grade for everything. Assignments can also be adjusted according to ability rather than grade level. You can also group students by interest, either by shared interest or to create diversity.
  • * Assignments that generally are easy for individual assessment are writing assignments, research projects, reports, presentations, map skills, and spelling. Include a word wall with a wide range of vocabulary.
  • * Themes that originate in one subject can easily expand to cover other subject areas as well. For example, a book report on a historical fiction novel is a great language arts/history crossover. Math can also be incorporated with a different-subject theme by using graphs and charts.

Teaching Two or More Defined Curricula
If you need to include defined curricula for each grade, you can use the theme approach when it fits. If you need to keep the grades or subjects separated, there are ways to make this easier for you.To teach separated lessons, it is helpful to have independent activities for one group while actively teaching the other. These independent activities can involve reading and writing, as well as hands-on centers.

Students who are not in a group with you can be working on book reports, silent reading, spelling activities, and math practice sheets. When they have completed their assignments, students should be able to go to learning or activity centers, where they can quietly practice the skills further. Computer work, if available, is often a good option for independent work. Learning games can be played quietly by two students.It is important to spend time going over the procedures for using learning centers and independent work. The older your students are, the easier this will be.Planning is the key to a smoothly-run classroom. With a little planning, a multi-grade classroom can be vibrant, fun, and fully educational -for both the students and you!
Posted by Sandy Kemsley, Founder

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