There are many different approaches to teaching when it comes to preschool. There are several different theories, techniques, and methods that are all used individually and also in combination with each other. The key is to find the combination that best suits your needs as well as the needs of your child. Mixed-aged grouping is a popular method that many preschools and elementary schools utilize. This is where children are in a group consisting of many different ages. Rather than having a classroom of all two year olds or all three year olds, the children are combined with other children close, but not necessarily the same age. Most of these programs combine children within a 2-3 year age range or two grade levels. There is a lot of value in mixed-aged grouping and this article will cover some of the benefits from it.
Allows Children to Learn Leadership Skills
This form of grouping can be very beneficial for social learning. It gives the older children the opportunity to take charge and watch out for the younger children. The older children will naturally feel a responsibility to take care of the others because they have experienced more. They can demonstrate things to the younger children directly or by example. They find themselves as role models for the other children. After a while, the older children will see that the younger children are receptive to their example and it will give them a sense of pride and obligation. This, in turn, will reinforce the leadership skills that they have been putting to use. The younger children will be learning by example. They will be absorbing all sorts of information on social cues and behavior that they will probably use in the future themselves. Positive reinforcement is a huge benefit to this type of learning environment.
Motivation For Younger Children
This type of learning environment can serve as a strong motivation for positive behavior, especially for the younger children. They will be driven to please the older children who they see as role models. Given the right circumstances, a younger child can become inspired to be like one of the older children they admire. The key is for the teachers to pay close attention to whom is making the most impact on the other children. They need to determine that the older child or children that are the most influential on the younger ones are demonstrating the types of positive qualities that you want the other to emulate. If this is on track, there is an abundance of motivation that can be gained by all children involved.
More Opportunities for Development
When you have a classroom full of children the same age, most of them will be equal in terms of emotional, physical, social and cognitive development. When there are older and younger children available, every child has a greater opportunity to have their problems solved by observation or direct intervention. Children will be able to figure out how to problem solve by watching the other children interact and by receiving help from other children directly. The beauty of this setup is that every child has the opportunity to shine depending on his or her strengths. Everyone will look to the child who is more physically coordinated when they want to figure out an obstacle course or to the most mature child when an argument ensues. Mixed-aged grouping is like a smaller version of what the real world is like. Children in this setting will learn so many important lessons that will carry over into the rest of their lives.
Sense of Security
The children in a mixed-aged classroom have a built in sense of security. They have peers that are the same, some that will motivate them to higher levels and some that remind them of where they used to be. Common insecurities that children often develop about what they do and do not know are lessened in this type of learning environment because there is always so much variation amongst the children. There is always someone that a child can relate to in any given situation. Children can develop a healthy sense of security that will then, in turn, give them the confidence to grow. Mixed-aged grouping can be extremely beneficial when the circumstances are right. A very attentive and observant teacher is a necessity for a successful multi-age classroom. The potential for emotional, physical and cognitive growth can be enormous and children can truly flourish in such an environment.