The mixed age classroom is a key difference in a Montessori classroom to mainstream. Interest in the potential benefits of mixed age classes has increased steadily in recent years. The growing interest is due to a greater focus on the importance of the early years and an awareness of the limitations of graded education. The realisation that children's uneven developmental patterns and differing rates of progress can be ill-matched to the rigid grade-level system has educators searching for a better way to meet the needs of all students. In some schools now they have ‘composite classes’ in which two grades may be combined into one class. The teacher will instruct the whole class and may group by ability for some subjects, eg. reading or maths. The difference in a Montessori classroom is that the teaching methodology and pedagogy is built around and within the 3 year mixed group, making it an effective system for teachers and highly beneficial for the students.
Some of the obvious benefits include
- The teachers develop an acute sense of where each child is at
- Younger ones learn from older children
- Learn by teaching others (reinforces own knowledge)
- Collaborative learning
- Sense of community built over each cycle bringing social and emotional benefits
- Groups are flexible and address the needs of the individual child
- Materials are designed to be used at many levels
- Leadership becomes a natural part of everyday life. All children experience being the youngest, middle and oldest child.
Principal, Montessori East