By Jackie Kirk – Kauri Teacher – Primary
Montessori environments are prepared for multi-age groupings of children. These groupings encourage children to aspire to the achievements of older peers. New (younger) students enter an established and mature environment with effective models of both work and social interaction and in turn, the older children learn to treat younger ones with care and respect, providing them with opportunities to reinforce their own learning and understanding through ‘peer teaching’. Children are also able to work through the curriculum at their own pace without being limited to one year of the curriculum only.
At Wā Ora Montessori all our environments are prepared for multi-age groupings – playgroup (for children from 0 to 3 years), preschool (for children from 3 to 6 years), primary school (classrooms for children aged from 6 to 9 years and for children aged 9 to 12 years) and secondary school (a learning environment for students aged 12 to 15 and one for students aged 15 to 18 years).
The advantages of multi-age grouping include the following:
– the opportunity to experience three roles i.e. being the youngest, in the middle and the oldest and the time to develop appropriate behaviours for all three roles.
– experiences that stimulate a sense of caring and responsibility for others and the continuation from year to year of the culture of the class as a caring community.
– experience of social cohesion and a sense of place gained from being in the same environment for three years.
– exposure to a diversity of talents, aptitudes and interests and a wide curriculum beyond a single year.
– participation in peer teaching.
– experience of appropriate behaviour and teaching and learning modelled from a broad age range of their peers.
– development of self-esteem and a greater understanding of community responsibility from roles as leaders in the group.
– groupings of similar interests and learning needs from across the age groups working together at their own pace.
– experience of stability and social cohesion with the same teacher within a stable community for three years.
– the teacher is able to build a solid relationship with each new student.
– individual learning is more effectively supported because there is more opportunity for teachers to know the students well.
If you get the opportunity to observe in a Montessori environment, then consider the essential element of multi-age grouping and see for yourself how it works and allows children to develop socially, emotionally and intellectually at their individual pace.