Something that is relatively unique to this school is that we have multi-age classes. While I was growing up, and while completing my teaching degree, there was always a negative tone when speaking about a “split” class, like it was a bad thing. But that causes someone to think- Why would multi-age classes be a bad thing? Why do schools typically group kids into classes by one-year age bands, anyway?
While you ponder that, I’ll talk about why Chicago Friends School intentionally uses multi-age classes not just because of enrollment size. Students don’t necessarily learn skills at a year-by-year pace. Their development in every area can vary due to numerous factors. Take reading, for example. When I look at what novel I want to read with my students, I consider a few things: What theme do I want the book to fall under? What reading level can my students comfortably read? How mature is this group of students? Just because two students were born within the range of September 1, 2008, and September 1, 2009, does not mean that the answers to those questions will be the same for both students. With a multi-aged class, I can group students based on their social-emotional and academic needs, which often does not directly correlate with their age. Student groupings are mixed so regularly throughout the day in our class that it’s not uncommon to hear, “how old are you, again?” or “wait- are you a 6th grader or 7th grader this year?” among students. We can reach students where they’re at and use that as a starting point of promoting growth. This concept also brings out the strengths and leadership of each child. We can truly value the knowledge and skills each student brings to our classroom community and call upon each student to help contribute and grow our class, instead of relying solely on age to determine who supposedly has the most knowledge in a specific area.