What are blended programs?
Blended programs are programs designed to include a span of ages greater than one year.
Blended programs are different from “split grade” programs because there is only one curriculum taught. The Wellington Catholic District School Board has designed a Kindergarten curriculum based on the Ministry document, “The Kindergarten Program”. The document follows the design of this two year continuum, providing for a range of developmental abilities as students begin school. Using a blended JK/SK model builds on student strengths and diversities.
Having the same teacher for two years, wherever possible, reduces the stress of school entry and fosters a feeling of extended family and community. Blending Kindergarten is not a new idea. Many Ontario school boards have had blended JK/SK classes for years.
Using a blended approach facilitates consistent classroom management from year to year. At the start of each school year, only a portion of the class will be new members. The seasoned Kindergarten students will benefit from their leadership role as they model for the newest students.
How will being in a blended JK/SK classroom benefit my child?
Current research supports children of different ages learning together. Having an accepted range of levels on the class allows for children’s development. (Theilheimer,1993)
A child’s age is not an accurate indicator of his/her ability (Katz,1992). At four, most children are just developing their ability to distinguish the sounds heard in spoken language (phonemic awareness). Some five year olds, on the other hand, may need continued practice in this area to gain competence.
By creating a dual-aged learning group, we increase every child’s appreciation and acceptance of learning differences. By mixing the range of abilities, more opportunities for cooperative learning, student collaboration and leadership are created. (Anderson and Pavan 1993 and Katz, Evangelou and Hartman 1990).
All students will have the benefit of flexible academic groups which will allow for continued practice, skill consolidation and extension. Learning opportunities are structured to provide interactive activities for whole group, small group, partners and independent learning.
What does the research say about blended classrooms?
Educational researchers have demonstrated that cooperative and prosocial behaviours such as sharing, turn taking and helping are significantly more evident in mixed-age classrooms. (Whiting 1983)
McClellan and Kinsey (1997) replicated positive prosocial results in their study and went on to show that fewer children experience social isolation than in same age classrooms. This is particularly important to the very academically bright, but socially immature child, who has difficulty making friends with same-age peers. They are able to improve their social skills by interacting with younger, more accepting students.
Again, in this study, aggressive and inappropriate behaviours were significantly less likely to occur in multiage classrooms. Since social rejection and aggressiveness in children are the most consistent predictors of late life difficulties (Parker and Asher 1987), building skills and empathy in these early years is crucial.
Lougee and Grazuabi (1985) observed that when children are given consistent opportunities to provide leadership with younger children, they improve their own behaviour.
This study also demonstrated students accepted a shared responsibility for the positive learning culture of the classroom. Giving our more senior Kindergarten students opportunities to model appropriate school behaviours will benefit everyone.
Multiple groupings are especially beneficial to boys (Harmon 2001, Anderson and Pavan 1993). Other researchers have also shown that not only boys, but all “at risk” students make significant gains in an accepting, multiage environment.
Both younger and older students are winners in the multiage classroom. Older students are encouraged to develop leadership skills, while younger students participate in more complex play than they might initiate when playing with students of the same age (Katz 1990).
Peer tutoring is another excellent vehicle for children’s learning. The process of explaining a concept to another classmate reinforces the learning in the more experienced students’ mind. This requires the expert children to synthesize, organize and communicate their learnings. Findings also demonstrate that by tutoring others, children gain significantly improved self-confidence and positive attitutes towards school.
Anderson,R.H. Pavan, B.N.A.(1993), Nongradedness, Helping it to Happen, Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing
Harmon, M.(2001), Comparison of the Academic Achievement of Primary School Students in Mulitage and Traditional Classrooms, Dissertation
Katz, Lillian(1992), Nongraded and Mixed-Age Groupings in Early Childhood Programs, ERIC Digest Katz, L., Evangelou, D., Hartman, J.A.(1990), The Case for Mixed-Age Groupings in Early Education.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Lougee, M., Graziano, W.(1985), Children’s Relationships with Non-Agemate Peers. Manuscript
McClellan, D., Kinsey, S.(1997), Children’s Social Behaviour in Relationship to Participation in Mixed- Age or Same-Age Classrooms
Parker, J., Asher, S.(1987), Peer Relations and Later Personal Adjustment: Are Low-Accepted Children at Risk? Psychological Bulletin 102 (3) pg.357-389
Theilheimer, R.(1993), Something for Everyone: Benefits of Mixed-Age Grouping for Children, Parents, and Teacher. Young Children, pg. 48(5)
Whiting, B.(1983), The Genesis of Prosocial Behaviour, In D Bridgeman (ED) The Nature of Proscocial Development pg. 221-242, New York Academic Press