Spring '98 Newsletter
|Bristol Elementary, a school of 150 students
located within District 13 in the village of Bristol, NB, houses children ranging in age
five to ten years old. Children aged five to seven years are organized into four multiage
classrooms with four teachers who work within two teams, as well as the larger team of
four. Children aged eight to ten years are taught in the more traditional single age
Several years ago Bristol Elementary became an Early
Years site for the Department of Education. With the implementation of classroom best
practices (i.e. developmentally appropriate practices) it became increasingly clear to the
teachers involved that their practices and beliefs did not coincide with the traditional
graded system which was in place within the school. So a change was initiated. This change
involved the support of the four teachers, the administration, the remaining staff, and of
Multiage learners at Bristol Elementary are flexibly grouped and benefit
from interaction with peers of various ages. Our daily activities are structured to allow
children to make choices and decisions about their individual learning. This is achieved
through a developmental child centered approach. The curriculum is spread over a three
year cycle and is taught through themes.
Communication Workshop is a time for readers at any stage in
their development to practice literacy skills in a supportive environment. Children are
reading quietly, listening to recorded books, interacting with living books on the
computer, or participating in the games which build phonemic awareness. Communications
Workshop also allows children time to develop their writing skills. Children could be
involved in drawing pictures, copying words or text well as writing independently. Each
child is modeling what is reflective of their unique abilities.
Many reading and writing skills are taught in context twice a week
during a special whole group activity called Morning Message. In addition, the direct
teaching of literacy skills is carried out three times a week in mini-lesson format, or
more often if necessary.
Numeracy skills are also acquired through a developmental approach. Boys and girls are
grouped according to skills not age. Three days are set aside each week for direct math
instruction, with math centers accounting for the remaining two days. These centers
reinforce concepts introduced during direct instruction. Other math activities are part of
the daily learning centers.
For us, our primary groupings are most special because of the family environment which is
purposely cultivated on a daily basis. Due to the fact that children and their teacher are
together for three years strong relationships develop and there is a true commitment on
everyone's part to see that we all succeed. Classrooms believe in caring about, supporting
and respecting the individuals which make up their community or family of learners.
Return to Table of Contents
How do we Assess Students in a Multiage Classroom?
||by Karen D. Ingersoll
and Laura Leigh Guilfoyle
Background: Karen and Laura have been teaching in a K-2 class as team
teachers since 1995 at Coles Island School in District #17. The school
has an open door policy to visitors and parents.
"Good teaching requires that we consider each student as an individual.
Multiage groupings may even make it easier to see our children as
individuals because we are forced to assume differences rather than
likenesses." (pg. 54, Family of Learners, Kasten and Clarke)
This quote seems to describe what we've experienced over the last
three years teaching and assessing students in our multiage class.
When we thought about how to assess we were trying to identify how
the multiage classroom differs from the age segregated room. In fact,
we have discovered that many of the methods we use are the very same
as in a single grade setting.
The assumption in the single grade is that because we have students
of relatively the same age we expect similar abilities. In reality
we know this is not true. We experience a wide range of students.
In the multi age class we expect different abilities from different
ages - different individuals.
It is very important to know the curriculum expectation for each age
group and how to determine if a student is working at "grade
level." We must know the curriculum guides well for assessment.
Curriculum outcomes should be of prime importance when deciding what
to teach and therefore what and how we intend to assess.
Parents and administrators alike have been asking for more uniformity
in reporting signposts. We as a district and school have adopted the
First Steps Reading Continuum for this reason. It is our district's
attempt to insure that all students receive the teaching of sequential
skills at their level of reading development. It provides a uniform
method of recording and tracking students' progress as well.
We try to keep our reporting periods specific to individual children.
We like to tell the parents where the child is currently, where we
have noted growth and where we intend to take them next. This reflects
our expectation that different individuals have different abilities.
Mathematics assessment is through teacher made tests. When starting
a unit we go directly to the curriculum checklist and item bank and
use sample questions given. Daily work and math centers focus on the
skills outlined in the curriculum guidelines. After the students have
moved through the centers in small multiage groupings they are interviewed
individually by the teacher. If they seem to excel at the grade level
test for that unit then the questioning would probe from the next
grade level up.
This year all the students have math problem solving journals. All
ages have the same math problem for homework but solutions are open
ended and vary according to age and ability.
The assessment tools we use include:
SKILL ORIENTED TEACHER MADE TESTS
INDIVIDUAL CURRICULUM CHECKLISTS FIRST STEPS
WHOLE CLASS PROFILE SHEETS FIRST STEPS
PORTFOLIOS which include art work, math exercises,
individual projects, writing in response to science or other discovery
projects. We note evidence of known skills in writing and use of
INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEWS which consist of questions
prepared by the teacher to probe for mathematical understanding.
For example if 10 + 5 = 15 how do you know 9 + 5 = 14?
OBSERVATION with anecdotal notes taken as behavior
occurs. Good for noting children reading environmental print, speaking
skills at sharing time, independence in completing tasks and initiative
to attempt things for the first time.
RUNNING RECORDS OF READING - We try to do this
for each student once a week. (reading recovery procedure)
QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PARENTS given at the beginning
and end of kindergarten. Valuable information as to interest, relationships
and attention level is gleaned as well as the child's and families'
hopes and fears and goals for school.
LEVELED BOOKS - We are presently using the Scholastic
PM storybook series (available through the catalogue of Instructional
Material) - parents can easily track their child's progress by nightly
reading. Also a good sign post for report cards.
WRITING FOLDERS provide a great collection of writing
samples, idea webs, sloppy copies and final edited versions - a
reflection of learned skills.
We feel that multiage groupings give an opportunity to assess a
child over years instead of months in their life. We meet the family
again and again and watch the student grow. We work hard on behavior
problems and see long term results instead of hearing how they pulled
the same "stunts" on next year's teacher. These are the
advantages to following a multilevel group and measuring growth.
What about teachers who have a split or multiage as a temporary
measure? This still gives an opportunity to see students as individuals,
and to value their differences. Students have a chance to work with
another ability group for lessons and to learn from older ones.
Older students can model and teach younger ones. As part of the
assessment process, the teacher gets to overhear and observe the
students knowledge in action and in real life and to know they have
truly learned and internalized it because they use their knowledge
and pass it on. Younger students or novices become experts and have
a true sense of what will be expected of them in the future. Assessment
in the multiage classroom is reporting how individuals are progressing
over years and where they fit on the learning continuum.
Return to Table of Contents
Multiage Project at Island
The staff at Island View participated in a Multi-age Grouping Project,
which consisted of grades K-2. The theme that the staff decided on
was the Winter Olympics. This lasted for six weeks, every Tuesday
morning. The first session was 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. and the second session
was from 9:50 to 10:20 a.m. There were eleven teachers that taught
various subjects such as Reading, Art, computer, Cooking, Science,
Math, Social Studies, Writing, Drama, French and Physical Education.
There were eleven groups of students, with nineteen students in each
group. I taught computers. I paired a grade two student with a kindergarten
student. The students were given a country taking part in the Olympics
and were asked to find that flag. Using the computer program MacGlobe,
the students were directed to go into "country flags." Once
the flag was found, the pair would choose from an assortment of precut
flags and decide together which one they needed. They would work together
and colour the flag that was on their screen. When this was completed,
they were asked to go back into MacGlobe using country maps and using
the same country, find the picture of the flag they just completed
and listen to that country's National Anthem.
I enjoyed working with the students and staff on this project. It
gave me a chance to work with some of the students again that I had
taught in previous years. All students had the chance to work in an
environment that encouraged cooperative learning. I feel that this
Multiage Grouping Project that our school participated in was a learning
experience for all.
Return to Table of Contents
From Our Readers
would like to thank all of our readers who responded to the survey
which was included in our fall issue. We would particularly like to
thank Heather Jones and the K-3 teachers in District 2 who sent us
very thorough and thoughtful comments. The following is a summary
of what you said about the newsletter.
Over 3/4 of you said that you receive and read the paper. We have
some faithful cover to cover readers, but most of you indicated that
you read at least ½ of the issues. When asked how the material was
relevant to you, you said that it gave you ideas, confirmed what you
were already doing, and informed you about what other teachers in
the province are doing. One reader felt that the material was more
relevant to older children.
Many readers had favorite issues. The issue on Music was named most
frequently with Linking Home and School running a close second. One
reader indicated that the photos were important additions. Although
you enjoy articles, most of you do not share them with parents, politicians
or other professionals. Many did say though, that they would be willing
to share copies of the newsletter with others at their school as a
cost saving measure.
On the question of voices - most of you felt that we achieved
a balance between teachers, parents, children and early childhood
educators. One response suggested that we might want to include day
care workers. There was also one response that indicated there were
too many voices and another that indicated that there
should be more workshops on these topics so that we might all be able
to talk together.
You offered a wide range of suggestions for further issues. Here are
just a few: overview of teaching reading in New Brunswick, time management
in the classroom, literature based programs, portfolios, implementing
First Steps, appropriate discipline, story telling and readers theatre,
integrating science, social studies and health, outcomes and what
they mean to our practice, and parents in the classroom.
You have given us food for thought as we plan for the
coming school year. We will keep you informed as decisions are made
about this publication.
Return to Table of Contents
of the new resources recently listed in the Department
of Educations new catalogue of Instructional Materials on
this topic include:
* The Multi-Age Classroom: A Family
of Learners (Kasten and Clarke)
* A Multiage Classroom: Choice and Possibility (Maureen McCann Miletta)
* Choosing to Learn (Chase and Doan)
* Full Circle (Chase and Doan)
Many additional resources on this topic are available from the following
Crystal Springs Books
Ten Sharon Road
P.O. Box 500
to Table of Contents
Childhood Centre News is published by the:
Early Childhood Centre,
Faculty of Education,
University of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 4400,
We welcome your submissions. Please sign
your letters and include your mailing address and telephone number.
Hunt, Pam Nason and Pam Whitty
About Us |
Newsletters | Courses Offered
| The Gallery | What's
Happening | Our Arts Program | Links
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update: 2000/06/20