Multi-age classrooms are one of the main features of Montessori schools that set them apart from traditional schools. A child in a Montessori school will be placed in a classroom not by exact age, but by his individual level of development. Typically, students are grouped according to which plane of development they fall into. The planes of development include the following age groups: 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, and 15-18 years old. These three-year cycles are based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s psychological studies and scientific observations of the child.
Why it Matters
Unlike a traditional school system which sets only one teacher per year, mixed-age classrooms allow children to stay with the same teacher for multiple years. This lets the teacher develop a deeper bond with each student and allows them to gain a deeper understanding of each child’s individual needs, leading to a more effective teaching method. Children are also able to cultivate a more relaxed feeling around their teacher and their classmates because they have known them for a longer time. Because they are comfortable with their surroundings, the children are able to focus easily on their education without the worry and challenges of having to get to know a new teacher and a new set of classmates every year.
Montessori classrooms foster life-long leadership skills. In each mixed age classroom, the older students have the opportunity to become like mentors to the younger students. These mentors help to teach their mentees concepts and ideas that are more advanced. The mentors are also there to answer any questions that their younger mentees might have. This form of peer-to-peer learning is beneficial to the mentor and the mentee as both of them gain skills by collaborating with one another. Teaching the younger students helps the older students reinforce their own knowledge base, while the younger students benefit from having a mentor who is readily available to help them.
How it Affects Development
According to Dr. Maria Montessori, as children pass through the planes of development, they begin to develop certain attributes and needs according to the aforementioned age groupings. Each period of transformation is taken into consideration in the Montessori classroom, where children are grouped according to their plane of development in order to maximize the child’s learning. As they remain with the same teacher throughout these three-year cycles, more understanding is gained and the teacher is easily able to base the education on each child’s individual needs.
Additionally, having the opportunity to interact with other children, who are either younger or older, can help a child develop important social skills. Oftentimes, younger children are intimidated by older children simply because they have not interacted with them before. However, in a Montessori classroom as students of different ages interact with each other on a daily basis, they become more comfortable playing and learning with older children. Furthermore, by being around children of different ages, they are exposed to three or more levels of all subjects at all times. This constant cognitive stimulation sparks a greater and more organic interest in learning.
We designed our multi-age classrooms here at Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs to help our students develop leadership skills, confidence in their abilities, and a deep love of learning. Children learn how to get along with others and resolve conflicts peacefully in our classrooms. They also learn the importance of being kind to others, sharing learning materials, and providing assistance when other students need help. All of these are valuable skills that will last your child a lifetime.