Looking back at my school experiences as a student, I would have to say that I had never been a part of a split grade class or had ever heard of them for that matter. So naturally, this was something I was excited to learn about!While looking into the information about multi-grades, I often found information talking about how split grades are often implemented as a result of class sizes. The fact that I come from a small town in rural Manitoba with a small school population and have never experienced split grades surprises me. After doing some more reading, I think the reason for this was that class sizes in my school division were still in that middle margin that allowed the school to remain setup into straight grades. The student population was neither too small to have only one class, nor too big that part of a class had to be combined with another part of a class. As a result, it was not until this last while in university that I started to learn about what split grades are and how to work with them in education.
Another thing that I learned by doing some inquiry as well as working with a split grade for my pre-internships is that there is some concern with there being the two different grades in the same classroom. It is often thought that this causes an even greater divide between the variety of learning abilities and demands. Without looking further into the practices behind teaching split grades, this would seem like a plausible concern. However, through reading and teaching, I found some tips and tricks that are useful in terms of managing a split grade that benefit all learners.
- Teaching Thematically – To do this, it works best to examine the curriculum and look for strands/areas that are related or that can be connected to each other by using a theme. This can be done as you are designing the unit and will form a curriculum map which displays the pathways that the two grades will be going.
- Differentiation – As I taught the split grade 6/7 class, I found that it really is no different than teaching a straight grade. After you have connected all the outcomes to teach to a common theme, the class will feel as if it is one grade. There ends up being just as much differentiation needed in a straight grade as there would be in a split grade. It is important to accommodate all types of learners; so, differentiation happens no matter what grade the students are in.
- Address the students as if they were one class – It is important that there is a sense of community in the classroom. Yes, the students will be meeting different outcomes, but it is important that we don’t draw attention to that divide in a negative way. Have the students from both grade collaborating on projects or find other ways to build those relationships and connections between the two grades. The students will then be able to learn from and build off of each other’s strengths.
If you are interested in learning more about teaching split grades or are looking for more resources, checkout another blog that Amy Klassen and I have put together for our ECS 311 course. To visit it click here!