4 and 5-year-olds learn better together
The differences in a dual-age classroom improve learning
Dual-age kindergarten brings together everything we know about how young children learn best. The fact that four and five-year-olds are together in the same classroom does not detract from their learning--quite the opposite. We use the differences in age and development to help the children learn and achieve more than they would in a same-age classroom. The bottom line--four and five-year-olds learn better
From more than 30 years of research in Canada, the United States and Europe, we know young children benefit in many ways from being and learning with children of different ages. Dual-age classrooms improve student achievement and get children off to the best possible start in those crucial first years of school.
Young children develop at their own pace, regardless of age
All children learn and develop at their own pace--especially young children. A five-year-old may be advanced in mathematical reasoning for her age, but may be less socially adept than some other children her age. A four-year-old may have verbal skills and vocabulary beyond other classmates of his age, but trail behind some other four-year-olds in learning and printing the alphabet.
In a dual-age classroom, as in every good classroom, the teacher will assess each child's strengths and will work with them on individual areas of improvement. The teacher will work with children individually, in small groups and as a whole class to help them learn and achieve.
Putting children of different ages together is nothing new
In a neighbourhood or a family, you will typically find children of different ages doing things together. In a family, parents find that their older child learns to take responsibility for younger siblings and that younger children learn skills more quickly by imitating an older sibling. The family plans its activities to meet the needs of all the children, whatever their ages.
The same principle holds true for dual-age classrooms. The fact that there are four-year-olds in the class won't mean that the five-year-olds will be deprived of the opportunity to learn to their full potential. The teacher will design the kindergarten program to meet the needs of all students in the class. In fact, if you were to go into a dual-age classroom and observe the children, you would not be able to tell who is four and who is five. You would see children learning together.
Children learn well from each other
At all ages, children learn from each other. They imitate, instruct, direct and follow one another's knowledge, ideas and feelings. The younger children observe and imitate the more "capable" older children, while the older children develop leadership skills and take responsibility for the younger members of the group. Research shows that young children in multi-age groupings do better academically and socially than children in groups of the same age.
Here are some of the ways
all children benefit from the dual-age kindergarten classroom. Compared to children in same-age classrooms, they:
have more opportunities to practice, consolidate and extend what they have learned
are encouraged to think for themselves
are more independent and responsible
are more confident and self-assured
are more often challenged to go to a higher level of learning
have a more positive attitude about school
novices learn from each other
One of the most important ways children of different ages stimulate each others' learning is by taking on the roles of "expert" and "novice." Typically, but not always, the older child is the
expert. For example, the
expert child might initiate a shopping game--writing signs and putting price tags on items--and the younger child would participate in the game.
expert child benefits in several ways:
being in a leadership role gives the child an opportunity to consolidate what he has learned and to extend it or apply it in a new way
expert increases the child's self-esteem and confidence about her own learning
a child who might not be seen as an
expert in a group of children the same age has an opportunity for leadership with younger children
novice child is often, but not always, the younger child, who also benefits from the interaction:
with the help of an
novice can participate in more complex activities than he could initiate on his own
her vocabulary and the way she speaks becomes more complex, to match the way the older child is speaking
he learns new skills by imitating the
Children behave better in dual-age groupings
An important part of kindergarten is introducing children to the school environment, helping them learn how to interact with other children and letting them know what behaviour is expected in school. Research shows the dual-age classroom has a positive affect on children's behaviour.
In dual-age classes, children are more caring and co-operative with each other. They tend to do better at sharing, taking turns and helping each other. In same-age groupings, they tend to be more competitive and aggressive.
Children are more sociable, outgoing and self-confident, because there is more social interaction in the dual-age classroom. For example, a five-year-old who is shy and withdrawn may feel more comfortable making friends with some of the younger children in the class.
The children who are more mature in their development have a positive influence on those who are less mature. At the same time, when the older children in a dual-age class are encouraged to remind younger children of the rules and routines, they are more self-disciplined about following the rules themselves.
Children like school more. In dual-age classes, most children will be with the same teacher for two years, so they develop a strong bond with the teacher. The teacher also gets to know them well, which helps her to assess how each child is learning and developing.
Want to know more?
For more information about the dual-age kindergarten program of the Peel board:
talk to your local school
call Curriculum and Instruction Support Services, 905-890-1010/1-800-668-1146 ext. 2570 or 2548