First time in a split class? Let’s chat.

Angela Education & Learning 3 Comments

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Facing a split class for the first time can be nerve racking for parents.

While the kids often seem to be unfazed by the idea of split classes, many parents are plagued with doubt and questions.

Will my child be left behind ?
Will me child be challenged enough?
How will the teacher manage the variation of behavior levels?
What about my child who is already the youngest in his class?
How can 1 teacher teach 2 levels of a subject at the same time?
Is my child just repeating lower grade work?
Will there be more bullying?
Is my child at a disadvantage vs single grade classes?

Since the topic keeps coming up within our team and with other parents who are worried, we talked to an elementary school teacher in North Vancouver who has taught both split and singe grade classes, and a mom of one of the boys in that teacher’s class last year. Here are the key points from our chat:

split class
Elementary School Teacher
(Mrs. P. )
  • Mrs. P. has been a teacher for 6 years: 2 split classes, 2/3  &  4/5
  • She admits split classes have been her favourites to teach so far, mostly because of the exceptional community building she’s witnessed among kids of different ages
  • The perception that younger kids will be left behind or older not challenged in split classes has not been her experience in how it actually plays out in the class
  • When teaching a concept to a group of students who could be up to 2 years apart in age (e.g. math), Mrs. P. often divides the class into two groups. She uses the solo work time for one half of the class to do worksheets to reinforce existing learning, while she teaches the other half of the class new skills & concepts – then everyone switches. She finds that the time to work independently builds confidence, self regulation, & self sufficiency, which are vital to student growth.
  • Working together fosters friendships amongst the grades which translates to more of a community feel on the playground outside at recess and lunch. Children of different grade levels have the opportunity to form bonds which may otherwise not exist.
  • Parents should know that school administration and teachers spend a lot of time planning of classes & class composition. Many discussions are had regarding which students would benefit from having the chance to flourish as leaders in the class in the older half of a split (e.g. shy or reserved) and which younger children may thrive in a split class learning to model self regulation & autonomy from the older students.
Parent
( Verna O.)
  • First split class experience was her son’s grade 2/3 class
  • Her biggest fears: will my child have access to the proper curriculum, and will he feel separated from rest of his peers who were put in the single grade class?

What would you tell other parents who are worried about their child being in a split class for the first time?

“Like facing anything for the first time, people can be nervous about the “unknown”.  Will my child have access to the proper curriculum, will my child feel separated from the rest of his peers, etc.  All valid questions but at the end of the day, it all works out in the end and will continue to work as we move forward in years to come.

I admit I was initially very unhappy when I first heard my child was in a split class.  However, I will also be the first to admit that I was so wrong about my initial reaction.  That first split class year ended up being an amazing school year on so many levels for both my son and myself.  He was put in a position where he could lead his younger peers and work hard at being a good role model.  It was exactly what he needed for his own development at the time.  The blended group overall meshed so wonderfully and their teacher fully supported this positive and caring group.  As a parent, it was so wonderful to see a group of kids who truly cared for one another regardless of their grade.  Split or blended classes are going to be part of your child’s elementary school career at one point or another, and I encourage families to be at least open to the idea.”

It seems that there can be huge social advantages to split classes for many kids.

What have your experiences been? We are keen to continue this conversation!

Leave a comment below about your fears or experiences surrounding split classes… as it looks like they may be here to stay.

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Comments 3

  1. I was in a lot of split classes when I went to elementary like 20 years ago. I didn’t notice anything different to be honest but I don’t remember much. In my opinion, if you have a good teacher, it won’t matter because they would be a good teacher either way.

  2. The school district in which I teach refers to multi grade classes as “combined” classes and not “split” classes. Teachers work hard to establish a community of learners, regardless of the composition of the class. When we view our children’s classes as combined rather than split, we can imagine greater potential for learning across all areas of the curriculum, and we recognise that learning is a collaborative process.

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