Group teaching and multi-age classrooms

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Group teaching and multi-age classrooms

There are three elements of design in terms of establishing systems within PS1 Pluralistic school that I want to speak to. The first one is multi-age grouping. We have a two year overlap of ages or grades or grade equivalents in the school. So there's a kindergarten-first grade, first-second, third-fourth. And the reason for that is again, recognizing that children learn in different ways at different rates at different times. So there's not a certain body of knowledge or a certain level that every child should be expected to reach at a certain time. Instead, brain research has taught us over the last 35 years that our brains develop differently. Our brains develop in a range of different ways and emphases. So we don't want to pigeon hole a child and limit them in any way, but neither do we want to extend them beyond what they are ready for. So by having that kind of overlap in ages, every child gets an opportunity to be an older during some of the years that they're at school, and a younger at other times during their school experience. And that's kind of what happens in life too, in terms of ages of people that we interact with or skills that people have, so it really imitates life. Children also measure themselves naturally against their peer group. If their peer group is always changing, then they get to see themselves in different kinds of ways. Multi-age grouping is a tremendous advantage in working with children. Another piece we have in talking about 21st century skills and collaboration - we have two lead teachers in every classroom. So the class size can be more if you have more than one teacher. But it's not a teacher and an aide. It's not a teacher and an assistant. It's not a teacher and a sometime assistant shared between two classes. It's two lead teachers who are planning and interacting with your child and with the parents on a daily basis and establishing a program together. So it's not one person's domain. They're giving feedback to each other all the time. There's more of a go-to person that different kids will have to one person than another. So you don't have to give up a year in which you say you didn't have a good teacher that year, something like that. Two teachers is a tremendous advantage, and it sets the tone of different people working together that you want to model for young children. A third piece is the size of the school. In order to feel like I am somebody, that I matter, that I know every inch of this place, that I feel like I have this ownership and mastery before I graduate and move on to the next level, but I've been to the mountaintop, elementary schools have to be small. They have to be small and on a scale that's comprehensible to young children. Too small leads to insecurity, because you feel like you can't make it in other situations. You can only make it within the small confines of your school. But too large is the even greater problem that just says, I am nobody. I am between these two fences. They're pushing me through. I'm a number. And all the other things that many of us have had through some of our school experience. It doesn't have to be that way.

See Joel Pelcyger's video on Group teaching and multi-age classrooms...


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Joel Pelcyger

Head of School

Joel Pelcyger is the Founder and Head of PS1 Pluralistic School, an elementary school for grades K-6. PS1 was founded in 1971 and is a family-oriented, independent, and non-profit school located in the heart of Santa Monica, CA.

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