The tradition of multi-age classrooms began with Dr. Maria Montessori’s first school, the Casa dei Bambini, which she opened in 1907 to serve the working parents of the San Lorenzo neighborhood in Rome. Grouping the children together gave Dr. Montessori the opportunity to take a scientific approach to education, where she implemented her educational theories and observed the results.
“Our schools have shown how children of different ages help one another. The younger ones watch what the older ones are doing and ask all kinds of questions, and the older ones explain. This is really useful teaching, for the way that a five year old interprets and explains things is so much nearer than ours to the mind of a child of three that the little one learns easily, whereas we would scarcely be able to get through to him.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Students in Montessori schools are often grouped into three-year tiers, though this can be adjusted depending upon the child’s level of development. Generally, children up to three years old are placed in a “toddler” classroom, ages 3-6 comprise a “primary” classroom, and elementary classrooms are split into lower elementary with ages 6-9 and an upper elementary with students aged 9-12.
Benefits of Montessori Multi-Age Classrooms
1. Creating an Independent Learning Environment.
Independence is a fundamental concept in the Montessori educational philosophy. Multi-age classrooms allow children to learn at their own pace, creating the room needed for their independent frame of study.
2. Learning by Teaching.
Multi-age classrooms allow older students to mentor the younger ones. This helps children develop a deeper understanding and mastery of the subject, as teaching something often helps one improve their comprehension of the topic.
3. Developing Important Life Skills.
Teaching the younger children helps students develop empathy and patience. It also allows them to work on their leadership skills. These are all very valuable skills that will be useful later in their life.
4. Creating a Diversity of Experience.
Having students of different age groups in the same classroom provides diversity of background and experiences, which helps enrich the learning experience. Gathering students of different ages also helps prepare them for future life scenarios, especially work, where people of various ages are required to interact and collaborate.
5. An Opportunity to Observe.
Multi-age classrooms give younger students the opportunity to observe the older students, enabling them to act as “sponges” that absorb information and proper behavior. This indirect exposure to information can prepare them at an early age for more advanced lessons in the future.
6. A Stronger Student-Teacher Bond.
A mixed-age classroom allows students to stay with the same teacher for more than one year, which helps them develop a special bond and feel more relaxed around their instructor. It also helps teachers be more effective, as they learn what methods and motivators work best for each individual student.
Multi-Age Classrooms Promote an Independent Environment
At La Prima Casa Montessori, our multi-age classrooms promote the independent environment that is at the core of the Montessori philosophy. Our students have the freedom to progress at their own pace, while also learning from their peers and being guided by our experienced instructors.