Grade Combination Classes-Please Share Your Experiences

[deleted account] ( 29 moms have responded )

My 1st grade son will be switching to a 1st/2nd combo class in a week. Due to high enrollment in both grade levels, but not high enough to create separate 1st and 3nd grade classrooms, the school is creating a 1st/2nd combo. It's a principal's worst nightmare to create combo classes.

He is among the top 25% of 1st grade, and will be in a class with the bottom 25% of the 2nd grade. He reads at a 3rd grade level, yet his math is still at grade level. I'm looking for all of your personal experience in how successful combo classes can be, or horror stories.

Also know that I have my own reservations because I am also a teacher- high school. I have my Master's in Curriculum & Instruction w/Administrative credentials. I'm posing this question purely from the elementary parent point of view.

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Sue - posted on 08/21/2011

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My daughter has been assigned to a 1st/2nd grade class, she is in 2nd this year, she will have the same teacher and class room as she did last year, she asked the question why am I being left behind to do 1st grade again,,she was top percent in her class last year, one of the brightest self motivated kids in her class, infact the work was not enough for her that I had to make assignments for her at home, I do not understand why this is happening and I am not happy, the school says give it a chance, nothing can be done now,,, what can I do.. I do not want my daughter to slip ,, Sue...

Leticia - posted on 08/28/2012

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I totally don't like this

I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT ANYBODY KNOW WHERE TO GO AND MAKE A COMPLAINT?

Michelle - posted on 09/06/2011

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My daughter is in a combo class and has flourished well. She is top of her class and gets a chance to work a higher grade and, at the same time, when her work is finished, she helps the children in the lower grade so they all work well together.

Denikka - posted on 09/06/2011

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I've found that the benefits/disadvantages have a lot to do with the individuals involved (teacher and student).
A lot of the classes at my elementary school were split (1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5, 5/6, 6, 7) I was not in many split classes (grade 2 was in the 2/3 and grade 3 was in the 3/4) so I had a bit of an outside view.
What I saw was this:
For those kids in the lower grade, it was great. There was opportunity for the faster learners to advance on their work, and the teachers were great about spending extra time with the slower learners.
On the flip side though, I saw a lot of kids in the higher grade getting left behind. The teachers were so concerned about keeping the younger kids on par that the older kids got forgotten. I also saw a lot of the teachers end up teaching the same things to both grades, using the same worksheets for both grades.
Because most of the classes were split, it generally ended up evening out in the long run. But if there were only one or two splits, I could see how it could run into a problem, not this year, but next year.

I also saw the separation of the students. Each grade and class basically kept to themselves with very little overlap. Grade 2's from the 1/2 class would almost never associate with the grade 2's from the 2/3 split. This got better in the higher grades, because by that point you've been in at least one class with everyone in your age range, and by grade 7, we were all completely integrated. But for the younger grades it was hard. I should also mention that we had communal breaks (everyone in the school took recess and lunch breaks at the same time).
I definitely think that it depends on a case by case basis. But I think that having split classes just makes more work and life more difficult for everyone involved.

Maria - posted on 08/28/2011

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I am also dealing with a combo class this year with my niece. This is the first time that we have dealt with a combo class, so we have no idea what to expect. She was struggling B4 when she was in a large class, so we moved her to a different school with smaller class where she could get more 1:1 time. Now we are worried that we may have moved her for nothing. I hope that she has success in the combo class. They have only been in school for about 13 days so it's still to early to tell.

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[deleted account]

Thanks for everyone's feedback. Here's an update, and to clarify the post above. My son's school does have individual grade level class plus 3 combo classes. Purely due to low enrollments and budget cuts in education. (What else is new?!) I met the 1/2 combo teacher last night for Open House and asked a lot of curricular questions and how the class is organized. 12 1st graders and 13 2nd graders. There is an aide that comes in 90 minutes in the morning & 90 minutes in the afetrnoon for Reading/Writing and Math blocks. I asked about the daily schedules and routines. I am confodent that teh 1st/2nd grade combo class will be a good fit for him. The only thing I don't like is that this class is cheduled to eat with the 2nd grade lunch time slot. The school has rotating lunch times per grade level, so my 1st grader is bumped up to the 2nd grade lunch time. He does see his 1st grade friends on the playground though. He will be fine and adapt well.

Sandy - posted on 09/02/2011

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Our sons attend a choice school that is all combined classes. Individual kindergarten, (2) individual 1st grade, (1) 1/2, and (2) 2/3, then 4/5 and 6,7,8. I was also in a combined class (MANY moons ago) for 6th grade. For our sons, the kids actually move to other teachers for math (based on level). Other subjects are taught together. So yes, one week they are all learning 4th grade spelling, the next 5th grade. By the time they finish 5th grade they will have completed requirements for both grades.

Being that your school will have only one combined grade, it sounds like it will be like the one I was in. It can be done and done well, if your school and teachers can organize it. For me, I remember my teacher would have a combined lesson of some sort for all of us, then she would have us 6th graders work on maybe math problems while she taught the 5th graders their lesson. It worked well, no one was distracted by the teaching.

If he is above level for reading, then the teacher should be able to give supplemental work for him. If he is at level for math, he will work right along with everyone else.

Combined classes are not for every child and I think it has more to do with maturity than will what level they are at for what subject. That is why our school has (2) individual 1st grade classes.

Carolyn - posted on 08/29/2011

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I have taught a 1st/2nd combo class before and had a child in a combo class in the past as well. It can be very beneficial for him since he will be exposed to work a head of his "grade level." It will help him mature and learn from the older children. Don't worry he'll be just fine.

Christy - posted on 08/28/2011

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Don't do it!! split classes are the worst idea. it is hard enough for teachers to get all their stuff done for one grade level, so if they have to do two, one will definitely fall behind. I think it would be better to get n aide.

Dorothy - posted on 08/26/2011

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My 7th grade daughter was in a multi-age class with 2 teachers from first grade through third grade. The first year it was first and second grade, and the following year, they moved the whole group up a grade to second and third. The final year, it was still second and third grade, with my daughter being in third that year. One teacher taught ELA and SS while the other taught Math, Science and Health. They would continually group and regroup the students according to their strengths/weaknesses, and strongly encouraged the students to mentor one another. We grew so close to the families and the teachers that it was difficult to move on to fourth grade with a new teacher and new families/students, but her fourth grade teacher was wonderful as well. It was a project based learning environment, and the two teachers have spoken at national conferences all over the place. The caveat is that I didn't get to know the other first, second and third grade teachers so well, and when my son began school there, I wasn't sure of which teachers would be a good fit for his learning style. I knew he was not the kind of child who would excel with project based learning, so we vered away from multiage with him. He has been very fortunate to have had some of the best teachers in the school as well to work with his learning style and accommodate his ADHD and slow processing speed. I know this is a lot of information about my experience with multiage, but all multiage classes are not created equal. The best thing you can do as a parent (not forgetting your role as an educator yourself) is to stay actively involved with your child's school. Give them feedback (both positive and negative if necessary) and show your support for something that came about out of necessity but that could be a great, new opportunity for other students/families in the future at your child's school. I was also in a 4th/5th grade combo class when I was in school, but we only had one teacher. She was really nice, but we did our work separately rather than as a single class. Of course, as a 4th grader at the time, I eavesdropped on the 5th graders' lessons and really learned alot to prepare me for 5th grade. Best wishes with this situation, and I am sure your child will do extremely well and may even have the opportunity to mentor some of the older kids in his class since he has great reading skills!

Kimberley - posted on 08/26/2011

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Both my children were placed in first/second combo classes and were at the top of their class and the experience was wonderful! They both graduated high school at the top of their class and Serra cd Ted at Wellesley College and Dartmouth College, so I would not worry about it, cuz so much of school success depends on parental involvement! Best of luck to you and your child!

[deleted account]

There are positive advantages of teaching the same kids at a different grade level. As a teacher, my most successful year was looping 7th grade Reading to 8th grade Reading. By the end of the year, I had my Honor's classes at the 10th grade level. But,this was not a multi-age class at all.
My primary concern is curriculm delivery. Is half teh rom 1st grade doing 1st grade stuff, and teh 2nd graders ignored? And then vice cersa-2nd grade doing 2nd grade material, and 1st graders ignore? Or is the class mixed in content. 2nd graders begin formal state assessments, but 1st graders do not. Is lunch & recess going to be with 1st grade peers and friends form last year, or bumped up to the 2nd grade lunch/recess slot? Plus, as of righ tnow there is no permanant teacher; only a long term sub. That's my concern. Right now there is a review on Kinder material-when is he going to learn new 1st grade curriculum?

Sue - posted on 08/23/2011

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I wouldn't mind if it was. 2nd/3rd,,but. Was so far ahead last year,I don't want her to slip. Same teacher as last year and I wsasnt impressed then, fingers crossed we shall see.. open mind,

Sylvia - posted on 08/23/2011

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I was in split classes for most of elementary school (2/3, then 4/5/6), because that was how my school did things -- open-area classrooms, team teaching, specialists for math, music, art, PE, science and computers, demo lessons for the local Faculty of Ed. It took me a while to realize that not every school did things that way! My experience with split-grade classes was positive overall; the setup allowed a lot of flexibility (the teachers spent considerable time and effort on dividing up the classes for different lessons as appropriate; if you were in Grade 5, for instance, you might be with mostly 4's for math but with mostly 6's for novel study). The problem of course is that there's a ceiling effect.

My DD's school has split-grade classes because there's a provincially mandated limit on class sizes, but so far she's never been in one. That will change in September when she starts Grade 4 in a 4/5 split. Because split-grade classrooms at this school are a matter of necessity, not policy, I suspect they are not as well thought through and managed as the classrooms I grew up with. But I'm reserving judgement until we see how this year goes ...

Sue - posted on 08/23/2011

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My daughter is starting out with a negative vibe about the class alrelady. She has it in her head that because it is the same teacher and classroom as last year,she did something wrong, the teacher was only a first grade teacher last year, and. I had to ask the teacher for harder work for my daughter she wasn't stimulated enough, now it is a combo class, I feel like my daughter is going to fall behind. If the teacher couldn't keep her up to speed in first graded how will sahed handle a first and second?

Beth - posted on 08/23/2011

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I just requested to have both of my children put in the multiage classes in my elementary school. The way that it works at this school is probably a little different with very good results, and using peer mentoring. I don't know just talked to the principal and he suggested the class because the teachers that he had in there were really good. From what I hear if done right the multiage classes are really good for the kids.

[deleted account]

Becky, that's a valid point-the boy/girl ratio of each class. Fortunately, my son tends to gravitate towards the older kids and I wouldn;t worry at all in the socialization factor. But it is something to consider and inquire about. I'm primarily concerned with how the curriculum will be delivered.

Becky - posted on 08/22/2011

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My daughter didn't have a very good experience in her 1/2 split. I think that it had a lot to do with the fact that it was heavy on the gr.2s and she was in grade1. There were quite a few other grade 1 boys, but only one other grade one girl. The grade two girls did not treat them as equals or friends. I would look into the make up of the classroom - specifically how many other grade 1 boys will be in the class. Hope this helps.Becky

Nichole - posted on 08/22/2011

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I worry a bit too about mixed classes. My kids are going to a small private school this year where the 1/2 and the 2/3 are combined. I am going to involve myself as much as I can, and pray.

[deleted account]

Thank you for your feedback ladies. I appreciate all of your comments. I am willing to give it a try and see how my sone does this semester. If I find that he is not benefiting or growing educationally, I will make a classroom switch at the semester break.

Jane - posted on 08/21/2011

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My kids were in Montessori school, where having three grades together in on class is the norm. It worked beautifully there, BUT,,, there were only 12 kids in a room. Combo classes can be wonderful, or they can be a nightmare. Keep an eye on things and see what you can do to help your child be successful. If you really feel it isn't working for your son, move him out of that class. If the principal says no, don't be shy about going over her/his head. Their job is to educate as many as possible to a minimum standard while yours is to see that your son gets the best education he can.

Michelle - posted on 08/21/2011

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my son was in a 1/2 split class when he was in grade one which was really beneficial for him however when he went into grade 2 he was quite bored as the majority of the stuff they were covering he had done the year before. So though they can gain a lot of ground being in the younger grade they may have some set backs when they are back in a normal class.

Sue - posted on 08/21/2011

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My daughter hadsz been assigned to a 1st/2nd grade class, szhe isz in 2nd this year, she will have the same teacher and class room as she did last year, she asked the question why am I being left behind to do 1st grade again,,she was top percent in her class last year, one of the brightest self motivated kids in her class, infact the work was not enough for her that I had to make assignments for her at home, I do not understand why this is happening and I am not happy, the school says give it a chance, nothing can be done now,,, what can I do.. I do not want my daughter to slip ,, Sue...

Anita - posted on 08/21/2011

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My son is in a combo class and has been since he started school. Its fantastic for kids who need the extra stimulation because they are smart. My son did extremely well his first year, then we had a teacher change and he started to struggle. To cut a long story short, he is now repeating grade 2 instead of enduring G3! But because of the composite class he is still with his G3 peers. It has been fantastic for him, he is a lot more confident then last year.
My Daughter, who started at the same school this year is not in a composite class, as enrolments were high enough to have 1 class of preps. (classes are; prep; G1-2; G2-3; G4-5..) I believe she is being held back. She is in the top 5 in her class, yet the bottom kids are so far behind that the top kids aren't getting the stimulation I believe they would, if they were in a combo class! We have started extra work at home to help her out, which she wants to do, as she is getting bored with the "easy" work at school.

Lissa - posted on 08/21/2011

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I agree with Naomi, having a mixed class enabled my children to work at a higher level than others of their age while still being in the same social circle. My experiences have also only been positive.

Shannintipton - posted on 08/21/2011

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My son was in a 2nd/3rd grade combo. He was in 2nd grade. I hated it. There were not enough directions on the assignments. He was considered advanced that is why he was selected for this class. I just think it lacked directions on the teachers part. Just my opinion. It could have been the teacher too. I didnt like her. I did not find her as a team player. He seemed frustrated by the assignments. I dont think I would mind if he were in a combo class again as long as it was not this teacher. So I dont really know if this will help you. I should mention that he was exposed to higher up curriculum such as hand writing. All I can say is good luck.

Naomi - posted on 08/21/2011

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HI. Im a british primary school teacher and combining classes is quite common here. Your son (depending on the teacher) should really benefit with his Maths as he will have the oportunity too work at a higher level, benefitting from the planning and resources available to the 2nd Grade class. As for his reading then a bit like my son who has just turned 6 and has a reading age of 11 he will continue to thrive and the teacher should support his obvious ability in this area. I hope he gets on OK. I only have very positive experiences of combo classes. Hope this helps. naomi

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