Mixed Age Group Learning
OCK started mixed age groups in 2022, in order to improve the educational outcomes for children and to increase flexibility of options for parents.
What are Mixed-Age Groups at OCK?
Mixed-age grouping is an educational model which allows children to be grouped according to different age ranges. For us at OCK, this means combining 3, 4 and sometimes 5-year old’s in the one learning group. Montessori schools have used this approach for decades but due to the way government funding has been structured in Victoria, we have been unable to offer this model in the past.
Mixed-age grouping provides opportunities for younger and older children to learn from each other. The goal is to build confidence in younger children as well as enhance their language and behavioral skills, whilst maximising intellectual potential.What are the Benefits of Mixed Age Groups?
Research shows there are many benefits to all children in a mixed age group kinder. Here are a few:
1. Mixed age classrooms mimic family structures and neighbourhood groupings
Family structures and neighbourhood groups have historically provided the primary source of education and socialisation for children. Today, due to smaller families and families living away from their main family, children often do not have opportunities to interact with children outside their own age group. This model brings the benefits of these structures to kinder.
Siblings can have the opportunity to play with, and near, each other if they wish to (which can help younger siblings settle in to care). Additionally, children with no young siblings get the chance to be a ‘big sister’ or ‘big brother’ and form relationships with children of younger ages.
Children get to practice turn-taking and sharing, and there is often less conflict over toys and equipment because different ages have different needs and interests.
2. Social and Emotional Learning is Enhanced
Mixed-age grouping has great potential to better support children’s social and emotional learning. Older children often feel less threatened and more confident interacting with younger children and are more inclined to help teach, share and explain with younger children. Doing this helps develop critical social skills including their sense of responsibility and empathy skills.
Children in mixed-age groups also feel a greater sense of security as they are always surrounded by someone higher or lower than them in experience. Having someone to motivate them gives children the confidence they need to move forward, and having someone with less experience helps them feel more secure with their skills.
Younger children in mixed-age groups are also given the opportunity of contributing to more complex activities and there is greater acceptance of different abilities. This helps develop their self-esteem. Younger children interacting with older playmates, can gain more emotional support and social learning from older children than from those near their own age, who are not yet capable of supporting them emotionally.
Shy and less confident children get the chance to mix with younger children to build their confidence. Over time, this helps them interact with kids their own age and older. Children with developmental delays can also benefit from playing with younger children who share their interests or abilities.
Mixed age groups are also more diverse. Children get the opportunity to become tolerant of others, with support from educators.
3. Language and development
Mixed age groups help stimulate each child’s development. Younger children take on board more exciting and broadened activities which promotes their development, often with a one-on-one tutor helping them along the way! Whilst older children help teach their peers new skills, in the process they are also helping to reinforce their own learning.
Already having an understanding of the importance of positive behaviour and social responsibility, older children can demonstrate the same to younger children. Also, younger ones can look up to their seniors as role models and put to use what they’re learning as they grow.
Young children are exposed to more advanced language levels and complexity, which develops their communication skills. In turn, older children learn how to change their language, behaviour and expectations to meet the age of the children they’re playing with, and often become skilled at ‘reading’ and responding to younger children’s non-verbal clues.
4. Makes Children Cooperative rather than Competitive
Since every learner is of the same age in a traditional classroom setting, the inclination to compete and come first can become the sole objective for children. Instead of embracing the journey together, they forget to have fun while they learn.
In mixed-age groups children are more likely become more cooperative. During activities, they learn to care for themselves as well as their peers while they learn together. The mixed-age learning model opens up new doors of perspective and helps children see each other as individuals rather than contenders.