Up until now I have been a teacher of Years 4-6. Part of my personal inquiry and appraisal goals this year is to develop an understanding of the 'junior' years - particularly the development within this range. This is partly a forced decision because of the make-up of our school roll, however, it's an area that I've been willing to dig my toes into.
Within our habitat we currently have an age range of 'experienced' Year 1s to Y4s. Each Learning Mentor has a Mentor Group, which is similar concept to a high schoolers 'Home Room'. These groups are mixed Y1-4.
As we are at the beginning of the year, and the beginning of history(!) the school focus is on establishing relationships, culture and routines. We are spending a lot of time with our mixed-aged Mentor Group.
It's been really interesting for me to see the difference in these students and to understand and appreciate all the extra learning those newer to school students have. Obviously there is a difference in academic ability, but not only is all that core learning going on, students are learning just how to be at school.
It is usual to have a range of ability within a traditional classroom as well. However, usually it might be one or two students at the extreme. With a mix of Y1-4, the difference seems to be more extreme - perhaps it's that knowledge of school life is missing in those younger ones, so your not just educating to academic needs, but there is another layer. E.g., a Y3 with good knowledge of learning routines, reading at L8, is different to a Y1 who is reading at L8 but also needs teaching about learning routines. Do you put them in the same group?
It is wonderful to have the older students to model those habits and to become leaders within the group. For me, I really need to consider that balance in being a leader and being a babysitter. I believe it's really important the latter doesn't happen for two reasons: 1) The Y3-4s need their own extension and 2) the Y1s deserve the best quality teaching from the trained professional. So now, how do I find that balance?
As we begin to establish learning groups across the habitat, some of the questions forming in my head will be more easily answered. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the company of my mentor group and getting to know those individuals. And, as the year progresses I look forward to reflecting back on this topic to develop my philosophy.