It’s official. Summer is over. A whole new school year began almost a week ago. I personally love a brand new school year. I love the promise of opportunity. The fresh start. The excitement. I even the unknown. You don’t know who you’ll meet, or what you’ll experience. Sometimes you love the hand you’re dealt, and others? You have to find a way to love the change. Such was the case with my son’s classroom assignment this year.
My daughter started kindergarten (HOW?!), and while that could be a whole post in itself- she has done amazingly well this past few days. However, to sum up in the few days before: she was anxious, I was a nervous wreck, and my husband keeps telling us both to chill out. It does help that she was put in my son’s previous kindergarten teacher’s class. We know she is a wonderful teacher, and while I know there will be days I am battling the tears – I DO know her teacher is fantastic.
My son? A whole OTHER story. Our excitement soon vanished when we read “Grade 1/2 SPLIT” at the top of his classroom assignment. Come again? Why is MY child in SPLIT class?! Why is he in first grade again? What even IS a SPLIT CLASS?! I had so many questions, and it did not help at all that my son was initially completely disappointed with the classroom he was placed in. I immediately emailed the teacher and began my research as if I were completing my dissertation in 48 hours. WHAT?! HOW will that work? WHY is my child REPEATING first grade? I still don’t get it. HOW IS THIS GOING TO WORK?! I patiently waited for the principal to answer my email bursting with questions, and was pleasantly surprised with the statistics I found from my split class scrutinization.
So without further ado: just a few reasons why split classes are pretty great.
Real quick. What are split classrooms? Split or composite classes are just that- a classroom in which two grade levels are taught in the same room with the same teacher (sometimes, there is a second teacher). For example, a split 2/3 class would be a classroom of both second graders and third graders.
1. The kids are closer/develop a community
Students within composite classrooms are found to have a closer bond with one another due to a couple of reasons. The first is that due to regulations, split classes are quite smaller than traditional classrooms. This allows the children to know one another on a deeper level. Additionally, friendships and bonds are formed between grade levels and ages which most likely would not exist without that special connection. This has the added bonus of decreased bullying among the children.
2. Let me say it again – classes are smaller
It seems like class sizes are growing larger and larger every year, right? In some ways, I guess they are. A 4th grade class is going to be much bigger than a kindergarten class. So, if you had the choice…Who doesn’t want their child in a smaller class? Okay, no. I do not want my son in a class of three students. But for him to have the opportunity to get more one on one attention to focus on what he needs? Sign me up!
3. Following the leader
An anticipated perks of being on the older side of the spectrum in a split/combo/composite/errrbody’s in your class model is, that the older children in the room have opportunities to develop leadership qualities. Now, my child is super smart. Nerd smart. An area he could use some tweaking? Social skills. Now, he has absolutely NO issues bossing his sister around, and no, I do not want him leaving school this year ordering other kids around. However, I DO want him to build his confidence. I want him to stand up for himself more. I don’t want him to worry so much about what other kids want, think, like- I want it to be what HE wants, thinks, likes and does. I don’t need him to be selfish, but I DO need him to be assertive and grounded in who he is as an individuals
4. Good ol’ empathy
This sort of goes along with community, and social skills. However, older children in the rooms have been found to develop a greater sense of empathy. My son can definitely use a refresher course. He may or may not be way too honest for this own good Hint- it’s may). Older children in the classrooms have picked up on the younger ones struggling with a problem, remembered themselves struggling with a problem in the past and/or what it is like to not know the answer while in front of an audience, and been more inept to help. Not only does this establish helping behaviors in the classroom, but on the playground, at home, wherever!
*Bonus: when older children in the room help the younger ones, they reinforce their own skills. This means they get more practice at what they already learned. This not only makes them more confident, but ALSO eager to learn more!
5. Work at their own pace
Split classes allow for more leniency when it comes to a child’s learning space and pace. When a child excels in one subject, he is able to explore the subject with likeminded students on his same level. However, if he requires more attention in another topic, he has the option to devote to more practice to that area without falling too far behind due to the open grade structure.
Interestingly, research has shown there is no difference in academic achievements between children in split classes versus traditional single grade setups. So, what it is that makes the difference? It really all comes down to an amazing teacher, wonderful environment, supportive parents and most of all – an incredible kid.