I received a couple of emails asking for advice on teaching in a multi-grade classroom setting. I am not an expert by any means, I have only done two teaching practices after all but I will share what I have gathered so far!
1. I would highly recommend trying a multi-grade setting on teaching practice. The majority of schools in Ireland consist of mixed classes, so to me it is necessary to get the experience. Anything to give that edge in an interview. I am completing all my teaching practices in multi-grade classrooms. This might go against me when job hunting in single classroom schools but it’s a personal preference and hopefully it’ll work out.
2. If you are going to try a multi-grade classroom, do it with the senior end. I had 4th- 6th recently and it was a dawdle compared to junior infants-second class!
3. Show differentiation EVERYWHERE in your lesson plans. I had it in the objectives, in the development and the conclusion, and of course assessment. I thought I may have gone overboard with it but the inspector said it was necessary.
4. When teaching, I used to start them all off together on the same topic. I would then let 6th class off to work independently while I sat with 4th and 5th and helped them. I was worried about doing this for the inspector, as essentially I wasn’t teaching 6th class for half the lesson, but again she said that’s the only way to work it.
5. If you are doing multi-grade with the juniors, ( I mean JI-2nd, not JI and SI) then have stations set up everywhere. The younger ones finish work in five or ten minutes, and it’s impossible to work with 1st and 2nd while you have junior infants grappling for your attention! I would recommend having a play doh station, colouring stations, a maths table, jigsaws and puzzles. There’s a great document called 100 tasks for early finishers on a blog called ‘If Only The Best Birds Sang’ which I used all the time.