At Hampton Lutheran, we use a combined classrooms model for teaching: Two grades are taught in the same room by the same teacher. This means our preschool and kindergarten, first and second grade, third and fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade each share a classroom and teacher.
The benefits of combined classrooms for elementary students are many—but first, let’s take a look at what combined classrooms look like at HLS.
What Combined Classrooms Look Like at HLS
In our combined classrooms, we have distinct areas for classroom instruction and areas where the kids can work. Alternative seating is very popular in today’s classroom. It is not necessary for desks to be lined up in rows and for the children to sit in their chairs to work.
Some children prefer to work standing up, so some classrooms have a higher desk where kids can work. Some children prefer to sit on the floor, or even under something, to do their work. Each teacher decides how much freedom to give students in their workspace, depending on how productive a child can be in their work environment. Letting students have some choice promotes ownership in the classroom and the work that the kids produce. This flexibility helps our combined classrooms function and helps kids find places to work while the other grade level is learning.
Is it strange having two grades of kids in the same room? Not really! Even in a combined classroom, the students are basically the same age. Sometimes the lower grade child may still be the oldest one in the classroom. Because of this closeness in age, the dynamics of a combined classroom usually work out well.
Combined classrooms benefit all students, even ones who are a little behind or gifted academically. Different levels of teaching can provide a framework that kids need to be successful. And in our classrooms, class sizes are often small, which gives students more one-on-one time with peers and their teacher.
3 Benefits of Combined Classrooms
The big advantages of a combined classroom include peer teaching and learning, repetition for remedial learning, and independent learning. Here’s how combined classrooms benefit your kid’s education and growth:
1. Kids learn from their peers.
Peer teaching involves older students mentoring or teaching younger students. Sometimes fellow students can get information across to their peers even better than the teacher because they have a common language and mindset.
In a combined classroom, the teacher is almost always engaged with students—there is no down time. That’s when it is nice to have students working with other students. It not only helps the younger student learn, but it helps the mentor feel ownership and pride in what they can do to help others. This dynamic in combined classrooms fosters leadership skills. The older children see themselves as leaders in the combined classroom, and they normally take that role very seriously.
2. Students get sneak peeks and repetition.
The small class sizes of combined classrooms mean the teacher can provide individualized instruction for students who need more of a challenge or need more help.
Being in a classroom with different levels of course materials being taught benefits kids, too.
If a child needs a challenge, the lower grade students can always keep an ear on the upper grade’s lessons. This way, they’re hearing what comes next in different subjects and can begin to think ahead.
And if a child is struggling, the repetition that comes with a combined classroom is beneficial for remedial learning. Rehearing lessons from the grade below them may be helpful for these kids.
3. Kids become independent learners.
Because the teacher usually goes from one class to the other, the students become independent learners. If the teacher isn’t available, kids learn to work out their problems on their own or together in groups. Observers in Hampton Lutheran classrooms often comment about the independence of our students for this very reason.