A Handbook for Parents and Teachers

Dear Parents:

As we acquire more research-based knowledge about how children learn it is imperative that we reflect our findings in the day-to-day programs and operation of our schools.

In the past few years you have supported us as we strived to create learning environments that responded to the needs of individual students. Traditionally, schools have organized around lock-step grades. This is due in part because of the acts and regulations and because courses of study were designed to be grade specific. Learning was believed to be lock-step and each grade built upon a skill level established in the former grade(s).

Today we know that learning is developmental. Since all children develop at different rates, organizations based upon rigid grade-specific curriculum is less appropriate.

Activity based learning with the variety of centres currently in place in all of our primary classrooms allows the teacher to provide a wide rage of opportunities at different levels of development within the classroom.

Our staff has taken the concept a step forward by providing primary programs that reflect developmental philosophy over an extended period of time. Blended Family Classrooms or Multi-Age Grouping is being proposed as a means of offering our children, individualized, developmental programs with one teacher over an extended time framework.

Children like adults learn from peers who are both older and younger. For several months Mr. Abbey and the Primary Staff investigated how Blended Family Classrooms are organized to support learning. We visited other jurisdictions, held meetings and did extensive research.

We are convinced of the benefits and are excited about structuring our primary classes to include pupils from grades one, two and three. We believe that we will better be able to meet the developmental, social and emotional needs of the students to enhance intellectual growth.

General aims and objectives

  1. To prepare students for the day-to-day activities that they will experience in their community now and as an adult.
  2. To teach children to read, write and speak well at school and in the community and to acquire a wealth of general, common knowledge about the world in which we live.
  3. To help children develop social skills that will enable them to live in their community and acquire an understanding and appreciation of their country.
  4. To teach children how to access information and be involved in the process of education as a skill for future growth and development.
  5. To pursue excellence in all facets of life and to recognize and appreciate things that are done well.
  6. To foster a sense of community and an appreciation for the responsibilities of a good citizen.
  7. To cultivate moral standards that will help the child make reasoned decisions and choices about their personal health and well-being.
  8. To allow children the freedom to make mistakes and learn a better way to solve their day-to-day concerns so that they can be happy and satisfied with themselves and their work.

Definitive aims of the Primary/Junior programme

North School should stress and/or develop.

  1. Understanding rights and duties of citizenship and acceptance of reasonable regulations.
  2. The ability to live and work with others.
  3. A desire to learn more - the inquiring mind.
  4. The basic tools for acquiring and communicating knowledge.
    a. comprehension
    b. problem solving
    c. analyzing data and classifying
    d. synthesizing
    e. evaluating
  5. The habit of figuring things out for one's self.
  6. A sense of right and wrong - a moral standard of behaviour.
  7. Loyalty to Canada.
  8. Understanding the role of various family members.
  9. Knowledge of and appreciation for the people of other lands.
  10. Enjoyment of cultural activities - the finer things of life.
  11. A fund of information about many things.
  12. An emotionally stable person able to cope with new situations.
  13. A well cared for, well developed body.
  14. A positive and encouraging atmosphere developed in the classroom and playground.
  15. Curriculum designed to meet the needs of each individual child.
  16. Keeping parents well informed about the programs of the school and the progress of the pupils by interviewing and reporting.

What is Blended Family Grouping?

It is the combining of two or more grades into one classroom. This organization is sometimes referred to as a split grade or multigrade grouping. Blended Family Grouping is not new. It has been an educational reality for many years. Some may associate the idea with the one-room school of yesteryear. However, with today's emphasis on activity based learning with shared decision making and more purposeful dialogue, children have a great deal more interaction with what and how they learn.

This kind of classroom will focus on the needs of the learner rather than on arbitrary grade levels and lock-step skill development. Blended family grouping can assist us in our attempt to meet the challenge of individual differences among and within children. Programs of study are driven more by innovation and shared decision making than on a predetermined series of directed lessons for all children regardless of their interest or ability.

The concept of 'family' is integral. Just as older brothers and sisters help their younger siblings, in these classrooms there are multiple opportunities to share and support learning activities.


While it sounds like the old one room schoolhouse and traditional split-grade organization there are significant differences.

In the past students in each grade were required to learn a prescribed body of knowledge and produce a specific amount of work. Failure to do so resulted in the necessity to repeat the grade "failed". This produced a student with low self-esteem and little self motivation. Conversely, students who were able to develop skills faster were often discouraged from moving forward. Boredom became a very real possibility.

Teachers spent their days frantically covering the prescribed readers, phonics books and arithmetic exercises while altering instruction from one grade to the next. Little consideration was given to individual differences, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses and needs and stages of development. It wasn't that the teacher didn't care. It was just that the prescribed programs were so inflexible that students had to move in a lock-step fashion at precisely the same speed or they were considered 'problems'.

Today, teachers better understand child development and pedagogical principles. We acknowledge individual differences and realize that each child grows and develops at their own rate. Ministry and Board guidelines support this individualization.


Educational programming should be based on the needs of the learner rather than on arbitrary grade level standings or benchmarks. Within any one grade there is a broad range of stages or levels at which the students are working. Blended family groupings can help us meet individual student needs in a continuous, consistent program that is not artificially divided.

Each new school year, approximately one third of the students will move into the next division or classroom while new entrants join the blended family grouping. Thus, a new school year is less disruptive and artificial for the majority of the students and thereby facilitates continuous student growth and development.
In general terms blended family classrooms should:
  • allow a student to work with a teacher over an extended period of time, usually two or more years;
  • promote individual and small group instruction;
  • accommodate the different developmental rates of learning and learning styles within children;
  • foster a feeling of family and community within the class to afford the students a more secure school experience;
  • facilitate positive interaction among children;
  • allow bridging from one school year to the next by facilitating continuous programs and the establishment of basic routines and expectations.
The older children provide considerable support for the new entrants. The younger students are exposed to models of language and behaviour fostered and established with the teacher. A type of family structure is in place to support the child. The children help and encourage each other with their learning and consequently the younger students have much to gain from the expanded parameters of the blended family setting.
The older students learn a great deal about responsibility and leadership. They are usually less anxious because they perceive the classroom as less stressful. The 'seniors' gain greatly from their interaction with the younger children who in many ways provide an audience for the older pupil. They can experience reinforcement and remediation in a less threatening forum. The blended family classroom can be a cure for the 'bruised ego'. The teacher/learner roles among the students become imperceptible. The older students know and understand the structure, relationship, and expectations of the classroom - a more efficient arrangement that should maximize learning.
Blended family classrooms provide a greater flexibility in the placement of children. The matching of learning and teaching styles is facilitated. Imbalances in classroom numbers can often be avoided.
No evidence could be found to indicate that children in blended family settings did not perform as well academically as those in single grade classes. The Bullock Report 1975 concluded that deliberate vertical groups have distinct advantages in the development of reading skills.

Research that focused on affective areas of development indicated significant gains in favour of blended family classrooms - children develop more positive attitudes toward school; they felt more secure; and were more co-operative in the classroom setting.


Blended family classrooms is an organizational strategy that along with appropriate teaching strategies can produce a very effective learning environment.

It is an arrangement that encourages optimal use of differences.

Unfortunately, support is given to those aspects of a traditional organization with which we are most familiar. As a result our support is often extended to a single grade in each classroom as there has been a belief that all children of a similar age are and need to be taught the same skills at the same time.

This is a fallacy.

In reality, here at North there is little difference in developmental levels, maturity and affective skills between a 'straight' grade and a multi-grade setting. All of the students in a straight grade do not receive the same programs and neither do the students in a split grade. Teachers program according to the divergent needs and interests of the individual students. Remove the grade label and all classes have the traits and organization of a multigrade grouping.

Return to Main Menu