A combined grade (also known as a split class) includes students from two or more consecutive grades. For example, an elementary school may have a Grade 2/Grade 3 class combination or a Grade 7/Grade 8 class combination. In very small schools with few students, triple grade classrooms may occur, such as a Grade 1/Grade2/Grade 3 class combination. Many elementary schools in Ontario, and across Canada, have combined grade classes.
Why do schools create combine grade classes?
Combined grade classes are created when there are too many or too few students in a single grade to create one class. For example, at times there are too many students to form one class, but not enough students to form two single grade classes. In these situations, students from two different consecutive grades are grouped together to form a combined grade.
How are students chosen to be in a combined grade class?
When placing students in all classes, the school principal and teachers consider a wide variety of factors including: the overall number of students, the number of boys and girls, student learning styles, academic strengths and needs, learning skills and work habits, and social/emotional strengths and needs. All classrooms, whether single grade or combined, include students performing at a range of achievement levels. In every case, schools work to create responsive classroom learning environments that will support the needs of all students.
Will children in the lower grade be overwhelmed or children in the higher grade be sufficiently challenged?
Teachers plan programs and learning tasks to challenge children at their appropriate academic level. In any given classroom, students have diverse needs and interests, and teachers plan a program so that it addresses this range of learners. In addition to academic expectations, students also learn to work collaboratively with a cross-section of other students, reinforcing social and leadership skills.
Do children in a combined grade class receive enough individual attention?
Yes. Every day, in both single grade and combined grade classes, teachers work with large groups, small groups and individual students. The amount of time for an individual student is not determined by the organization of the classroom by grade. In all classrooms, teachers use instructional strategies to address the needs of all students.
Is the achievement of students in combined grades comparable to students in a single grade?
Yes. Several studies have found that students in combined classes do just as well as students in single-grade classes. In addition, research suggests that multi-age groupings are associated with a positive self-concept and an enhanced attitude towards learning.
Are there any other benefits to children being in a combined grade class?
Educational research supports many benefits for students in combined classes, including:
opportunity for emotional and social growth
learning to work individually and as part of a team
development of leadership skills
development of decision-making skills, self-motivation and responsibility
How can parents help children succeed in a combined grade class?
Parents are critical to a child’s success in school – in a combined grade class or a single grade class. Helping children believe in their potential to learn, discussing the importance of education and speaking to children in a way that values their efforts, growth, thinking and persistence will help children be successful in school.
Are there any tips for parents to support a child's learning?
Read regularly with children
Communicate regularly with the teacher and school about successes and difficulties
Talk to children about their learning and experience at school. Ask “what did you learn today?”
Share student strengths, needs and interests with the teacher
Attend parent information nights and other school events