And, no, I don't mean the kind of splits that one does with ones legs. Though there was a time in my life when I could not only do the splits but could oversplit (and, yes, that was just as painful as it sounds!) when I was a competitive synchronized swimmer many moons ago. Geez, now I feel really old...
No, I am talking about split classes. With our school being built on a Community Model, we have two grades in each community (though not always in split classes) and, due to numbers, in the primary grades we have a lot of split classes within communities. As in K/1 or 1/2 or 2/3.
My community is all split classes. Three grade 1/2 splits. Then we have a Kindergarten/1 community that has 2 straight K's and a K/1. Then a grade 2/3 community which has two 2/3 classes and one straight 3.
I don't know exactly what it is about split classes that causes so many questions and worries for parents. But there is just something about a split that creates stress and anxiety for some parents and their kids.
Hopefully, parents (and students) will feel less stress when they realize one very important point.
And that point is....
There is NO SUCH THING as a "straight" class. Yes, the number attached to a child's class may only be one number but, if a teacher teaches the way they should, then the "straight" class is a split.
In any group of 24 students there will be a huge span in ability. This is my 20th (can you believe it?!?!) year teaching for the VSB and I have never had a group of homogeneous students...EVER!!!
Why is that?
Because they don't exist!!!!!
Classes come with varying academic abilities, varying behaviours, varying maturity levels etc. etc. etc. A whole bunch of needs and strengths all wrapped up in a class of 24 unique 5 and 6 year olds.
So, those years when I had a "straight" grade 1 class, I did not have a group all working on grade 1 level work. What I had were students working from pre-Kindergarten level all the way up to grade 3 level in reading, math, writing etc. In other words, I had a split class!!!!
A good teacher teaches to the needs of the students NOT simply to the expectations of the ministry mandated curriculum. It makes absolutely no sense to teach a student something they already know. If a child in grade 1 demonstrates a solid understanding of a grade 1 math concept, then it only makes sense to teach them concepts that are more challenging (whether these be more complex concepts at their grade level or ones from another grade).
To do less is to not be doing my job. And, add to that, forcing students to do something that they already know because it is their grade level, only asks for students to become bored and restless which, in turn, leads to behaviour issues. And, I for one, do all I can to avoid behaviour issues!!!
So, teaching a class that starts as a split (ie. the grade 1/2 class I have right now) will be no different than teaching a so called "straight" class except that the span of abilities may be slightly wider than a typical "straight." Make sense?
I could go on for awhile about this. It is a bit of a soapbox topic for me. I think we spend way too much time labeling kids and not enough time just teaching each unique child at his or her level.
I'm going to stop now and just say...to be continued...as I know that this is a topic I'll come back to again this year. I just won't be able to stop myself!!!!