Classroom Concepts - Elementary
When planning for a new school year, each District 25 elementary school develops an organizational plan for the number and types of classrooms in the building. In all District 25 classrooms, varied, innovative, and appropriate teaching strategies are used to meet the needs of learners. We recognize that individuals learn in different ways and at different rates, and all classrooms must address the different needs and learning styles of all of our students.
Several factors influence the organizational plan at a school, such as enrollment at each grade, staff allocations, class size guidelines, and previous organizational plans. Schools must also operate within the Board of Education-approved parameters of available resources. Planning a new school year may involve making decisions based on tentative enrollments or other factors a school cannot control. Fortunately, the various options for classroom configurations allow flexibility in providing excellent educational settings at each school while maintaining fiscal responsibility as a district.
District 25 supports four classroom organizational groupings; single grade, looping, multiage, and dual grade. All four organizational groupings are associated with academic achievement, and students in one grouping do as well as students in another. During a child's school career, it is possible that a child will experience several different classroom configurations. Not all configurations are available every year at every grade. Parents can contact their child's school for more information.
Excellent educational settings have common characteristics that ensure student success. Teacher flexibility and creativity are essential factors in organizing and delivering curriculum appropriately in all classroom configurations. In District 25, all organizational groupings adhere to the following principles:
- Focus on standards - All teachers incorporate the District 25 Grade Level Learning Standards, which align with the Illinois Learning Standards, into their instruction.
- Flexible grouping - All teachers utilize a variety of instructional groupings to meet student needs: whole-class, teacher-led small groups, specialized small groups, collaborative groups, partners, and individual instruction.
- Instructional approaches - All teachers use a combination of instructional strategies, including direct instruction, hands-on activities, cooperative learning, projects, theme-based learning, problem solving, and the integration of technology.
- District-adopted curriculum - All classrooms use curriculum that is designed to help students master basic skills and processes, learn critical content and concepts, connect what is learned in school with life, think at higher levels, become independent learners, and develop individual talents and strive for excellence.
- Supplemental resources and materials - All classrooms use teacher-created materials and other resources to supplement teaching.
- Differentiated instruction - All teachers incorporate differentiation strategies, such as variable progression through the curriculum, modifications in assignments, and alternative approaches based on student needs.
- Fine Arts and Physical Education instruction - Physical education, music and art are taught by specialists in each area.
- Assessment plan - All classrooms participate in standardized testing at the state and district level to monitor student progress.
- School-wide planning - All teachers plan as teams to implement the building's shared goals, plan grade level and building activities, and celebrate school successes.
The success of each student is important to us. Placement of each child is reviewed on an annual basis, and changes in placement, if needed, occur at the end of the school year.
The four classroom configurations described here allow flexibility in providing excellent educational settings while maintaining fiscal responsibility as a district. The most significant factors associated with student success in school are highly qualified teachers, a rigorous, child-centered curriculum, and parental support.
- Single age
Narrowly defined, a single grade classroom groups students by age and assigns a grade level to each group. For example, eight-year-olds are grouped in third grade classrooms. These students are taught a single year (third grade) curriculum for one school year. In reality, a typical single grade classroom includes children of at least an 18 month age span. Within this group there may be even greater variance in ability than age.
Single grade classrooms are the types of classrooms that represent most people's elementary school experience. While curricula, teaching strategies, and learning techniques have changed, single grade classrooms have proven to be a practical and efficient type of grouping for most public schools.
Looping refers to a single grade classroom with a group of students assigned to the same teacher for two consecutive years. Looping is not a multiage classroom. For example, in a looping situation, a teacher may have a group of fourth graders one year and then teach the same group when they are fifth graders the following year. During the first year, the class would follow the fourth grade curriculum. During the second year, the class would follow the fifth grade curriculum.
Looping provides continuity for children. The continuity often reduces apprehension at the start of the second school year. Also, knowing that the class will be together for a second year may allow for increased flexibility in pacing instruction. Parents as well as children know the teacher's expectations and routines. Students may be able to develop lasting friendships because they remain with the same classmates for two years. Parent/teacher communications are enhanced through a two-year partnership.
- Dual grade
Dual grade classrooms are usually planned for one year. A dual grade class includes two grade levels within one classroom. A dual classroom might include, for example, both fourth and fifth grade students.
Literacy experiences are leveled within the classroom, so students receive instruction that matches their needs. Usually students are grouped for mathematics instruction at their grade level. Content areas of science, social science, and health are reorganized to encompass the essential learning standards at each grade through parallel topics that are appropriately challenging. Occasionally, students are grouped for instruction at their grade level to complete a specific unit. By the end of the school year, the students at each grade level complete the learning standards for their grade and progress to the next grade.
When two grades are combined within one classroom, children meet and develop friendships with students of different ages. The older students can serve as role models for their younger classmates. Teachers incorporate the Illinois Learning Standards, the District 25 Grade Level Learning Standards, and challenging content into a parallel curriculum to ensure that students in dual classrooms receive appropriate grade level instruction. Dual grade classrooms are educationally viable, cost effective configurations. They are established for the purpose of accommodating small or uneven numbers of students at two consecutive grade levels.
A multiage classroom is a two-year configuration that intentionally groups students of more than one age and grade level. For example, nine- and ten-year-olds might be grouped together in a multiage 4-5 class. By the end of a two-year multiage experience, children will have completed the appropriate skills and topics of the fourth and fifth grade curricula, as would children who have completed the fourth and fifth grades separately.
The curriculum in a multiage classroom is integrated into units of study based on district standards. Children in a 4-5 multiage classroom may study the fifth grade science curriculum as fourth graders and fourth grade science as fifth graders. Students are appropriately challenged through a range of projects and topics and will cover curricula for their grade level before they leave the class. Usually students are grouped for mathematics instruction at their grade level. Literacy experiences are leveled within the classroom, so students receive instruction that matches their needs.
Students, parents, and the teacher experience stability and continuity by remaining together for more than one year. Students may be able to develop deeper friendships because they remain with the same classmates over an extended period of time. More time together may lead to enhanced parent/teacher relationships and communication. The classroom routines are already established when the child returns to the class the second year. Parents as well as children know the teacher's expectations and routines. The teacher knows many of the students at the beginning of the year, which allows for a quicker start to academic instruction. There is the opportunity for all students to be among younger and later the older members of the classroom. Students may also take on additional leadership roles as they assume responsibilities that extend over time.
Here's an example of one of the many great activities going on in a multi-age classroom: