The school will launch a pilot program this fall that combines the two grades. The five classes will be mixed with about 21 kids in each class, Rosy Mound Principal Kevin Blanding said.
“It will all be mixed ages with the same number of first-graders and second-graders in each class,” he said.
The decision to combine the two grades was partially spurred by the Grand Haven school district’s reconfiguration — which will make way for all-day kindergarten, as well as turn Rosy Mound and the other elementary schools into grades K-4 schools in September.
Students will be grouped together with students who have similar skill levels and be taught the same lessons.
However, different examples will be used for the first-graders than those used for second-graders, educators said. For instance, students will remain in their primary classrooms for most of their language arts learning, but break off into different classrooms for grade-specific math instruction.
“There are different expectations for the older students,” Blanding said, “and those expectations are specific to those students.”
The five first- and second-grade teachers work as a team, and will have a half-hour for an intervention/enrichment block each day so the students can be re-grouped if needed for skill development at their level, Blanding said.
“Mixed-age classrooms allow for students to have classmates who are at similar levels, regardless of their age,” he said.
Also being introduced is a concept called looping — students will have the same group of teachers for two years in a row. Blanding said looping helps build a sense of security and trust between teachers and students, and a community between the two grade levels.
“Students who feel safe and secure have been shown to have higher levels of achievement,” the principal said. “The school believes that this will help in reducing behaviors such as bullying, and in building more social connections among students.”
Blanding said they have talked with administrators and teachers from other districts in Michigan who are successfully using similar plans.
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