Outdoor playtimeThe leaves are changing around the Joyce at Windom playground, and you better believe that we play with them! In our first weeks at school, my students got to know each other as we partnered up and took a nature walk outside to gather the first drying leaves to use in art projects and in our sensory table.

The walk highlighted one of the delights of the mixed-age classroom I teach: peer role models. (Joyce at Windom mixes preschoolers ages 3-5 together.) In pairing older children with a younger counterpart, the lessons of safety, walking together, and remembering our job (finding leaves!) were taught in large part by a friend. Kids who have been in preschool for a year are excited to guide those new to classroom routines. And new students are so happy to find helpful, caring friends in their new classmates.

In the month that we’ve been together as a class, I have watched new friendships flourish between kids of different ages. New-kid and new-to-school anxieties have been calmed by the presence of various older kids. I have loved hearing from parents about the excitement of seeing those new friends at school, and to see the kids teeming with anticipation over seeing their friends again.

The challenge in teaching a mixed-age class is ensuring every child is being stimulated and supported where they are developmentally. Every lesson plan is tailored for my class. Sometimes that means that different questions of each age group, or having different expectations about scissor skills.

Above all, teaching a mixed age classroom is challenging and fun. And it’s the fun that keeps me energized.

— Katie Yanike, Lead Teacher & Site Coordinator, Windom

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