Parents Portal Donate Now Schedule a Tour

Why Multi-Age Grouping In Montessori Schools

September 20, 2019

By Marcia Kidd

Families new to Montessori are sometimes puzzled by one of the hallmarks of Montessori education, the multi-aged classroom. How does it work, and how do teachers manage to teach children of different ages and skills? A visitor to an MSL classroom reported this experience:

A three-year-old and an older student waited for the teacher to come to the work rug to begin a lesson on the North America Puzzle Map. “You’re supposed to sit criss-cross applesauce, like this,” said the older student. Done! The younger student then reached out to remove one of the puzzle pieces. Again, “You need to wait for the teacher”, said the older student. Like magic, imitating her older classmate, the younger student placed her hands in her lap and waited!

While stabilizing the behavior of the classroom, older peers routinely offer academic support to their classmates as well. Of the multi-age classroom, Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, writes:

“Montessori encourages learning from peers in part by using three-year age groupings. This ensures that as children move through the classroom they will be exposed to older and younger peers, facilitating both imitative learning and peer tutoring…Dr. Montessori was quite clear about the need for this mix of ages.”

Montessori schools strive to build classrooms with a balanced number of first, second and third year students at each level. Our observations of family life would lead us to believe that this is a natural way for children to learn from other children. We often see this first in our own families, where younger children imitate the behaviors of older siblings, who in turn assume leadership roles in teaching their younger brothers and sisters. It is interesting to note that in life, traditional education is one of the few places where people are grouped solely on the basis of age.

Recognized as essential to best practices in Montessori schools, the advantages of the 3-year age range in the Montessori classroom are many:

Please visit the following websites to learn more on Montessori multi-age grouping:

Montessori Services, “Three Year Multi-Age Grouping”

Montessori Services, “Observation Plus Imitation Equals Learning”

International School, “The Importance of Mixed Age Grouping in Montessori”

Peer to Peer Learning from Montessori Guide.