When combining two grades in one classroom, new ideas emerge and independent work is a way of life.
At Walker Elementary School, students in fourth and fifth grades work together in one classroom based on ability. They divide their time between small group “seminars” with a teacher and then work independently. Its all part of an experimental model of instruction combining two grade levels into one room.
Grouped by ability, children set their own goals, and constantly reflect on why they are learning material. They work much of the time on various types of computers.
The combined classroom is in its fourth year now, and the new model of education has spotlighted the West Allis-West Milwaukee School district. It has also led to tension about how to apply the methods at other schools.
“This is far more challenging than one teacher to one classroom,” said teacher Cathy Chandler, who co-teaches a combined class of first- through third-graders at Walker.