Today, for the first time, some of the children in our school were mixed into new classes for September. In my time of teaching there, we have always had the same classes from the time they start in Reception, up until they leave us in Year 6. Many of the children were also together in Nursery, making their journey together an even longer one.
We never have mixed the children up before, but the more I think about it, the more I think we should have done in previous years. The classes are set as they join us in Reception with the very best intentions: a mix of boys and girls, some friendship groups kept together, a mix of Autumn, Spring and Summer born children in each class, abilities of children spread across the two classes. But things change. Children leave, new arrivals join. Children change, as do friendships.
Looking back over the many classes I have taught, there has almost always been a clear divide between the two classes in a year group. There is almost always a “quiet” class and a “sparky” class. We ability group for maths: often, it seems the majority of the children in the higher group are in one class whereas the lower ability group come from the other class. More often than not, one class appears to “gel” as a whole, whereas the other has many smaller friendship groups.
Why is this? Is it just coincidence? Or is this a school-based version of the nature/nurture debate? Have the children from the louder class learned their behaviours from their peers? Or is the quiet class lacking that “oomph” because there isn’t anyone to start up a debate? Is it teacher expectation? Do we treat classes differently because of the reputation they come with?
I think, by mixing the children up, we could well end up having the best of both worlds: the louder children have quieter role models, but the quieter children have someone to initiate discussions. Those children who are adept at forming relationships will continue to do so in their new classes; those who have difficult relationships with certain children have the opportunity to form new ones.
The more I think about it, the more I would like to know what effects this could have on our classes. Obviously, there will be clear indicators such as the friendship groups, quality of learning etc, but I would be fascinated to know if any research has been done into the effects of mixing classes.
If anyone has had experience of this previously, I’d love to learn what you found out.