The grouping of children
The basis for grouping children is a positive valuing of differences among people. In grouping one is looking for an optimum in variety in maturity, intellectual achievement, interests, social background, etc. The most important group therefore is the multiage homeroomgroup (or: family group) for children of 4-6 (Kindergarten), for those of 6-9 (Intermediate stage), for the 9-12 year-olds (upper stage) and for the 12-15 year-olds (secondary stage). The secondary stage is organized into separate schools.
Some Jenaplanschools are experimenting with alternatives within this range of multiage homeroom groups, e.g. a reception class for 4-year-olds in close connection with the nursery school, an infant-stage for children from 5 to 7, an intermediate stage for 7-9 year-olds and an upper stage for 9-12 year-olds.
Several ways of grouping...
There are several ways of grouping within and outside the homeroom. The main objective of the multiage Kindergarten is to develop the social skills of children, learning to work and to live in a group, and also to develop their emotional, intellectual sensual and manipulative abilities. Play is a very important activity: drama, building and constructing, household play, etc. Children also learn how to perform (and complete) small tasks. Pencil and paperwork are of minor importance here.
Only those children who are ready for it start learning to read, but most of them can start this specific learning process in the intermediate stage. The main objective of the multiage Intermediate is to make children literate. A child is supposed to be literate as soon as it understands the function of the three Rs and is capable of using basic skills in the three Rs for obtaining new information through independent inquiry. Teaching children the basic skills is done in small groups of varying sizes. The children exercise the basic skills in daily periods of about 100 minutes for independent seatwork. The children may work individually, or together with a freely chosen partner, or in small groups of 3-4 children interested in the same reading or arithmetic games. In this period the teacher does not teach according to the schedule, but helps and instructs children and small groups as far as possible, individually and where help is needed.
Non-readers are stimulated to learn to read by participating in the reading-circle, in which children read stories to the other children and the content is discussed later on.
Multiage Upper stage
In the Jenaplanschools there is a growing tendency to deploy a functional or language-experience approach to reading, in which learning to read is closely connected to topic-work. In most Jenaplan schools the students of the multiage Upper stage, plus the most advanced group of the multiage Intermediate are given their arithmetic classes in groups which should be as homogeneous in achievement as possible. Consequently, in the levelplan for teaching basic arithmetic skills and sometimes spelling the children are not grouped according to IQ-level (streaming), but to achievement-level. There are input groups for students working on projects and for children who need information and exercise in a special skill, e.g. in map and globe reading, making and interpreting graphs, etc.
Finally, there are thorough multiage groups for dance, music, orchestra, art, drama, photography, filming, physics, chemistry, woodwork, printing and so on. The topics depend on the special abilities of teachers and parents available. The parents, in principle, volunteer in a Jenaplan school. The interest groups are optional. They normally last three months. Once chosen, their attendance is compulsory.