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Multigrade Schools Colegio Distrital San Vicente The Colegio Distrital San Vicente in Bolgota Colombia is a multigrade school which is one of 15 schools in Bolgota using the ‘Escuela Nueva’ approach. The Escuela Nueva (New School) Model is an educational program used by schools working with and for children around the world. It is a child-centered, community-based education led by teachers who are facilitators for active, participatory and cooperative learning. Teaching Methodology The teaching methodologies implemented are the promotion of active, participative, and cooperative learning, focused on the students. The teachers have different processes of assessment and the handbooks children use to learn the different subjects. The children work in groups of about4 to 6. They all follow instructions that are handed to them in a handbook and help each other, ask each other questions and listen to one another. The teachers identify leaders amongst the pupils and make them group monitors, library monitors and helpers. The teachers also teach the monitors and other pupils that working in groups means listening to others, respecting their opinions, being tolerant, as well as keeping their voices down. Each time the children finish a work unit in their hand book they have to assess their performance as an individual and as a group. The other members of their group and their teacher make their assessments. There is also integration with the community where parents help their children with homework and even sometimes go to the school in order to help the pupils. Why the school is described as successful The approach/ methodology has resulted in the children making progress in their education. The children have learned values such as responsibility, honesty, autonomy and comradeship. The self-assessment of groups of children has led to them moving from being generous in their marking to becoming more strict therefore leading them to strive for excellence. The children have learned how to follow instructions, conduct research as well as consult dictionaries and texts on all kinds of subjects, and have consequently improved their reading and comprehension skills. They have also learned about civil and democratic processes thanks to the system of school government whereby pupils, parents and teachers are all represented in the three committees governing the school – the teaching methods committee, the sport and leisure committee, and the health committee.


Multi Grade School 2 Las Limonares School Background Las Limonares School was founded in 1970. It is located between several farms and villages approximately 27km from the Salama, the capital of Baja Verapaz. The catchment area of the school contains about 1500 inhabitants. It extends for several kilometers. Most of the families around the school work in agriculture. They cultivate corn and beans for subsistence as well as other crops such as tomatoes and chilli peppers for consumption and sale. Until recently, the school has had one or two teachers providing services to six grades and between 75 and 100 students. However, as time progressed, more teachers have been assigned to the school and currently, there is one teacher for pre-primary children, a teacher for first grade, a teacher for second and third grades and a teacher for the upper three grades. The school has four large classrooms that face each other across a patch of dirt about 10meters in width. With each set of classrooms there is also a smaller room that is used as an office or for storage. There are three latrines to the rear of the school that face a wooded area of about 50 meters. Behind one set of classrooms are a timber kitchen and a small school garden. Behind the other are a playing field and the construction site for two new classrooms. Since 1998, school staff has received teacher guides, student self-instructional materials and training from Plan international (international children’s development organization). The training takes place several times a year for two to four days. Teaching methodology Children are organized into small groups by grade in all classes. Although the school director stated that children were arranged by ability, students in the lower grades are in groups made up of either boys or girls. In fourth, fifth and sixth grade, students are organized into a single small group of mixed genders. However, there is a predominance of girls in each grade and they sit together. All children have self-instructional guides in sufficient numbers for enrolled students as well as Ministry of Education textbooks, ‘Camino a la Excelencia’ (Excellent Path), that also use selflearning techniques. The exception is the first grade where the students develop reading and writing skills using significant expressions generated from their own experience. Learning corners for science, mathematics, language, social studies and culture are observed in each classroom and include a variety of materials that were gathered locally. Manipulatives such as beans, stones and corn are used for counting thus ensuring children have learning materials beyond their notebooks available to them. Most of the teacher student interaction takes place in the content of the organized small groups. In the upper grades, interaction takes place in contexts where students work together following the guides on a collaborative effort. In the lower grades, the teacher leads small group activities where students have not yet fully mastered using the guides independently. Why the school is described as successful The teacher’s emphasis on using children’s everyday experiences in lessons and the use of class monitors allows them to handle one class at once while providing the children in each class with the opportunity to express themselves verbally in front of their peers. The selfinstructional guides have been identified as the most important element of the program. Therefore in order to increase the ability of children to use the guide, the focus on first grade students is to prepare them to read by use of significant expressions for word recognition and building sentences. The guide allows students to think, create and develop at their own speed. It is also felt that these skills will help them through life. As the guides permit the students to go through the subject matter at their own speed, they also offer students who are forced to miss school during the year the opportunity to catch up.


The inclusion of the school government, made up of representatives from the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, voted for by each grade prepares the children for future life. It also provides a responsibility for planning projects, representing the school at functions in the departmental capital as well as assisting in maintain order and creating a sense of responsibility among their classmates. The group learning and use of the guides allows students to participate more, eliminate fear and increasing the mark averages for school projects. Multi Grade 3 Mariscal – Baja Varapez, Guatemala Background The school opened in 1986. It is located in a village approximately 6 km from the municipal center and departmental capital of Salama. The village is made up of 250 inhabitants who represent 45 families. The families are subsistence farmers who also grow seasonal crops for sale. The catchment area of the school is largely limited to the village. School personnel felt almost all families send their school-age children to school, resulting in almost no children being out of school. The school is accessible by a dirt road about 1 and a half km from the asphalt highway leading to Salama. The school is located in the center of the center of the community. The first classes were held In a shed with six grades and up to 60 children in a single room. In 1991 the present structure of the two classrooms and a small director’s office was built with funding from the Dutch government. In 1992, the school had two teachers; one a man who taught 4 th through to 6th grade and a woman who taught 1st to 3rd. The school director was the original teacher of the school. In 1998 an additional teacher was added and teaching assignments were divided into a combined 1 st and 3rd grade classroom, a combined 2nd and 4th grade classroom and a 5th and 6th grade classroom. The 2 teachers who were at the school in 1992 received all of the series of four week long training workshops and they trained the newly arrived 1998 teacher. Teaching Methodology Children are organized into small groups by grade in all classes. In the upper grades, students are divided by grade but are free to group themselves as they desire. In the lower grades, students are grouped by their progress with the guides, and all the children in a group work with the same guide. Therefore, there may be two or more groups within a grade level. Groups at all grade levels are of mixed genders. With groups, however, children sit with other students of the same gender when possible. At Mariscal, the second and fourth grades are put in the same classroom. The second grade is arranged into two groups: one working with the fifth unit of the guides and the other working with the second unit. Fourth graders make up the third group found in the classroom. Learning corners with materials gathered by the children as well as posters and other manipulatives are located around the room on shelves that are low enough to be reached easily by the children. Children’s work is displayed on a large section of the wall. The work is attached on top of the work from previous classes. The principle instructional materials in all grades are the NEU self-instructional guides. However, they are few in number, thus for some units, children share a guide to carry out assignments. These self-instructional guides are used throughout all the grades. Learning corners for mathematics, science, communications, social studies, culture and civics are found and include a variety of materials that were gathered locally. Most of the teacherstudent interaction takes place in small group contexts where the teacher works with students doing a task described in the self-instructional guides and the students work collaboratively under the teacher’s supervision.


Why the school is described as successful The emphasis on small group work contributed to students actually engaging with the teacher. Due to interviews conducted about the school with parents, the most frequent comments were that the type of education the children received allowed them to be less timid and more active and participating even during their first year in school. Working with guides is seen as much better than simply copying from the blackboard into a notebook. The guides also allow children develop in their own with the guides and they participate in school activities as they weren’t afraid in groups. The guides extend their minds as opposed to just copying. Alternatives for classroom situations These include creating more inviting classrooms which create more opportunities for learning. This can be done by   

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Displaying student work creatively Use of different materials to stimulate learning through practical application Desk organization – conventional rows require students to keep work to themselves and te arrangement of rows may not provide the best learning environment for students. To promote an atmosphere of cohesion, grouping students together is effective. Desks in small group discussions and group activities. Arranging the desks in a circle or U-shape promotes unity and cohesion as well as large group discussion, teamwork and direct instruction by the teacher. Bulletin Board Displays – these will notify children of the different things they will learn about and the style in which they will learn them. These can inspire children to put their best effort by creating board displays that are bright, colorful and bright. Interactive boards can also promote learning. Classroom decorations – these can have an impact on motivating the children. Different images can encourage them to reach for the stars and do their best. Classroom peripherals – provision of books at the students level with comfortable carpets for seating encourages them to read daily. Providing clearly marked areas to place homework and other classwork promotes organization.

References Available http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACS291.pdf (20/09/11)


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