One very big kindergarten

Brenda Scott Academy kindergartners come together in May to work on a Mother’s Day project. The three teachers, Sarah Hay, Michaela McArthur and Sara Ordaz, regroup the children for different lessons. Credit: Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press


Three teachers and a part-time aide are teaching nearly 100 kindergarteners in the “hub” (formerly the library) of a low-performing Detroit school, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Each teacher has a homeroom, math and reading class. For reading and math, kids are put in a high-, middle- or low-level group and move to the corresponding teacher’s section. There, activities can include whole-group lessons, small-group lessons and instructional games on laptops. Writing is taught in homeroom.

The entire group spends time together, too, such as on a day in May when about 70 students (a number were absent) sat on a rug to watch a teacher demonstrate how to cut out a paper watering can from an outline. A paraprofessional helps out two hours a day.

Grouping students by performance lets advanced students “really push each other, and just excel that much more and that much faster,” teacher Sara Ordaz said. “The same thing with our lowest kids.”

Many are skeptical.

“I would never put my child in that kind of experience,” said Joan Firestone, director of early childhood education for Oakland Schools.  “I think it’s too chaotic. There’s too many kids and too few adults.”

MOOKs (Massive Outrageous One-room Kindergarten) are a very bad idea, writes Nancy Flanagan on Teacher in a Strange Land.

Open classrooms were a fad in the ’70s. It didn’t work then.

But it’s possible to group students by performance without putting 90+ five-year-olds in the same large room. Elementary teachers did it in the ’50s. I believe I was a Robin. Or possibly a Bluebird.

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  1. My DH’s k-8 ES had classes of 100, with one nun and one yardstick (and an arsenal of shaming methods). I’m not advocating quite that (their punishments would today be lawyer magnets) and I am strongly opposed to open classrooms, which were the original design of my kids’ JHS/MS. They were so awful, for both teachers and students, that almost all had been enclosed by the time my older kids arrived (and the rest soon after).

    However, I would MUCH rather my kid/grandkid be in a homogeneous class of 35 than a fully-included heterogeneous class of 25.

  2. palisadesk says:

    “But it’s possible to group students by performance without putting 90+ five-year-olds in the same large room. Elementary teachers did it in the ’50s”

    Elementary teachers still do it. It has been a practice in the last several school I have been in, but is limited by timetable and staff constraints. When you have several classrooms of the same grade, and good teamwork within each grade, it’s doable and works pretty well. Sometimes scheduling interferes, as when Class 1 has gym when class 2 and 3 can schedule math, thus one classroom is left out of the math groupings. It is much more difficult to do this in a very small school with only one class per grade or with only split grades; however, one school I was in did much of this despite the need to have multiple grades in one classroom. Administration has to be on board.

  3. Several classes spend time together in any school. If the whole grade level comes to a demonstration, it is called an assembly. That occurs about every 2 weeks here, for various reasons.