As Glen Ellyn District 41 “rethinks old grade levels,” per the article in the Feb. 25 Daily Herald, parents need not be apprehensive of “too much, too soon” as the initiative is being considered.
The concept of the ungraded or nongraded classroom is not a new one to our state or to District 41. An ungraded primary program, levels 1-3, was in existence at Ben Franklin School in the early 1980s and continued on for the next 10 years, with successful parental support and enthusiasm.
Instruction focused on student ability grouping, with small groups, resource room referrals, individualization, as well as large group projects. A teaching team of two, along with parental volunteers, brought a variation of skills, temperaments, personal experiences and talents to the children. Effective classroom management and time structure resulted in maximum learning each school day.
In alternate school years was the production of a musical, which integrated various subject matter areas into a creative dramatics presentation for the school and the parents. One example was The Pied Piper of Hamlin, which integrated history (the Middle Ages), geography (Germany), science (rats), health (the bubonic plague), food (cheese), literature (Browning’s poem “The Pied Piper of Hamlin”), and of course, music and dance.
It was my privilege to work with Grace Carlson and Anne Trant during this extended period of time. George Riemer and Doug Craig were the Franklin Principals during this decade, and gave extensive support to the program, even providing two and a half classrooms rooms as a unified space. Prior to this experience I was a part of a team of 3 teachers at Abraham Lincoln School in the late 1970s, when an ungraded primary program was established by Lincoln’s Principal Dwight Knous.
Joanne S. Hollatz
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