Independent Together: Supporting the Multilevel Community

Learning Community for Teachers

Multilevel classroom teachers see and respect students as individuals and as responsible contributors to the multilevel learning community.

Teachers in classrooms

How can you benefit from the multilevel learning community?

In the multilevel classroom, when you have two or more grades for two or more years, you have

  • the gift of time to develop an understanding of each student's strengths and needs and to plan instruction at each student's level of development Watch Video Clip (1.75 MB)
  • reduced introduction time to learn to know new students each year and to facilitate classroom routines and expectations, thereby increasing instructional time
  • flexible planning opportunities to use curricula and to plan projects around student interests and current community events when planning programming for two or more years Watch Video Clip (397 KB)
  • an opportunity to rely on the same volunteers over several years and build a stable parent volunteer program
  • an opportunity to work with a smaller parent base (or group of families) because siblings are placed in the same multilevel classroom

What can you do to support the multilevel learning community?

As a teacher, you can support the multilevel learning community in the following ways.

Believe in Student Autonomy

Begin with the premise that all students want to learn and trust them to make responsible choices to promote that learning.

  • Turn responsibility back to students.
  • Recognize that curriculum outcomes can be met in a variety of ways.
  • Invite students to choose what they will do to demonstrate their learning.
  • Emphasize intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards.

Model Independent Learning Skills and Strategies

As a teacher, you can mirror and reflect the essential qualities of the confident and competent independent learner.

  • Model curiosity, goal setting, and reflection.
  • Guide students to be competent role models.
  • Share exemplars of quality work and success.
  • Teach students how to identify quality work.

Facilitate Independent Learning

Guide and monitor student progress toward independence in using learning strategies through the gradual release of responsibility, as reflected in the Model of Explicit Instruction (Pearson and Gallagher). View Print Material

Support Student Goal Setting

Empower students to set learning goals.


Negotiate with students in setting goals.

  • Set whole-class goals with students to ensure the shared classroom responsibility and the acquisition of independent learning strategies.
  • Have students set individual learning goals using tools such as reading/writing continua, goal sheets, and portfolios. View Print Material

Facilitate Conferences View Print Material

Integrate conferences with students throughout daily learning and teaching.

  • Over-the-shoulder conferences happen among students and between you and students during the course of a day. They allow you to watch, listen, and thereby learn about each student's progress and needs. They also provide students with immediate feedback for learning.
  • Formal conferences may be designated 10- to 15-minute block during workshop for individual and/or small-group conferences. Revisit students' learning goals and provide descriptive feedback, inviting students to reflect on their own progress, and assessing and monitoring student learning.
  • Student-led conferences are the cornerstone of summative assessment and allow students to take ownership for their learning. Give students opportunities to select work that demonstrates their learning and growth and to showcase it with their parents. View Word Document

Manage Time, Movement, and Space

Model and teach classroom-management skills.

  • Timetables View Print Material give students a sense of stability, help them make choices, and honour their role as partners in the learning community.
  • Whole-class time can be used to share information, plan, work on collaborative skills, reflect, and celebrate learning.
  • Class meetings View Print Material put the responsibility of managing the learning community into the hands of students. Cooperative groups may take turns conducting meetings that address learning community issues and needs.
  • Routines, processes, and strategies View Print Material help students work independently and accomplish their goals.
  • Classroom organization View Print Material and learning centres View Print Material convey expectations of the classroom and offer workspace for whole-class, small-group, and individual learning.

Build Communication View Print Material between School and Home

Welcome parents into the school.

  • Hold parent-information meetings about classroom expectations, goal setting, and curricula.
  • Invite parents to attend celebrations during the closure of a theme or unit.