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Instructional materials.
The Multigrade Teacher training module for Zambian teacher trainers
The history of Multigrade teaching in Zambia.
Challenges of multigrade teaching.
Classroom management.
Curriculum planning in a multigrade classroom.
Assessment and evaluation.
Documentation in multigrade teaching.
Instructional materials.
Final word




Materials for the provision of Multigrade Teaching in the classroom are an essential aspect of any discussion of Multigrade Teaching. On the one hand, there is not a considerable amount of materials support at the other hand multigrade teaching is often associated with schools in remote and difficult contexts dealing with rural and other disadvantaged persons, with the result that there are few resources available, given the poverty of the region in which this type of teaching is found. Multigrade teachers have, therefore, to work in a considerably negative context in terms of materials support.

The provision of teaching-learning materials is constrained by limited financial resources.

The poverty of many of the regions where Multigrade Teaching is to be found in such that collaborative development and sharing of materials is necessary if the teaching is to improve in quality.

This chapter will show a range of material ideas and experiences without going into specifics.



        Multigrade is a recognized pedagogy and will be implemented as such.

        Material aids are supported by adequate information and advice as to their proper use.

        Instructional materials are prepared by teachers themselves using low-cost resources available in the community.

        Teachers of multigrade teaching need appropriate instructional and learning materials to keep their pupils learning time to the maximum. Develop an understanding of effective multigrade classroom organization and instructional practices, and draw out implications for use in local settings

        Understand effective instructional concepts and practices in literacy development in the multigrade classroom, and draw out implications for use in local settings

        Learn how the school and community can serve as valuable resources to each other

        Learn how multigrade schools are supervised and managed, and draw out implications for use in local settings

        Develop an understanding about how school change affects the ability of teachers to try out new ideas and draw out implications in local settings




1. Low-cost instructional materials


Low-cost teaching learning materials are materials which have the following characteristics/qualities:

a.     The materials can be made by teachers, pupils or members of the community.

b.    The materials supplied can be put to effective use by the teachers and pupils in the classroom and do not incur extra costs.

c.     The processes in the production of the materials are simple and    inexpensive.

d.    The production of the materials is not time consuming.

e.    The materials are freely and easily available from the local environment.

f.      These materials can be:

-         plants ( bambou, leaves, etc.)

-         animal ( Shell, skin, bones, etc.)

-         mineral (limestone, charcoal, etc)

-         Industrial waste: fuses, used batteries.


-         Domestic waste: tin cans, milk or chibuku boxes, bicycle parts


Because of this, the main consideration is not the low-cost factor of the materials, but factors like ease of availability, ease of production.



Examples of Low-cost Teaching Learning Material



        Name of the material : Educational TV ( ETV)

        Subject : Mathematics grade 4

        Topic  :  fractions

        Aim : to enable pupils to  ^ recognize different fractions forms

^ name fractions

^ write fractions


   Materials    biscuits tins, boxes, paper, tape.




a.     The centre part of the biscuit tin is cut off and pieces of glass are fixed to act as a TV screen.

b.    Nails, sticks, are fixed to both ends of the tin to hold in place of the lever.

c.     A series of pictures is rolled on the lever.

d.    When the lever is turned the picture comes out on the TV screen.

e.    The holder and an aerial are fixed to the top part of the biscuit.



        Name of the material :  Magic Tree;

        Subject : Language

        Grade 1

        Material, tree branch, pot, string and (coloured )bulb

        Procedure:   a. firstly put the branches in the pot.

b. Certain syllables according to the topic taught are written on the bulbs.

c. Each bulb is hung on the branches by using strings.

Educational use: a. Teacher mentions a word and chooses the right syllable to form the correct word.

b.    The process continues and the teacher involves pupils using more lengthy words.


2. Selection and development of local topics.



a.     Local topics taught at primary schools are very meaningful as well as beneficial:


        It makes the curriculum more comprehensive and relevant.

        If local topics are taught as primary schools, it will make the schools closer to the communities, serving the socio- economic development of the locality.

        If local topics are well developed and suited to primary school children, it will create more interest for the children. They will have a chance to study topics relating to their daily lives. This will connect them more closely with their communities, their classes and schools.


b.    The local topics must be:







c.     Checklist for developing local topics:


        Geographical features: geography, climate

        Flora   :  natural plants and trees/ plants grown by people

        Fauna:  wild animals, tame animals

        Transportation and construction:  transportation system, construction works, traditional architecture, construction materials.

        Population:  number, features, distribution.

        Cultural activities of different (ethnic) groups, festivals, fairs, games, traditions and costumes, traditional musical instruments, traditional songs and dances.

        Folk songs, traditional songs, idioms, proverbs, sayings

        Typical art works, literature works.

        Traditional costumes.

        Local history: local cultural personalities, historical characters, major historical events of the locality.

        Production: traditional handicraft trades and local products, tools of local production and livelihood.

        Environment and sanitation: protection of forest and natural resources, protection and improvement of water sources.



d.    Planning a topic- eight teaching steps



Step 1: choose the topic.

Step 2: choose resources.

Which resources suit this topic best?

Step 3: finding out what the students already know.

What do the students already know about this topic?

What else about the topic are they interested in finding out?

How will the children tell me what they know?

Step 4: Write understandings about the topic.

What do we want the children to learn about?

Step 5: Introduce the new resources that will help the children learn about the topic.

Step 6: Develop the topic through the different curriculum areas. (E.g. mathematics, language, art)

Step 7: Allow the learners to share what they have learnt about the topic.

Step8: Assess the students learning. Evaluate the teaching strategies.



3. Learning materials:


Learning materials comprise one or a combination of the following:

        Modularised small school learning materials.

        Standard textbooks for the ordinary school.

        Supplementary learning materials developed in the local areas by groups of teachers.

        Local content brought into the school by local resource persons.



4. Curriculum material:


A number of different strategies are used to modify curriculum materials; for example:


        They are revised with input of local environment through sets of workbooks and teacher guidebooks for all subjects.

        The usual sequence is used, although sometimes lessons are omitted because of limited time.

        Special curriculum materials, including lesson plans, must have been developed to assist the multigrade teachers. Skills and competencies in each subject are realigned for grade clusters to facilitate lesson planning and instruction.


5. Modification to curriculum and teaching/learning material:


        Teacher guide books are necessary.

        Self-made teaching aids use local materials.

        The curriculum can be the same but a modified timetable is used. The same textbooks and materials can be used, but additional materials and exercises in different subjects and grades are necessary.

        Although the same curriculum materials are used, Minimum learning competencies materials assist teachers by aligning the same skills of varying difficulty level across grade levels. This assists in the planning and organizing of lessons.


6. A teacher as material designer:


Multigrade teachers will need to develop their own additional materials. These additional materials serve the purpose of meeting actual and concrete needs of multigrade teaching within the local context. They also assist in making a national curriculum more relevant to the local needs of the community.



Examples of such curriculum materials include the following:


        designing and making small boards, flash cards, etc. to save time in the classroom and to maximize the time which pupils spend on learning tasks,

        using local materials to develop instructional materials and to encourage pupils to make their own,

        designing workbooks which are suitable for student use within the local context and conditions, and

        including within these locally designed materials and workbooks activities and knowledge which are relevant to the local culture.


7. Experiences from the field:


Method: The teacher writes instructions for things that the children must do on a set of cards. The children read the card and do the work. When they have finished the teacher marks their work and gives them another card to do.

The children work through the cards, often alone, sometimes in pairs or perhaps in small groups.

By writing different sets of cards for each grade -children can be given an appropriate card for the age group they are in.

Problems: This takes a long time to set up as the teacher has to write everything that every child will need to do during each day, each week and each term for the year. But once this has been done teaching is relatively easy -just sit back and hand out the cards.

The WORKBOOK model is even easier. Just hand out the workbooks that have been written for the grades in the class -ask the children to turn to which ever page they were working on last and carry on from there.

This sounds very simple -so where is the problem?

It is at this point that we must consider what the job of a teacher is. And I would answer that question by saying that a teacher's job is to teach!

The biggest problem with the workbook or workcard model is that it gives very little opportunity for actual teaching. The teacher becomes a manager dealing with simple, low-Ievel administrative problems such as finding the next card.

The children must attempt to teach themselves. They read the instructions on the card or in the book and complete the exercises. If they do not understand, they go and ask. Queues form around the teacher who has only a few seconds for each child to give a word of advice here and there. And each child comes with a different card and a different problem, so there is no continuity of teaching or opportunity to expand on explanation for the benefit of a wider audience.

The only time that a teacher knows that a child has a real problem is when they come with finished work that is all wrong. This is the worst form of teaching, where children are exposed continuously to failure.

Where is the enthusiasm to get involved with work? The children must try to motivate themselves; working at their own pace -or perhaps not working at all, the actual contact time with their teacher may be reduced to a few seconds a day.

Instruments of 'New School, an example.

Self learning method is not possible to introduce the students in Grade 1 because they are still illiterate. Therefore, traditional teaching method is used for Grade 1. 'New School' method is used for Grade 2, 3, 4 and 5 (primary levels in Colombia are Grade 1 to 5).

Grade wised learning guide for four subjects (language, mathematics, science and social studies) and a book for self evaluation for the students are developed. The learning guide consists of several units. Each unit consists of goals, A (basic activities), B (case studies), C (experiments) and D (free activities). Each student follow the four activities with own pace. Following the instruction, occasionally 4-6 children make a small group and work together.

The students, at first individually and then in a group, are required to observe, think and write. Then they compare their own notebooks and the examples in the learning guide to correct their answers for self evaluation. If it is necessary, they ask for advice from the teacher. The learning guide is based on national curriculum, but introduction of local contents which relate to the life of the students is recommended.

In order to supplement, the following facilities are considered the standard facilities for 'New School:' (1) school library with about 100 books including dictionaries, reference books, children's literature, books on rural development and health, (2) learning corner in the four corners of the classroom demonstrating local products and materials which the students made or collected from the community, (3) special order made desks to work with a group easily. In order to foster social attitude, democratic behavior, and corroboration, activities in student government such as library management, cleaning of the school, sport activities, wall newspaper, school newsletters, are encouraged.

The teachers were trained mainly through three one-week workshops during a year in order to get the necessary theory and skills for 'New School.' The teacher training is practice-centred rather than knowledge focused. The training manual edited in the same format with 'learning guide' for the students was used for the teacher training.

Journal writing
Journal writing is an excellent example of how a whole-class activity can lend itself to the developmental level of each student. In writing about personal experiences, a beginning elementary-aged student may start the year by drawing pictures; later he/she may write the initial sound of important words. Over time, journal entries reflect the child's growing capabilities in writing mechanics, descriptive abilities, and the ability to think about and reflect on experiences.

"Last year my daughter was introduced to multiplication in her multi-age classroom, and it just didn't click. Trying to memorize those times tables seemed impossible, because she didn't understand what they meant. Now it has been reintroduced, and she's taken off with it. She's truly ready for it now."

Zambia has a wonderful resource in the variety of its natural habitats which provide an excellent backdrop for learning in context. These resources are within easy reach of many classrooms. Studying bream, for instance, can bring reading, writing, and math to life when children use these skills to follow the day-to-day development from hatching to spawning. While the skill levels of the children will vary in a multiage classroom (or any classroom, for that matter), all students can be reading and writing, researching and analyzing, and producing evidence of their understanding of a common and exciting theme, yet at levels which are individualized so that they challenge but do not frustrate.


Building on past experience yields long-term results

Some teachers have found that when working with building blocks to teach physics and simple machines, girls need time to experiment on their own because most of them haven't had the long-term experience many of the boys have had with these kinds of building materials. When girls and boys have been mixed together for this activity, teachers have seen the boys simply take over - not being mean - but in enthusiasm because they are so familiar with this kind of activity. The girls tend to draw back and become watchers. With this catch-up time, the girls have gone on to be successful in this typically male arena.

Why is developmental education important?

One of the obvious benefits of developmental education is that the child becomes an active learner who is fully involved with his/her education. A developmental classroom seeks to challenge a child's interest and understanding, while at the same time match skills to the child's developing abilities. Learning in this kind of environment expands a child's world, increasing his/her ranges of interest and motivation for learning essential basic skills. Active learners such as these are found to take more responsibility for their own learning and to adapt more readily to different school environments as they progress through elementary, middle, and high school.

Another goal of developmental education is to avoid the "skill deficits" that may occur when trying to make children master academic skills for which they are not ready. Remember that the brain activates itself in layers, with each layer able to handle more and more sophisticated skills and concepts. Naturally, we want children to plug each piece of learning into the best system for that particular job. If the right system isn't yet available or working smoothly, the brain may adapt by using a "lower" system that might never allow for complete understanding and use of that skill. It would be like asking your child to walk without his toes; he will walk, but he may never run.

Let's take the example of the child trying to learn multiplication facts. She didn't "get it" and became confused and frustrated. The teacher saw this and wisely backed off. Now her systems are ready for this, and she's flying with it. What would have happened if the teacher had continued to force multiplication last year? She probably would have eventually learned her multiplication tables. What she also would have learned was that this was something she was not very good at and that it was useless knowledge she had acquired. She would not have known how to use those facts she worked so hard to memorize.




8. Instructional organization.


Students in multigrade situations need to be



        Responsible learners.



They need to be able

        To help one another

        Set and complete learning goals

        Follow teacher directions

        Stay on task with a minimum of teacher supervision.








Are essential for instructional success.


Determining actual learning time


Time allocated for learning




Noninstructional time:




Or socializing




Academic learning time



70 % of class time is spent on instruction.

About 20 % is spent on classroom routines.

5 % on behaviour.

3 % on social activities.

2 % varia.


9.Student tasks in a multigrade classroom:


1. A common worksheet for a class, where students must work

alone and are graded individually.

2. Reading groups with different textbooks, where students within

each group complete identical assignments individually.

3. An individualized program where all students are expected to

complete the same assignments independently but at different


4. Whole-class recitation or a common worksheet, where

students are allowed to interact, but each child completes

a separate worksheet.

5. Reading groups with different textbooks, where students can

interact while completing their separate but identical assignments.

6. An individualized program where students may work together

on assignments, but each child must produce a separate product

7. Small groups or the entire class work on a common assignment,

and individual products are not demanded.

8. Different groups within a class do different assignments, and

a group product, not individual products, is required.

9. Different roles (either within small groups or the entire

class) for students that require coordination to produce the

joint product.







-  Identify four print-based instructional resources that can be used in a Multi-Grade Classroom.

-  Prepare a worksheet and semantic map for classroom use.

-  Outline in writing procedures for managing instructional resources.

-  To set up and use a classroom library/reading corner

-  State why visual aids are useful in the Multi-Grade Classroom

-  Produce a semantic map




Participants to be in groups of five after individual activity.

-   Trainer exposes participants to some print-based instructional resources by brain

storming.  What is probably the most familiar instructional resources in a

Multi-Grade Classroom? (Individually)

-   Give two reasons why textbooks are important.

-   The individuals explain how they textbooks are used

-   Trainer introduces the worksheet by showing a sample.

-   The group individually produce a worksheet in one subject area of their choice for any grade.




-  Trainer asks the group to give some advantages of worksheets.


-   Brainstorm: why is a reading corner or classroom library essential in Multi-Grade teaching?

-  What things should be included in a library/reading corner?


-  The groups to explain what are visual aids by giving examples.

-  Let the group give suggestion as to why visual aids are useful.

-  Explain what a semantic map is and ask the group to produce one individually.




-         Textbooks, reading material and

-         Worksheets are some of the print-based resources. These are self study materials.

Textbooks are important because they present information in a structured manner with

Adequate scope for practice.-

-         Textbooks also offer scope for learning at ones own rate.