I thought of one more thing I use to help balance mixed ages. This is something that works very well in the elementary classroom. The way it works is that each child has a nametag with their name on it. They put it on their rug when they’re working, which helps mark the work rugs so that you know whose is whose.
But, the real value is to use them this way: when a child needs help and you are working with another child, you have them set their nametag next to you instead of saying something out loud. They feel like you have “heard” them, and then they can wait quietly at their rug without badgering you for attention.
In a large classroom, you might have 3-4 nametags set next to you, and then you just go around to each child in the order that you received them.
I was reminded of how helpful they are when I overheard my son telling my daughter this: “My nametag is very special to mom and me. It gets her attention when she is working with you.” (he was using his very best “lesson” voice while telling her this, a perfect imitation of me, actually!)
Just to squeak every last drop of usefulness out of the nametag, I also put the lowercase alphabet (in block print) and numbers 0-9 on it, so that he can use it as a reference when writing.
For a child learning cursive, you could include cursive letters on the nametag (you can find tape with the cursive alphabet at teacher stores, and cut it into 2-3 lines). Here’s what a sample nametag might look like:
Naturally, I print them onto cardstock and laminate so they last the whole year. They average about 8 inches wide by 4-5 inches high, depending on how much info you include on them. I have free templates for nametags using print, handwriting, and cursive.