Classroom Placement of Twins
Ron Banks
2001 (Last updated June 2004)

What are the issues surrounding classroom placement of twins and other multiples?

The central issue in this FAQ is whether twins or other multiples should be placed in different classrooms or placed in the same classroom. Several other questions arise when examining this issue:

  • Who should set policy regarding twin classroom placement?
  • Should schools have a policy, or should the decision be made on a case-by-case basis? Should the age and grade level of the children influence this decision?
  • What role should parents play in making the decisions?
  • What role should the feelings of the twins themselves play?
  • Does research support placing twins together or separating them?
  • What position do organizations for twins and other multiples take on this issue (e.g., National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs)?

Are multiple births increasing?

The incidence of multiple births has increased dramatically in the past two decades. The birthrate for twins, who constitute the most common kind of multiple births, increased 62% between 1980 and 1998 (Ventura et al., 2000). Given this trend, it seems reasonable to assume that many teachers will have twins and other multiple siblings in their classes at some point in their teaching careers (Katz, 1998).

What does the research say about classroom placement of twins?

Research on the effects of twin separation in school and other practical questions is still very limited (Katz, 1998). Much of what has been published is anecdotal or is published in newsletters and other non-peer reviewed publications. Thus, there is no research-based rationale for either separating twins into different classrooms or keeping them together. Dreyer (1991) attempted to synthesize the existing research literature. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (NOMOTC) published Dreyer's work, and then published an updated version nine years later (NOMOTC, 2000). According to NOMOTC, results from reissued surveys and anecdotal information from parents of multiples revealed very little change in the amount of available information about, and in educator attitudes toward, twin separation since Dreyer's original work was published.

Most of the literature that exists involves survey research or informal studies. Leeper and Skipper (1970) conducted one formal research study that attempted to measure achievement, acceptance, and adjustment of twins who had either stayed together in classrooms or been separated. They paired twins in grades 1-6 who had been separated with pairs of twins who had not. While Leeper and Skipper discovered some differences at certain grade levels, no reliable pattern emerged. The researchers concluded that separation is not necessarily advisable (Leeper & Skipper, 1970).

Dreyer (1991) and NOMOTC (2000) summarize survey research related to classroom placement of twins and other multiples. A study done in 1976 showed that the principal was the individual who most frequently made the placement decisions (Alexander, 1987). Of 169 randomly selected principals, 83% favored separation, and 9% recommended separate schools if at all possible. Only 4% were flexible in their decisions. Seventy-eight percent of parents favored separation. (It is worth noting that 38% of the parents who were twins themselves chose not to separate their twin children.) Dreyer and NOMOTC suggest that the parents who chose separation may have been conceding the decision to the educational "experts" and not indicating their true sentiments. She also suggests that parents are heavily influenced by "individualizing theories" read in books or heard in lectures or at meetings of twin organizations (Dreyer, 1991; NOMOTC, 2000).

In the same study, 249 pairs of twins were surveyed regarding their class placement preferences. Fifty-five percent preferred to be separated, although 77% were actually separated. Elliot (cited in Dreyer, 1991) surveyed 73 twin sets between the ages of 12 and 73 and found that only 41% agreed with the decisions made on their behalf. A slim majority (51%) favored separation, but not in early childhood. Twenty-five percent thought separation should be gradual after grade 3 (or grade 6 if there was a concern), and 31% favored total class separation from the start of elementary school. Elliot's findings also indicated that twins want involvement in the decision, and want experiences of being placed together as well as being separated.

In 1989, NOMOTC conducted a survey of 1,423 teachers and principals across the United States (Dreyer, 1991; NOMOTC, 2000). Over half of the educators surveyed believed in a policy of separation of multiples in school classrooms. They believed that separation promotes a positive self-concept and intellectual growth, among other advantages. The NOMOTC survey pointed out that only 15% of the respondents said the topic of multiples had been addressed in college course work.

NOMOTC conducted another survey in 1999 that was similar to the 1989 survey. They discovered that most parents felt there should not be a formal policy regarding classroom placement. The problem of lack of teacher training was still an issue, as 80% of the teachers surveyed felt that the issue of multiples is rarely discussed in teacher preparation programs at the college level. Almost all teachers felt that the school and parents should work together in making placement decisions for each set of multiples. However in response to another question, 43% of the teachers thought that twins should be separated if two classrooms were available (NOMOTC, 2000).

The NOMOTC survey also asked educators about the special issues raised by grade retention or "grade skipping," when one twin is promoted and the other retained. Ninety-two percent of the survey respondents indicated that special tutoring should be implemented to avoid retention of one twin and promotion of the other. If the retention decision is made for one twin, about half felt that the other twin should not also be held back. Decisions to send one twin to kindergarten a year before the other should also be made very carefully and made only if all other solutions fail (NOMOTC, 2000).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different-classroom placement decisions?

Among the reasons for separating twins are the following:

  • Classmates and teachers engage in frequent comparisons of the twins, to the detriment of the "less skilled" twin.
  • The twins are causing major behavioral disruptions that cannot be solved through other means (e.g., one is distracting the other, or one is "mothering" the other excessively).
  • Constant "togetherness" seems to be hindering the development of social skills in one or both. (All twins should show the ability to form friendships outside of themselves by about the age of 6 years.)
  • The twins have been in the same classroom in previous year(s) and seem secure now and ready for separation.
  • Parents or the twins themselves strongly advocate separation (the separation arrangement might be tried, at least temporarily in this case).

Among the reasons for placing twins or other multiples in the same classroom are the following:

  • The twins/multiples are already dealing with separation from the parents when they enter preschool/kindergarten; separating them from their other major source of security can be traumatic.
  • Major emotional traumas have occurred recently at home (e.g., death, divorce, etc.).
  • Only one classroom is available.
  • One of the twins/multiples has health concerns that separation would exacerbate because of increased stress.
  • Parents or twins themselves strongly advocate placement in the same class (the same-class arrangement might be tried, at least temporarily).

Are there guidelines for the placement of twins in school?

The NOMOTC presents the following basic principles in their booklet Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators (NOMOTC, 2000, pp. 29-31):

  1. School should provide an atmosphere that respects the close nature of the multiple bond while at the same time encouraging individual abilities.
  2. Schools should maintain a flexible placement policy throughout the early elementary school years.
  3. When multiple-birth children are enrolled in different classrooms at the same grade level, there is a need for a consistent approach to instruction and classroom management.
  4. Educators should move with extreme caution when considering retention, acceleration, or designation in any of the areas of exceptionality of one or more children in a set of multiples.
  5. Teachers at the primary, middle, and high school levels should value parental input regarding the nature of the multiples' relationship.
  6. School districts should provide staff at all grade levels with multiple-related research and reading materials.
  7. At the university level, schools of education should introduce teachers in training to the research findings on the psychology of twins and higher order multiples in their curricula.

Many schools, principals, and teachers believe that twins should be separated in classrooms, not necessarily as a formal school policy, but as standard accepted practice. Organizations dedicated to the welfare of twins, such as NOMOTC, and many twins themselves propose that there should be no fixed practice of separation, but a policy that encourages flexibility on a case-by-case basis. There is very little research literature related to this topic, and no firm conclusions supporting either position can really be drawn at this time.


Alexander, Terry Pink. (1987). Make room for twins: A complete guide to pregnancy, delivery, and the childhood years. Toronto: Bantam.

Dreyer, Linda Hostetler. (1991). Placement of multiple birth children in school: A guide for educators. Albuquerque, NM: National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs.

Leeper, Sarah H., & Skipper, Dora S. (1970). Achievement, acceptance, and adjustment of twins in the same and separate classrooms. Research Journal (University of Maryland), 1(2), 6-11.

National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. (2000). Placement of multiple birth children in school: A guide for educators. Thompson Station, TN: Author.

Ventura, Stephanie J.; Martin, Joyce A.; Curtin, Sally C.; Mathews, T. J.; & Park, Melissa M. (2000). Births: Final data for 1998. National Vital Statistics Reports, 48(3).

Web Resources

Study Questions Principals' Tendency to Split Up Twins in Kindergarten

Classroom Choice: It's Your Decision [Twins Magazine]

The School Questions [Twins Magazine]

Twins/Multiples in School: Part I - Making the Decision About Classroom Placement

Twin/Multiples in School: Part II - Reasons to Separate

Twins/Multiples in School: Part III - Keeping Them Together

Information on Multiple Birth Siblings

Holding One Twin Back in Kindergarten

How to handle twins' differences in school

Separating Multiples in School:
Discussion including parents and school personnel about separating twins.

Should Twins Be in the Same Class

Twins adjusting to First Grade Differently

Twins: One is Having Problems in First Grade

Twin Magazine

Should Twins Be Assigned to the Same Classroom?

National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC)

NOMOTC's Guidelines For The Education Of Multiple Birth Children

Twins in School: What Teachers Should Know

Other Resources

Lytton, Hugh; Singh, Jagjit K.; & Gallagher, Lin. (1995). Parenting twins. In Marc H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 1. Children and parenting (pp. 185-208). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (ERIC Document No. ED389416)

Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators from the National Association of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (NOMOTC). This booklet was published in 2000, and is available by contacting NOMOTC at:

P.O. Box 438
Thompson Station, TN 37179-0438
Telephone: 615-595-0936

Twins in School: Apart or Together. This packet has been recently revised and is available for $4.95 from Twins Services:

P.O. Box 10066
Berkeley, CA 94709
Telephone: 510-524-0863
(Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm PST)

ERIC Resources

How to Obtain ERIC Documents and Journal Articles:

References identified with an ED (ERIC document)or EJ (ERIC journal) are cited in the ERIC database. ERIC Documents (citations identified by an ED number) may be available in full text from ERIC at no cost at the ERIC Web site: Journal articles are available from the original journal, interlibrary loan services, or article reproduction clearinghouses.

If you would like to conduct your own free ERIC database searches via the Internet, go directly to

Placement of Twins in School Classrooms

Search of the ERIC Database through 3/2004

EJ671156 CG560501
Title: The Perceptions, Policy, and Practice of Educating Twins: A Review.
Author(s) Beauchamp, Heather M.; Brooks, Lawrence J., Jr.
Source: Psychology in the Schools, v40 n4 p429-38 Jul 2003
Publication Date: 2003
ISSN: 0033-3085
Language: English
Document Type: Information Analysis (070); Journal articles (080)
Journal Announcement: CIJDEC2003

Research shows that many schools implement strict policies for classroom placement of twins, yet the effects of such policies on twins' development and educational attainment are currently unknown. Recommendations for school personnel and future directions for this formative area are discussed. (Contains 39 references.) (GCP)

Descriptors: *Academic Achievement; *Educational Policy; *Student Development; *Student Placement; *Twins

EJ624726 EA538210
Title: Seeing Double: What You Should Know about Educating Twins (and Triplets).
Author(s) Black, Susan
Source: American School Board Journal, v188 n3 p40-42 Mar 2001
Publication Date: 2001
ISSN: 0003-0953
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Evaluative (142)
Journal Announcement: CIJOCT2001

More sets of twins will probably show up in classrooms, since the "twinning rate" has risen from 23 per 1,000 in 1990 to 27 per thousand in 1997. School policies that separate twins from kindergarten on may not be in kids' best interest. Language and environmental factors are discussed. (MLH)

Descriptors: Biology; Elementary Education; Emotional Development; *Language Acquisition; *School Policy; * Separation Anxiety; *Teacher Student Relationship; *Twins

ED447378 CG030478
Title: Samatha, Matthew, and Shane: A Case Study of the Motivational Factors That Drive These Triplets To Learn.
Author(s) Holmes, Julie A.
Pages: 27
Publication Date: November 2000
Notes: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association (Bowling Green, KY, November 15-17, 2000).
Available from: EDRS Price MF01 Plus Postage. PC Not Available from EDRS.
Language: English
Document Type: Reports--Research (143); Speeches/meeting papers (150)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Louisiana
Journal Announcement: RIEMAY2001

This paper describes a case study which sought to determine the motivational factors that prompted a set of triplets to excel in school. The working research questions dealt with different facets of school and home, and explored whether motivation was linked to certain subjects or certain topics within various subjects or was a function of the demands of their parents. Questions were refined as participant observation revealed subtle differences in motivation in the three children. Data were collected through participant observation, semi-structured interviews with the triplets and other key informants; solicited documents; and samples of work done by the triplets. The results showed that within a shared basic framework of self-motivation, each of the three children developed separate, distinct motivational personalities. Positive self-concept and intrinsic motivation were evident in all three children. Each child had varying reasons for motivation including wanting perfection, interest, and wanting to please others. A collective case study is recommended of children of multiple births to inquire further into the phenomenon of motivation. (Contains an appendix with examples of early writings of the triplets.) (Author/JDM)

Descriptors: *Achievement; *Adolescents; Child Rearing; *Expectation; Family Relationship; Interests; *Locus of Control; *Motivation; Performance Factors; Primary Education; Self Efficacy; Sibling Relationship
Identifiers: Multiple Birth Family; *Triplets

ED443568 PS028731
Title: Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators. {Revised Edition}.
Author(s) Dreyer, Linda
Author Affiliation: National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs.(BBB35604)
Pages: 39
Publication Date: 2000
Notes: For first edition, see of ED 427 835. Revised edition coordinated by Corliss Hubert and edited by Mary Adcock.
ISBN: 1-880805-08-1
Available from: EDRS Price MF01 Plus Postage. PC Not Available from EDRS.
Availability: National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., P.O. Box 438, Thompson Station, TN 37179-0438; Tel: 615-595-0936; Web site:
Language: English
Document Type: Guides--Non-classroom (055)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Tennessee
Journal Announcement: RIEJAN2001
Target Audience: Practitioners; Teachers

Parents of multiple birth children frequently encounter school policies requiring separation of their children in school, regardless of the circumstances, thereby eliminating parents and their children from the decision-making process. This guide from the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMTC) asserts that research and expert options demonstrate that mandatory separation of multiple birth children is ineffective and can be detrimental to their educational and emotional growth. For this reason, NOMTC recommends that placement be evaluated on an individual basis and offers guidelines in the following areas: (1) "Basic Information on Multiple Births"; (2) "Types of Multiples" (identification of twin type, social relationships, intellectual development); (3) "Mandatory Separation Policy: Differing Opinions" (educators, twins, higher order multiples, parents); (4) "Expert Views on Separation"; (5) "The Case for Gradual Separation"; (6) "Reasons To Separate"; (7) "Reasons to Not Separate Multiples"; (8) "Individuality"; (9) "Retention and/or School Readiness of One Multiple"; (10) "Alternatives to Public School"; (11) "Tips for Teachers of Multiples"; and (12) "To Separate or Not To Separate: Who Should Decide?" The guide contains 53 suggested readings and references. A description of NOMTC basic principles is appended. (KB)

Descriptors: Elementary Secondary Education; Sibling Relationship; Student Needs; *Student Placement; Teacher Student Relationship; *Twins
Identifiers: Identity (Psychological); Multiple Birth Family

EJ556013 PS527391
Title: Twins, Together Too Much?
Author(s) Brodkin, Adele M.
Source: Scholastic Early Childhood Today, v12 n3 p25-27 Nov-Dec 1997
Publication Date: 1997
ISSN: 1070-1214
Availability: Scholastic, Inc., 2931 E. McCarty St., P.O. Box 3710, Jefferson City, MO 65102-3710
Language: English
Document Type: Guides--Classroom--Teacher (052); Guides--Non-classroom (055); Journal articles (080)
Journal Announcement: CIJMAY1998

Notes both teacher's and parents' concerns over placing twin boys in the same early childhood classroom. Offers suggestions for teachers and parents to foster each child's independence and character traits without the trauma of placing them in separate environments. (HTH)

Descriptors: *Individual Development; Parent Role; Personal Autonomy; Personality; *Personality Development; Personality Traits; Preschool Education; *Sibling Relationship; Teacher Role; *Twins; Young Children


ED423059 PS026897
Title: Guidelines for the Education of Multiple Birth Children.
Author(s) Eicker, Martha, Ed.
Author Affiliation: National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., Albuquerque, NM.(BBB35165)
Pages: 5
Publication Date: March 1998
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Document Type: Reports--Descriptive (141)
Geographic Source: U.S.; New Mexico
Journal Announcement: RIEFEB1999

As a national support organization for parents of twins and higher order multiples, the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (NOMOTC) has as its purpose the education of parents, teachers and other individuals having direct responsibility and interest in the special aspects of child development which relate to multiple birth children. This paper presents guidelines prepared by NOMOTC which will enable educators and school support staffs to understand the special social and psychological factors affecting multiple birth children and their families. The guidelines cover areas of classroom environment, child placement, instructional consistency, child exceptionality, and staff development. The guidelines are intended for use at all levels of education and provide a broad framework within which educators may begin to discuss this topic. (JPB)

Descriptors: Educational Needs; *Educational Objectives; *Educational Policy; Sibling Relationship; *Siblings; *Student Needs; *Twins
Identifiers: *Multiple Birth Family

EJ345564 EC191219
Twins Included and Not Included in Special Programs for the Gifted.
Renzulli, Joseph S.; McGreevy, Ann M.
Roeper Review, v9 n2 p120-27 Nov 1986
Available From: UMI
Language: English Document
Journal Announcement: CIJAPR87

Twenty-three pairs of twins were studied to determine factors influencing special program inclusion, impact of inclusion, and nature of academic programs when only one twin was included. Twins included in special programs were generally characterized by the traditional academic view of high-achievers, while nonselected twins preferred more divergent, open-ended, and unstructured learning experiences. (Author/CB)

Descriptors: Cognitive Style; *Gifted; *Individual Differences; Parent Attitudes; *Student Attitudes; Student Characteristics; Student Motivation; *Student Placement; Talent Identification; *Twins
Identifiers: *Sibling Attitudes; *Sibling Influence

ED376419 CG025839
Counseling Twins and Their Families: Special Considerations for Assessment and Intervention.
Justice, Judith Spieth; Utesch, William E.
17p.; Some pages contain light, broken type.
EDRS Price - MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Document Type: REVIEW LITERATURE (070)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Indiana
Journal Announcement: RIEAPR95

"Twins have often served science but science has rarely served twins" (Novotny, 1988). Twinship presents specific challenges unique to twins in the realms of physical, emotional, social, interpersonal, and academic trials; twins many times suffer in self-esteem, separation-individuation, and object relations. This paper reviews literature which describes twins, their families, and what has been accomplished in the counseling of twins. The key to healthy twinship lies in self-identity and individuality. Clearly, counselors and therapists may help twins and their families by creating awareness of these attributes found in twinships. The therapist's guide, "Assessment Checklist for Twins and Families of Twins," may serve as a resource in assessment and intervention with twins and their families. The checklist helps to identify characteristics which address twinship. Once therapists identify problem areas, effective interventions may be employed. The Assessment Checklist appears in this report along with a list of resources for twins and their families. Contains 24 references. (RJM)

Descriptors: *Counseling; *Individual Development; Individualism; Individual Psychology; *Intervention; Personal Autonomy; Psychotherapy; Self Actualization; Sibling Relationship; *Twins

ED285687 PS016772
Twinshock: Twins Are a Hard Happiness. Issues in the Care of Multiple Birth Children.
Malmstrom, Patricia M.; And Others
California State Dept. of Health Services, Sacramento. Maternal and Child Health Branch.
Jun 1987
48p.; Portions of this report first appeared in three papers presented by TWINLINE to the International Society for Twin Studies Conference (Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 1986).
Contract No: 86-88791
EDRS Price - MF01/PC02 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Geographic Source: U.S.; California
Journal Announcement: RIEJAN88
Government: State

The multiple-birth family must struggle to cope with extraordinary issues with little or no information or support, and with little understanding from the community at large. This paper describes such issues and their impact on the lives of families of twins, triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets from conception through adolescence. An introduction offers facts about twins, risk factors, the TWINLINE service agency, population diversity, lack of resources, psychosocial risks, and common needs of parents identified in TWINLINE service records. Psychosocial issues affecting multiple-birth families are then discussed. Sections of the report concern pre-conception issues, diagnosis, the prenatal period, postpartum issues, going home from the hospital, care of newborn multiples at home, infancy, the toddler and preschool period, school age, teenage years, supertwins (triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets) and the twin relationship. It is concluded that the unique stresses on California's approximately 50,000 multiple-birth families deserve special attention from medical and social service organizations. Recommendations are offered for supportive policies, education, service delivery, and research. (RH)

Descriptors: Adolescents; *Child Rearing; Cultural Influences; *Developmental Stages; *Family Problems; Family Relationship; Identification; Infants; Mythology; Neonates; *Parents; Prenatal Influences; Preschool Children; Siblings; Toddlers; *Twins; Young Children
Identifiers: California; *Multiple Birth Family; Postpartum; *Psychosocial Factors

EJ031404 AA508187
Title: Achievement, Acceptance and Adjustment of Twins in the Same and Separate Classrooms
Author(s) Leeper, Sarah H.; Skipper, Dora S.
Source: Research Journal (University of Maryland), 1, 2, 11-6, Nov '70
Publication Date: 1970
Journal Announcement: CIJMAR1971

Descriptors: *Academic Achievement; *Educational Research; *Social Adjustment; *Twins