When I was offered the opportunity in the fall of 2010 to teach a first/second grade split class, I was so excited and ready for the challenge. After five years as a second grade teacher, something just a little new and different was exactly what I needed! I knew that my classroom management skills would be tested.
Teaching two grade levels certainly is challenging, but it is also so exciting and rewarding. One of the things I love the most is seeing friendships develop between children who would otherwise not have been together. It is also exciting to be able to really and truly differentiate for all students across such a wide range of levels. This is my second year with a split class and I am still loving it! I am often asked by other teachers who are facing a similar class assignment what tips or advice I may have for them.
Some definite DOs are:
- DO teach at high levels for all students. It is really exciting for me to see the things my first graders can do because they observe the work my second graders are engaged in.
- DO spend lots of time together as a whole class. It is really important that my students see our classroom as a unit, not as two groups of children who operate separately. Daily Five and CAFÉ are ideal for teaching reading in a multi-grade class!
- DO spend lots of time on community building at the beginning of the year. Chances are your students in each grade level know each other, but not those in the other grade.
- DO network and connect with the teachers of both grade levels. It is easy to feel detached from one grade level (or both at times!), but remember to network with your colleagues and allow your classes to spend time together, too, so one grade level doesn’t feel disconnected from their other grade level peers.
- DO take time for YOU! Figuring out how to “mesh” to two different curricula is tough but totally “do-able.” It is easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in making sure you are covering all things for both grade levels. Remember to breathe and take care of you, too!
- DO keep samples of work from your lower grade level if you will be looping (placing the same group of students with one teacher for more than one year) with those children the following year. I kept writing samples from my first graders last year that we did the first day of school. This year we did the same assignment and I gave them back their papers from last year… they were so tickled and so was I!
Teaching a split class isn’t always ideal, but with more and more schools moving to that model as a way to save resources, you can create YOUR ideal environment for you and your students!
Christina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike. Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at www.bainbridgeclass.blogspot.com.
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