You just found out you are teaching a split grade class next year. For most teachers the idea of teaching a split is overwhelming. You have twice as many curriculum expectations or standards to teach and no more time to teach it within. Sometimes you are lucky enough to get independent students. However if you are in a small school like me you just get all the kids in two particular grades. This will again be my fourth year teaching a split. I have been given opportunities to organize the classes into straight grades in the past however I have always negotiated that two splits were better than two separate straights. This has worked out for many different reasons including the benefits for the students and the opportunity to work with a teaching partner.
Reducing stress when you are preparing for a split grade classroom can make some of the challenges of a split class less stressful. Here is how I reduce my stress when getting ready for September and planning for a split grade classroom.
1) Long Range Planning – This is a vital step in reducing your stress come September. Developing a plan that outlines what you are going to teach when and managing your pacing and timing to help to keep you on track is also very important.
2) Teach Things Together – This is necessary to save your sanity. Math and language can easily be taught together. Looking at the curriculum and mapping out the curriculum to find where the differences between the two curriculums for each grade level. Many boards have this done for you. The guides to effective instruction in Ontario have this in the math curriculum for you already. This makes it easier. Language is also very similar between grades. Find the slight differences between the grades and teach them together extending the older grade where necessary.
3) Differentiate – Plan open-ended tasks that can easily be adaptable to various levels. For math this means increasing or decreasing the difficulty of the numbers in the questions depending on where students are. This means that everyone gets the exact same page but the numbers that they use to complete the worksheet or assigned problem changes depending on the students needs. In language that means meet them where they are in their language development and conference with them more than teaching the to support them in moving forward in their writing and reading development. Lots of conferencing and less time standing in front of them teaching will save you planning time and stress. Using an inquiry approach in writing and reading allows students to work at their own pace and develop their skills in a more natural way.
4) Flip Flop Instruction – sometimes when the curriculum does not match so you cannot teach it together. Subjects such as science and social studies are much harder to combine completely. In this case, I find that the best strategy is to plan for 20min of teacher supported instruction followed by 20min of student independent work tasks. With an inquiry approach that is occurring in classrooms these days, this allows for wonderings and conversations circles during your teacher supported time and opportunities to research and search for information while you are working with the other group. Using techniques such as interactive notebooks for independent work time and research booklets help to support this and provide students with some structure when working independently.
5) No More Stress – Don’t reinvent the wheel. Let me do the planning for you. Long range plans for a 4/5 split are available in my TPT store. Specialized science and social studies units that are specifically designed for split grade teachers helps you to reduce your planning and get a head start on enjoying your summer and free time a bit more. Whether you teach a 4/5 or another junior split the units in my TPT store will allow you to use a framework to support your planning at least reducing your planing by half.
How do you reduce your planning stress with a new assignment?