Teach Split Classes and
Enjoy the Challenge!!

Teaching split classes or split grades doesn't have to be as difficult as you think, if you follow my teaching strategies.

Most teachers hate hearing the dreaded words from their principal or V.P. ..... "You have to teach a split."

In the spring, the principal typically gives out a form or in some similar way finds out from each teacher, what his/her plans are for the following year; i.e. staying in the school, transferring to another school, preference for grade, retiring, etc.

Depending on the principal, you may get what you asked, but I'm sure you've heard some horror stories; for example a Grade 2 teacher is forced to teach Grade 5. If you don't like it "There's the door". Hopefully that doesn't happen too often or to you. A happy staff means happy students and a less stressful environment.

But in some cases enrollment of the school is down or there are too few or too many students in one grade, so split classes become a necessity.

I have taught my share of (and more) splits throughout my career and once you get a handle on it, it's not really as bad as you think ... REALLY ... SERIOUSLY.

Keep in mind though, that you need to be super organized and always on top of your student assessment, understanding their needs.

Classroom management and motivation is also key and there can be quite a bit of parent teacher communication - parents are always asking/complaining - "why does my child have to be in a split class".

[WOW, that was quite a mouthful - but don't panic! You know my website covers all these areas.]

In certain cases it's actually easier to teach a split level class than a regular one. Let me explain.

If, for example, you have a 4/5 split, some schools may try to arrange the class so that it has higher achieving Grade 4 students with lower achieving Grade 5 students, so that the students in the class are at close academic level.

Alternatively the school may place high achieving students in the split grades knowing that both groups are capable and comfortable working independently on their own.

On the other hand "regular, straight" classes will often have students of many different levels of academic ability in the class, each small group having their own particular needs and each group learning at their own pace. It's like teaching many splits within the same classroom.

What are some of the other benefits of teaching a split class?

* You can ask for certain kids to be in your class.

* When a new student arrives at your school, they're put in a "straight" class, if possible.

* If you taught the low end of a grade the previous year, say Grade 3, you can hand pick the students you want into your Grade 3/4 split. These students are already familiar with your routines and your classroom management philosophies and you are quite aware of their capabilities.

So now you understand why I say teaching a "real" split may actually be easier.

I found certain splits easier to teach; for example, a 4/5 split, because their curriculum in math and language are similar.

Teaching a 3/4 or 6/7 split, is much more challenging since it involves teaching two different divisions in one class - primary/junior for 3/4 and junior/intermediate for 6/7. As well, the differences in age and maturity of students in Grades 3/4 and 6/7 (7-10 years old and 11-13 respectively), plays a larger role than for more equally mature Grade 4/5 students.

If you teach a split class and there's a 2nd split class for the same grade in the school, you're in luck! Take advantage of team teaching, it's marvelous!

For instance, you can teach the Grade 4 Science lesson while your grade partner teaches Grade 5 Science at the same time, so you only have to focus on teaching to one grade. There's also less photocopying, planning and of course less stress. As the saying goes "Two heads are better than one!"

Even if you're the only teacher with a split class, say for Grade 1/2, you can still take advantage of team teaching by sharing units and resources and bouncing ideas off of the "regular" Grade 1 and 2 teachers. It's a Win-Win situation.

Here are some other ideas for teaching a split class:

* Combine certain topics or curriculum. For example, in Science, if one of your grades is doing "Habitats" and the other "Animals", teach them together, but have different activity sheets (seatwork, homework) to complete.

* Certain subjects, such as Math/Geometric Shapes, are carried on from grade through grade. Just give the older grade more challenging seatwork and/or homework to finish.

* Often language arts, e.g. grammar, spelling, creating stories, even novel studies can be combined and integrated into your programme.

* And of course, for both your split or straight classes to run smoothly you must develop, enforce and maintain your unique and effective classroom management styles.

One more point about parent teacher communication. A lot of parents HATE having their child in a split class. You have more accountability and need to do a lot of reassuring. Many parents feel that when their child is in the higher grade of the split, that he/she will be bored because the teacher "will focus on the younger group and my child will learn the same things he/she learned last year".

I hope that I have eased your mind about teaching a split class. It really can be fun and exciting! But you definitely have to be on your toes all the time.


P.S. Don't forget to send me your questions about teaching splits and any other of your concerns. Just use the Contact Me form.

But always remember, you are never alone!

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