A few months back I had the opportunity to speak at our districts back to school professional development seminar. Teachers from across the district are able to lead sessions for other teachers to come and learn from. Naturally, I spoke on classroom organization and management. And one of the questions I got the most was “how do I manage multiple classes?”
And I thought that was a great question and immediately added it to my list of upcoming blogs to write!
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My first two years were in a self contained classroom and I LOVED it! I felt like I really got to know my kids because I spent all day with them. I was able to incorporate science and social studies into the core content areas much easier. And I only had like twenty kids instead of thirty something.
When I moved to second grade my third year of teaching, I was put into a Dual Language classroom. And I was not happy about it. I didn’t really like the DL program. I was not excited about having to manage multiple classes. Or work with another teacher so closely. (Not that I mind working with another teacher at all…but I knew I would have to rethink my management plans, stick to the schedule so that my class was ready to switch on time, etc.)
This is now year four with multiple classes. While I miss being self contained, I have found many positives in teaching less subjects. Number one on that list? Less lesson planning! I also enjoy the fact that my “special friends” are only with me half a day instead of all day. I am able to collaborate with another teacher and have someone to support me with behavior needs.
But how to manage it all? That took some figuring out.
Ways to Manage Multiple Classes
I have compiled a list of a few things that have helped me as I manage my two classes.
1. Give each group a name:
Because I am in the DL program the idea is that the students are all one class that is split up into two groups. We see a lot of division between the “English kids” and the “Spanish kids.” They literally will say “Jose in the Spanish class did this to me.” And I don’t like that.
So each group has a name. This year its green and purple group. Last year it was green and blue. I have also had the lion and the fish group. Naming them by something other than “Mrs. Jackson’s class and Ms. Aguirre’s class” keeps from the segregation of classes happening.
2. Create a spot for each group:
Anything in my classroom is double so that there is one for each group. For example, I have two turn in baskets, two sets of mailboxes for each group.
3. Lesson Plan Once, Write out Plans Twice
I teach math and language arts in my portion of the DL program. This means I teach the same content two times a day. I have found that writing out plans for both classes is helpful. Especially because math for green group is at the end of the day when we have assemblies and my energy is gone. So it’s safe to say, that group can sometimes get off track. Writing out my plans two separate times allows me to make necessary changes to each groups plans to fit their needs.
4. Have a Procedure for Everything
I think this is one of the most important steps. You have to think out a process for every little thing. From how you are going to store their materials in their desks to how you will line them up. Even their classroom jobs. That was a tough one for me at first because when I initially started in the DL program, I had four groupings of my students and I needed to make sure each kid had a job and each job was being done.
Now, there is double of everything. Including double people doing the same job, one in each group. And some jobs I just leave open for one group because it is a job that only my homeroom needs to take care of at the end of the day.
I also had to really think how they would store student materials so I assigned my homeroom the bottom cubby and the other group the top cubby in their desk. This way their materials are separate. My table group that doesn’t have cubbies in their desk store their materials in a crate. The crate has four folders with green stickers and four with purple stickers. Then, each sticker has a number that corresponds with the number on their desk. This is how I organize their materials so that they are easy for them to find.
5. Double, Triple, Quadruple Everything
When you teach multiple classes you have to make sure that you give each class the same things. For example, I use a marble jar as my whole group behavior system. That means that when I had four groups of kids, I had four marble jars that I needed to fill up. It was a lot to manage, but it was important to me (and the kids) that each group felt like they weren’t missing out on anything.
Double up on anchor charts and materials. Or, laminate the anchor chart and use it in both groups (and year after year!) One way I have found to battle all the paper copies I make having two groups is to do a lot of kagan structures that allow for partner or team work (rally coach, sage and scribe, etc.) This way I am making one copy for each partner set.
Teaching Multiple Classes
Surprisingly, the thing I have found most difficult with two classes is staying fresh and energized. When I lesson plan I generally just write down the high points of how I want to teach the lesson. In the middle of the lesson is when I get the bursts of energy that make me do something more creative. Like I will plan to talk to their partner about the summary of a story, but as I am explaining that direction to them, I decide to add a mix-pair-share or a Round Robin in there to make it more engaging.
But it always seems like that super great idea I had with the first group never goes as well with the second group. I don’t know why, I guess it just doesn’t feel as genuine- like I am copying the other group. So right now I am trying to figure out how to stay energized with both groups. For now it’s looking like altering the kagan structure I do or the story I tell. I went into this long story with one group the other day and completely skipped over it with second group. They will get a different story one day that will be told naturally and organically instead of trying to match the script I did the first time.
I hope this helps you create some routines for multiple classes. I have found that I really do love teaching more groups because that means more sweet babies I get to love on and care for. It also means more kids to drive me crazy…but less time I have to spend with them :P!
What are some strategies and routines you use to manage multiple classes? I’d love to hear them. Also, check out these other blogs I have written on routines to help you brainstorm all the routines you need to think of and plan for for your classes.
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