"Raudy": Pronounced like rowdy! A blog about the day-to-day life of a very "Raudy" Combined Class teacher in Ontario, Canada!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How to Teach and Survive A Combined Grade Class


It's been a looooonng time since my last blog post.  I've been super busy with my two little ones, and a massive grade change.  Last year I took the leap and moved from 3/4 to 6/7.  And it was a year of learning and adjustments for me.  But what I have learned through it all is that I absolutely LOVE it! It was the right move for me.  And here I am, about to take another leap.  Same grade... different school. Although this is another big change for me, my confidence has risen.  As a result, I am working hard at creating new products for this age group.

Another thing that I have learned? I LOVE combined classes (or split grades as most call them)!  I bet you are reading this now and say "Yeah, sure you do! It's double the work!"  But it really isn't! In my opinion, there really is no such thing as a single grade anymore.  With differentiation, and our students learning at different levels, you could essentially be instructing 5 or more grades in one class!

So now with this year behind me, and a new one ahead, I thought that I would share my love of combined classes, as well as tips and tricks to really help you feel confident in teaching ANY combined grade!

TIP #1: LOOK AT THE BIG IDEAS AND OVERALL EXPECTATIONS!
A lot of people say to me, "Split Grades are so difficult, because the Science and Social Studies are different!" At the front of each section of these documents, there is an Overview of the Grade / Strand, Big Ideas and Overall Expectations.  Take the two (or more) grades that you are teaching.  Bring these paper out of the curriculum document, and look at them side by side.  What overall connections can you make? Where does the information overlap? Usually when you are looking at Science, they need to understand society and environmental effects of the unit of study.  There is also the Scientific Inquiry Process, and personal safety during experiments.  Make these the focus of your unit!
 

TIP #2: DON'T DO IT All AT ONCE!
Yes, A type personalities like me have difficulty with this one.  But it's true! Don't do it all at once!  What I mean by this, is DON'T TEACH SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES AT ONCE!
Break it up. Teach 6-8 weeks of Social Studies. Then switch to Science.  That way, you can integrate a lot more in your program and get deep thought on on topic at a time. I know this can be a little harder if you teacher a 6/7 or a 7/8. But it is doable!  If you allocate 3 periods 50 minute periods a week to your Science / Social Studies, you will be able to get it in... but you have to follow Tip #3 in order for it to be effective!

TIP #3: INTEGRATE, INTEGRATE AND INTEGRATE
I am a HUGE believer in integration!  I despise teaching one subject at a time, and in isolation!  I like my program to flow, with an overall goal and big idea.  And integration is KEY to getting this cohesive feeling within your classroom.
So, how do you integrate?
Literacy is the best place to integrate Science and Social Studies.  Look for Read Alouds that reflect the content that you are teaching.  Some great examples that I use for my 6/7 class include:
History / Canada Past and Present: Underground Railroad by Barbara Smucker
Science: Electricity: City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Science: Form and Function: Titanic by Gordon Korman 

Don't forget 10 minutes of Shared Reading Daily!  I like to use articles that reflect the overall big idea that we are learning about. If you focus on being a Global Citizen or an Environmental Steward, you will find TONS of current and relevant articles to highlight your Big Idea.

Guided Reading - definitely the best bang for your buck!  Are you concerned that your students won't get in those key knowledge and understanding concepts for each Science / Social Studies Strand?  Select materials in Guided Reading that can really help to solidify these concepts.  Use your school resources, apps like Epic or even internet articles to work in small groups on these concepts.

Writing and Media - I integrate these concepts CONSTANTLY in my program.  I always have a rich task that my students need to do as a culminating task for the unit.  This is where I bring in the writing and media expectations.  Have focused mini lessons around the writer's workshop process, and around a specific text form you would like them to produce.  At the end, you will have a rich task that will hit more than one area in your curriculum.

TIP #4: USE INQUIRY
Yes, this is the "buzz" word that has been floating around for a while now.  But it is SO key to student engagement! It is also key to teachers feeling less stress about "fitting in their curriculum."
Use an article, (either in Shared Reading or Guided Reading as highlighted above).  Then, have students generate questions on things that they would like to learn more about in that particular concept.  It should spark some natural curiosity within the class.  Then, in your modelled writing lessons, focus on HOW to conduct the inquiry process, and become an efficient researcher.  You set the context, you foster the questioning and the learning.  And the students will run with it!

TIP #5 LOOK TO TPT FOR GREAT PRODUCTS
If you are still worried about putting it all together... have no fear!  For there are some amazing Combined Classroom Teachers on tpt!  I have really been focusing on developing my Combined Classroom Resources.  Currently, I have:



Want BOTH of my Combined History and Social Studies Units for a discounted price (save $5)!  Check This Bundle Out!

More combined classes resources will be posted! I am also going to bundle some of my other products for Grades 3 and 4 as Combined Classes Resources!  Please follow my tpt store for more updates!


Hopefully, you will feel more confident tackling a combined grade with these tips and tricks!  Please comment below if you have any more tips you would like to add!




1 comment:

  1. You have some GREAT ideas for splits! Thanks for sharing them. I've taught a LOT of 1/2 and K/1 splits over the years. The subject I find hardest is always Math.

    Enjoy your new school!

    ReplyDelete