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departmentalizing with two teachers
Old 06-12-2020, 01:40 PM
 
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We're considering splitting a 5th grade between two teachers. Other elementary schools in the area already do, and the transition to middle school might be easier if they have that "practice." I'd teach ELA and math, and the other teacher would teach science, history, and math.

I've always preferred self-contained because I like all the subjects, but I'm kind of warming up to the idea of only teaching ELA and math.

We'd do teacher switch rather than student switch because of virus concerns, and each teacher would "own" half the classroom for supplies, anchor charts, etc. Maybe even each have own small desk/storage area.

What do you consider the pros/cons of this set up?

Pro - no longer have to prep history/science
Con - harder to integrate reading and writing activities with content
Mitigation - other teacher and I work well together and could probably collaborate on projects

Pro - able to really focus on my subject matter
Con - might get confused teaching the same subject twice and remembering who was where; if we do hybrid model, I'll actually have to teach each subject 3 times - once per group plus video
Mitigation - really good note taking (this will be hard for me), and prep the video in advance and have slowest group "catch up" via video

Pro - ???

That's all I've got. Obviously there have to be more pros/cons to this, but I can't think of them.

Other things of note: science, math, and ELA are all tested subjects in fifth grade, so we'd each have a "high stakes" subject; the math curriculum will be totally brand new to both of us; the other teacher has history as a favorite subject to teach and I have writing as a favorite subject to teach; I'm concerned about uneven grading time required but I enjoy giving feedback on writing pieces if I have time and without having to do history/science grading, I might have more time to do it the way I want to


ETA some detail:
At my school, we emphasize content, so students should get 550 minutes of ELA and 225 each of science and social studies per week (with flexibility to prioritize either sci or SS somewhat as needed based on the subject content that week). And both SS and sci would include reading and writing elements.

We'd teach our homerooms math (300 minutes a week), so the teacher differentiates in the classroom rather than mixing groups for leveling since the guidelines are recommending stable cohorts.



Last edited by Gromit; 06-12-2020 at 09:33 PM..
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Couple thoughts...
Old 06-12-2020, 03:00 PM
 
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Here are a couple of thoughts...

First, I never thought I'd like not teaching all the subjects because like you, I LOVE all of the subjects. This past school year, I took a new job where the kids did switch for some subjects. While I miss not teaching science, I have really enjoyed having less planning. It has also been nice to get a break from some kids and to get to know other kids who I'd never normally have if they were in the other class.

A few things I'd consider or think about with your plan is this:

-It sounds like you and the other teacher work well together. Do you think you do well with consistency in discipline? I think the kids needs to expect that some things will be different, but can you handle/adjust to that? Can you two be on the same page for most things? I ask because I have worked with several very LAX teachers and switching classes would never work for me. I couldn't stand having to tell them to stop talking when I was talking, that they couldn't use the bathroom whenever they wanted, that they couldn't sit on the desks, that they couldn't put feet on their desks, that they couldn't eat and drink (not simple water/snack, but like juice, cookies, chips, etc.) all day long, that they had to clean up their mess, that they couldn't take their shoes off, etc. I also don't think I could take the "resentment" my students would feel when coming back to me because I won't allow them to do what they are allowed to do in the other room (sitting on desks, eat, make messes, walking around while I'm teaching, etc.).

-I'd also be concerned about the time block and if you can make it work. For example, at many schools I worked at, we had set times for different subjects and that made switching hard because Reading and writing were the bulk of the day, followed by math, where science and social studies took up a very, very small percentage. Then you add in specials, and it made switching nearly impossible.

-Would it be easier to start small? Maybe just switch for science and social studies this year and see how it goes and then add more the following year if it works? Just a thought.

-I agree the grading time might be uneven, but if you are "okay" with that due to the fact that you enjoy the subject, it might not be that bad.

Lastly, I'll just say that I really don't think "preparing them for middle school" is a valid argument/an argument you need to worry about. Frankly, I think the kids will do just fine regardless. I personally hate the argument about "preparing them" because then couldn't that continue year after year? For example, you are doing it in 5th grade to prepare them for middle school. So the following year, will the 4th grade teachers need to do it to prepare them for 5th grade because you do it in 5th grade? See where I'm going with that? Honestly, I think kids will do just fine in middle school whether they are departmentalized or not.
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Old 06-12-2020, 03:16 PM
 
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I am confused. You are both teaching math? Is it ability leveled?

Does your state have required minutes of instruction for each subject? Are the minutes equal for both teachers?

It is esssential that both teachers are consistent with behavior expectations and grading.

I have done departmentalized in elementary. The only pro I saw was less prep time since I only had two subjects to prepare.

I did not see a benefit for the kids. We saw no impact on test scores sowe stopped after three years.
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Old 06-12-2020, 03:27 PM
 
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I donít quite understand the split, are you both teaching math? At my school science and social studies usually get less time than ELA and math. So your split sounds uneven to me.

I split with just two teachers and one did ELA/social studies and the other did math/science. I loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. But you really have to be comfortable and confident with your partner teacher. We were so close and you need that trust. When my partner left I went back to self contained because I just didnít trust the new guy.

There are so many pros. I liked being able to know all the grade level kids, and being able to really delve into the content. We still were able to do a lot of crops curricular things, it just took some planning ahead of time. You really end up feeling like such a team, teachers and students included. Once you work out all the details like student materials and planning, the rest is easy.
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Most Important
Old 06-12-2020, 03:54 PM
 
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I see no problem with this. It looks fairly well thought out and forward thinking - kids who go to middle school without any ďmovementĒ find it difficult to adjust to a bell schedule.

The most important thing is that you and your partner are on the same page. That you agree to back each other up. I suggest having the same classroom management/ consequence-reward approach to help consistency. And, I also suggest a clipboard system - something to leave on your desk that tells the other teacher attendance and behavior, even bathroom/drink breaks.
As a co-teacher, I find they try to play ďmom against momĒ like we donít talk to each other...surprise! We do!


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Old 06-12-2020, 04:40 PM
 
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Iím confused on the split also and how students would get all subjects each day.

Our fourth and fifth grade students all have two teachers in my school, years ago fifth grade was all split between three teachers.
One teacher for ELA/Social Studies and another teacher for Math/Science.

ELA, math, and science are all tested in fifth grade in my state.

I think communication between the teachers as well as the teachers/parents is key.
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Old 06-12-2020, 04:40 PM
 
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Departmentalization is a great way for students to practice middle school rotations.

At my school, we Departmentalize in 3rd-5th


Teachers teach

Math/Science or

ELA/Social Studies


It is easier to integrate

ELA/Social Studies due to more reading & writing.

Math/Science because mathematics is used in Science.

Last edited by Dr. A; 06-12-2020 at 05:11 PM..
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Old 06-12-2020, 04:59 PM
 
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I'm teaching ELA and SS next year. My partner teacher is doing math and science. Thats the only way schools around here can do a 2 teacher departmentalized program and meet the instrictional minutes for every subject.
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My Thoughts
Old 06-12-2020, 05:21 PM
 
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I would think one teacher teaches reading, writing, spelling, speaking, and listening for two to two and a half to three hours per day, while the other teacher teaches math and science/social studies.

If you are on a quarter system, science and social studies each get taught for four and a half weeks per quarter. If you are on a trimester system, science and social studies get taught for six weeks each trimester. There is no need to teach science and social studies every day. It works best to spend four and a half/six weeks teaching science and then the next four and a half/six weeks teaching social studies.

What about technology? Who will be teaching that?
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Old 06-12-2020, 09:31 PM
 
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I'm going to go back and read all the comments more thoroughly but to answer a recurring question...

At my school, we emphasize content, so students should get 550 minutes of ELA and 225 each of science and social studies per week (with flexibility to prioritize either sci or SS somewhat as needed based on the subject content that week). And both SS and sci would include reading and writing elements.

We'd teach our homerooms math (300 minutes a week), so the teacher differentiates in the classroom rather than mixing groups for leveling since the guidelines are recommending stable cohorts.


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Old 06-12-2020, 10:15 PM
 
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I like the idea of ELA/SS and Math/Sci but don't see how we could make it work with our minutes. I'll have to try it.

I do work well with the other teacher and we have similar expectations. We have very different styles but they're more complementary than clashing. We also did a weird type of switch for a couple of months last year, and the kids knew how to react if one teacher was in the room vs the other.

We used to have a technology special, but they eliminated that, so tech is taught by the classroom teacher. I just integrate tech skills into everything we do and typing practice is filler work and homework.

I like the clipboard idea for notes. We're also going to have to figure out a way to switch that doesn't leave the kids unsupervised while we transition.
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Old 06-13-2020, 08:13 AM
 
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I'm in a private Christian school, so our subject breakdown is a bit different. I teach Literature, Language Arts, and Science. My partner teaches Bible, Math, and History. We teach technology to our homerooms. My favorite parts of being departmentalized are planning (only 3 preps vs. 6) and getting to know all of the students on our grade level. As far as remembering who was where when teaching, I try to keep the sections as similar as possible, but if one group gets further into something than another, I usually just put a post-it in my book as to which class was where so I know where to pick up.

My partner and I are very different teachers, but we work well together. The students do not have difficulty switching from one of us to the other, even though I am a more structured, "old-school" teacher, and he is more relaxed. I think it is actually good for them to experience both atmospheres.
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It can work
Old 06-13-2020, 10:42 AM
 
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It definitely has potential to be a good thing. They're not dumped right into switching for everything, but they get two teachers, so if they "click" better with one than the other, they get that chance to feel good about their strong subjects without their weaker subjects creeping in.

One of my schools used to "ramp up" to departmentalized teaching by have two 4th grade teachers pair up and just trade for Science and Social Studies. Then in 5th, there were teams of three, and the kids mixed for ELA and Math, as differentiated groups. Then in 6th, they went to one teacher for each subject. It made for a gradual transition to the upper school model. (I'm not sure what they'll do this year, of course.)
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departmentalizing
Old 06-14-2020, 12:20 PM
 
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The "pro" that departmentalizing prepares kids for middle school is a false narrative. You cannot force kids to mature developmentally. This is why 6th grade was part of elementary in the past. Many students are not ready for changing classes or being responsible to so many teachers when they get to middle school, and being departmentalized in fifth does not give them any advantage.
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