I teach a self contained 4th grade class. It seems that most other schools in the district are going to a departmentalized 4-6 grades (our school contains Pre K-6). Some schools departmentalize where each teacher teaches a different subject and the kids have 5 different teachers, and some teach 2-3 subjects where the kids have 2-3 teachers. What are your opinions on this, do you like being self contained, or do you like being departmentalized and if so, how does your school switch classes? What are your schedules like?
I enjoy my "OWN" set of kids, but my strengths are in math and science and my test scores prove it. I don't mind teaching LA, Writing, or Social Studies, but my math scores always seem to be a little higher. The rest of my team would like to try out the departmental thing next year, but we have no idea how to go about it or how to present it to our principal. It seems like it would be too much to switch 5 times throughout the day, but how would you divide up subjects with 2-3 teachers? What does a schedule look like when you switch classes? Do you feel that you have enough time to cover everything in that amount of time? I used to teach middle school and I know it can be done, but when you have been away from it for so long- you forget.
I would love to know how your school does it!!
Most of my years have been in departmentalized elementary settings. Because there were 2 teachers for each grade level, we did what worked for us time wise for the year. A few of the years I taught math, science, and social studies (the other teacher taught Language Arts), a couple of years I taught math, science, and spelling (teacher preference thing - the other teacher was awesome with social studies, and I didn't mind teaching spelling). Just be sure to go to your principal with a few schedules and be prepared to say which teacher will teach which subjects. That will really make him/her see you are serious about it and willing to give it your best. I LOVED teaching in a dept. setting. I was able to really focus on the subjects I liked and do them well! Good luck to you.
I like the idea of departmentalization in upper elementary grades! As a student, we were somewhat departmentalized starting in 4th grade. The 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teacher switched students. (I was in a small school with 1-2 teachers per grade.) We spend most of our day with our regular grade teacher, but we were sent to other classes twice per day.
It just happened that all the teachers were able to work out their own schedules, and it was pretty easy to tell what their specialties were. As long as everyone is willing, and nobody gets "stuck" with their least favorite, I'd say give it a try!
It also helps get the kids ready for upper grades. I know that when we had sixth graders who came to us from self-contained schools, those poor kids were LOST at middle school with 7 different teachers, lockers, and hallway issues!
I teach Science. If I were self-contained, I am sure science would suffer. There needs to be a lot of prep time in order to have lab activities. It is much easier for me to have 4 science classes and my homeroom to whom I teach grammar, composition, and spelling.
I taught departmentalized 4th grade my first year of teaching. I didn't like it at all, but that may be the way they did it. We all taught reading to our homeroom, and then we taught one other subject (there were 4 of us). I taught science.
The problem was that the kids would lose homework, papers, etc... in the hallway changing classes. They also had to drag their bookbags because they were responsible for carrying their own books to each class every day. No lockers, and no storing them in the classrooms. We lost a lot of teaching time when teachers wouldn't let their classes out on time, so the other kids were waiting in the halls.
I think the ideal way is to have one teacher teaching several subjects, and keeping the kids in there for that period of time. Then you don't lose so much in transition time. You also should either have 2 sets of books (one to keep in class and one to keep at home) or only have the one set to keep in class and don't give homework from the book. They shouldn't have to haul books back and forth. Also, coordinate homework so they're not bombarded from every teacher every night. Another idea is to teach them to use "planners" so they can keep up with each class easier. They use them in our middle school and it's a big help. Have one folder for school-to-home connections so papers aren't lost and the poor child doesn't have to carry a bunch of notebooks/binders for each teacher.
With 3 teachers, your schedule could work something like this:
Teacher C-Math and Science
We have 3 6th grade teachers this year. We already do flexible grouping for language and math. That left science and social studies to divide amongst 3 teachers. We had had 4 teachers the previous year and the 2 pairs switched for s.s. and science - it worked out well.
So, we took our science content standards and saw that they were able to be grouped roughly into 3 large chunks. Same with s.s. (Western Hemisphere study). The homeroom classes rotate between the 3 of us for science (life, physical, and earth/solar science) and s.s. (West. Hem geography, Canada, Central/South America).
We've enjoyed it so far this year. Teaching the same thing through 3 rotations has worked well - I'm always improving and revising. It is easier to plan, and I get to know all the students.
Our principal is a big advocate of self-contained, but after teaching the 6th grade curriculum for 3 years, I can see the benefits of departmentalizing or team teaching. The standards are advanced enough that one really has to concentrate on them, and having to do that with 4 content areas is difficicult. Until this year, I felt that I was shorting one of the areas.
We have ten 4th grade classes in our building and we team teach, so my class switches with another one each day. We switch for 2 hours and I teach Social Studies and Science to two classes. The other teacher handles Math and Language/Writing. We each do our own Reading and Spelling. It works well and it definitely makes planning easier! The rotation is pretty easy on the kids since it's just one time and with one other teacher.
I wouldn't do it any other way I've blocked with 2 teachers, 3 teachers, and 4 teachers. I like 2 or 3 best because it's easiest for the kids... and you don't have to teach the same thing 4 times in a day.
I teach 4th grade in a self-contained classroom and my team (made up of 5 teachers) would like to go departmentalized next year also. We'll probably do a 2-man team and a 3-man team. We just haven't quiet figured out how we want to split the team of 3 to evenly distribute the subject areas in which we have state assessments(writing, math, & reading). Our principal doesn't like the idea of one teacher responsible for 100+ kids in one subject area, nor does he like the idea of any teacher teaching only a subject area that is NOT tested (such as one teacher teaching only science or social studies).
When I taught 6th grade in another school district (it was a pre-k - 6th grade campus) we tried going completely departmentalized one year w/ 4 classes. It was very difficult because of all the transitions (we lost teaching time), occasionally someone would be off w/ the rotation times (needed a bell to notify of switching times), and we didn't have enough hallway area for passing 4 classes. So, we switched back to our two-way team rotations at the second 6 weeks.
I would like to hear what your team decides to do.
I am currently teaching in a departmentalized setting and it is wonderful. I use to teach special education for 13 years and we departmentalized too. You get to specialize in one or two subjects that you are strong in and become even stronger. I team teach with another partner now and will be glad to send you a copy of our schedule for fourth grade. Please send me your school email and will send it from my school. Mrs. Kats
Yes, thanks! I would love to see your schedule. I think that is the hardest part of this whole thing. I think we have figured out which teachers would teach which subjects, but the scheduling and fitting it all in is the hard part!! My school e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would LOVE to departmentalize (6th grade class). There are only 2 of us in our grade level and our behavior management and teaching style are SO different. We would need another teacher to balance us out. Anyway.... I think before a "class" goes to middle school they should departmentalize in the elementary setting. This is great preparation. Also, I would love to focus on one or two subjects and really dive into them. Right now I teach all of the sixth grade writing and my partner teachers all of the math. I would love to be fully departmentalized though.
We are in the process of trying to departmentalize our 5th grade team. We have 5 teachers and are having a difficult time creating a schedule. I am interested in seeing your schedule. My email address is email@example.com
I would also like a copy of the schedule. I have tried for many years to get our principal to change over to dept. We have 6 teachers on our 4th grade team. 3 monolingual and 3 bilingual any suggestions? We are a very low performing school, but our kids really could benefit ( I think) from focused instruction. Any success stories I can share with the principal to encourage him that it helps kids perform better?
I'm not a fan of departmentalization, based on the results at my school. We have 2 grade levels that departmentalize. Their test scores are way lower than the other grade levels, even when you compare the scores of the same class as they move through the grades. Maybe other schools do it with success, but our school sure isn't!
of your schedule. We are in the process of trying to convince the principal and he doesnt believe we can work out a schedule Im hoping yours could give us some ideas. firstname.lastname@example.org is my email address. Thanks sooo much for sharing.
There are three of us. ELA (Reading/Writing), Math/PE and Social Studies/Science (me). We rotate 102 sixth graders (currently 34 each) using 3-95 minute blocks.
Block A 8:00-9:35
Block B 9:35-11:25
Recess from 10 to 10:15
Block C from 11:25 to 1:45
Lunch from 11:50 to 12:30
ELD from 1:40 to 2:10
I agree with a PP. Last year we were self-contained and the Social Studies and Science really suffered. Since the kids receive a full period of both in Junior High, I think the departmentalizing helps to prepare them on many levels.
Our instructional minutes require us to teach 120 mins. of ELA each day. 25 minutes of my time gets us there. Obviously, it would be hard to teach SS/Sci WITHOUT teaching ELA.
I have taught 5th grade as both a self contained teacher and as a member of team. Personally, I do a better job teaching if I have fewer classes to prepare for. Including guided reading groups, I could have as many as 11 subjects to prepare for each day. We have tried many schedules over the years. My problem this year is that we have a teacher who just won't except the fact that 5th grade teachers have to prepare kids for upper grades as well as teach 5th grade standards.
This person does not want to departmentalize at all.
Do any of you know of any research that has collected data on organizational structures in 4-6 classrooms, and student success?
It frustrates me that so many of us are struggling with this question.
gw, I completely understand where you are coming from. Did this particular teacher on your team come from a lower grade level? The new teacher on my team this year came from 4th grade and she has had a really hard time understanding how critical the 5th grade year can be for students. Not only are we expected to see to it that students have mastered ALL of the elementary school standards that may have fallen through the cracks in the previous years, but we are expected to prepare them for the rigors of middle school. (By the way, I mean no offense to the K-4 teachers. I know we all do the best we can to see that our students achieve. I only mean to make a point that when students don't go on to middle school knowing everything they're "supposed to," it usually comes back down on the 5th grade teachers.)
My team and I got approval to departmentalize this school year, but we did struggle a bit with rotations amongst the four of us. Our principal has since decided that departmentalization is not a good thing and is pushing for us to go back to self-contained classes, with the exception of math ability groups. With the exception of the one, aforementioned, teacher, my team and I would like the opportunity to try to semi-departmentalizaion with two teachers. I have been doing some research on this as well and I have to say it has been hard to find anything that focuses on departmentalization in 5th grade. If I find anything, I will pass it along. If you find anything, could you please do the same?
Personally, I don't think that departmentalizing is the greatest approach for children under 6th grade. While I am sure that it is very successful in many places, I'm still not convinced that it's the best approach. I look at my school's fourth graders over the past 2 years, and I know that the best thing for these kids is a self-contained classroom. They're only 8 at the beginning of grade 4...I truly believe that they need the security of one homeroom teacher. I also believe that fewer children fall through the cracks in a self-contained room. Since grade 4 is a big year for testing and identification in my board, this is a crucial issue. Finally, a self-contained classroom makes it much easier to integrate instruction, which I think is really important.
Would part of me like to departmentalize? Absolutely! I think it's much easier on the teacher with regards to planning and prepping. I would LOVE to spend my day focused on science/math or on reading/writing, but I'm really not convinced that it would be in my students' best interests.
My students already have 3 teachers throughout the week - a specialist teacher for music twice a week, an English teacher one period per day (we are a French-language school) and me for everything else. If I team-taught with another teacher, they'd have 4 teachers.
Keep in mind, though, that elementary schools in my board go from k-8. Seventh and eighth grades are semi-departmentalized, with teams of 2 teachers for core subjects, as well as specialist teachers for music and gym. Full departmentalization starts in high school, at grade 9. So fourth, fifth and sixth grade teachers are not responsible for getting children ready for departmentalization in middle school.
I think departmentalization is the best way to make sure each subject gets its fullest due. That being said, I believe there are developmental issues to take into account. I think that 4th grade is an ideal time to introduce departmentalization. Two teachers would be perfect I think - both of you teaching reading, then math-science, and SS-language arts. That way students could get used to the idea of "switcthing classes" and dealing with more than one teacher.
I agree with ImaTeacher - it is a huge transition in sixth grade if students have never been exposed to it!
There just isn't a lot of good research out there on departmentalizing.
Here's a research paper, written in 2004, by a Master's degree candidate.
It seems fairly well balanced and contains a list of references.
Be sure to read all the way to the end, where you will understand that this paper is written by a 3rd grade teacher who teaches in a departmentalized setting and how closely teachers must work together to make departmentalizing at this level work for the students.
In my opinion, having taught in both elementary and middle school settings (departmentalized and self-contained) the upper elem. level is better for students when self-contained. I know/knew what my weaker subject areas were and made a concerted effort over the years to improve in those areas. I also make a concerted effort to integrate the various subject area curriculum requirements throughout the entire curriculum. So, when we are studying Ecosystems, we are reading stories/novels about animals and their habitats, we are researching a biome and writing a research report in writing, we are working on ecosystem related math problems in math, we cover regions in social studies and we are using our reading strategies across all subject areas. This so works well for those lower level students. There is also a time element involved, in one elem. school, when we went from departmentalized to self-contained, we gained 30 min. per day by not switching classes.
I've taught in middle schools, too. and there is plenty of time in middle school for students to learn how to change classes and deal with all that requires. Most middle schools teachers teach on teams with 2 planning times. One for personal planning and one for student planning. As a 5th grade teacher, I feel my job is to prepare the students academically for middle school and part of the middle schools job to teach the students how to deal with the organizational challenges at that level.
I could probably deal with semi-departmentalization at the 4th -5th grade level, provided the teachers were given a protected commom planning time everyday during the school day and provided the teachers were a very cooperative group.
If I were you, maybe you could convince your colleagues and principal to use the coming school year-2010-2011- to investigate and plan how your school might departmentalize for the following school year. Then try it. Departmentalizing on the fly is never done well.
Our school has decided to departmentalize math starting at first grade. I am currently a 2nd grade teacher and we departmentalize for social studies and science. I am fine with those two subjects.
However, our district wants us to departmentalize in math and reading next year. I personally think this is educationally unsound and really just a financial decision as we are purchasing a new math curriculum this year and we could purchase half the books. I have looked for research based on departmentalizing in the primary grades, but haven't found any yet.
Do you know of any school that starts departmentalizing at this age? any research? personal thoughts?
I am looking for help because I think the district is not doing what is best for our students or on the other side convince me it is a sound practice.
I think 2nd grade is a good place to start...most kids can handle the transition. We think kids are best with one person. Well what if that person doesn't like teaching math, or cant find time for SS. I think a two way split ELA/SS in the AM and then Math/Sci. in the PM. Two teachers is a model worth exploring. Departmentalizing all four subjects at elem. doesn't seem like a good idea.
I do not believe that 8 and 9 YOs are developmentally ready for departmentalization. Everything in this thread talks about how great it is for the teachers, very little about whether iot is good for children. In my school I was the only self-contained 4th grade, the other three departmentalized for everything and what they got was a tremendous increase in disciplinary issues and disruption, a lack of organization on the part of the kids, and a general feeling of unrest. My class, on the other hand, was calm, organized, and content. Things got so bad that they stopped as soon as standardized testing was over in early May and most of the behaviors and outcomes changed for the better, and not by a little, but by a wide margin. If the teachers move, that's one thing, but asking children at that age to be organized and in sufficient control enough to move through the halls three to five a day is untenable - at least in the urban district in which I teach where behavior issues are the norm.
My son's 4th grade eases the kids into it by just trading between two adjoining rooms for one subject. - So each teacher has her own class for almost everything, but one teaches both classes science and the other teaches both classes social studies. It's nice for the teachers because it allows them to concentrate on what they love the most, and it's good for the kids because it lets them practice moving to classes without being too overwhelming.
We started departmentalization two years ago with our third through fifth graders and the results have been disastrous. Reading scores have dropped dramatically. Math scores have dropped as well but not as dramatically as reading .I believe this is because they are not ready for the grind/responsibility of having four teachers. Reading is not not taught everyday but in blocks. What a waste of precious time for our students and teachers. The principal refuses to go back because the math scores haven't dropped as much as the reading. I have done research on this and no one suggests departmentalizing prior to the 4th grade. Hope you really do your research on this subject. Hope this helps.
I would love to see a copy of your schedule of how you departmentalized in fourth grade. My partner and I are looking into it for next year, 2012-2013 and have many ideas, but I love the idea of seeing one that already works. My email address is:
Can you steer me toward some of the research you found? My school wants all kids (K-5) to switch and have homogeneously grouped classes for an hour of the day. Many of us ( I'm gr. 1) are horrified, but I can't find much info!
My team is trying to figure out a schedule as well.
We have 5 fifth grade teachers. We're trying to decide if we want to stay a team of five or divide into two teams. The team of 2 would split into L.Arts/S.S. and Math/Science. How would a rotation of three work?