I have my feelings about departmentalizing, but I would love to hear from some of you that have experienced or are experiencing this. It's a big shift in my thinking, but willing to give it a try if it truly helps the kids and their learning.
I think in the older grades (5 and 6), it's a great way to prepare them for middle school. They have to travel between classes, remember their materials, etc.
For teachers, it seems like a lot less planning! You can be more focused on your plans because you don't need to plan for all subjects - just the 1-2 that you may teach.
Bonus: If you don't like one class, you don't have them all day You only have them for a certain period of time then you can get rid of them!
The only cons that I can think of is that you may not have the relationship that you build with a class that you would have all day in a self-contained class. Having to work a bit more closely with teachers on your team to make sure expectations are the same could also be difficult. You could also be stuck teaching a subject you really don't like.
I think there's more pros than cons in the upper elementary level.
One of the cons is flexibility. You totally lose the flexibility you have in a self-contained. yes, you do plan the same type of lesson for each group...so planning is easier, but just be sure if you do it you are teaching something you want to teach ALL DAY!
elementary levels is best for the students if they have strong teachers. And honestly, I think elementary teachers should be strong in all the core content areas... English, language arts, science, social studies and math.
I've done both self-contained and departmentalized-departmentalizing is easier for teachers, less planning, focus on one content areas, and other issues pp have listed as pros
There is plenty of time in middle schools for students to become use to departmentalization. Most middle schools teach students in teams and switch out between 4 teachers or so. And those 4 teachers have 2 planning times built into their schedule, one for personal planning and one for team planning to deal with planning, behavior issues, parent conferences, working with students who have organizational issues, or issues with changing classes, etc. I don't mean this in a mean way, but my job is to prepare students academically for middle school and middle school's job is to help students transition to their daily structure and to work on the academics. And middle school teachers are provided the time to do so.
My cons for departmentalization (mostly student related):
Loss of academic time on task - we lost up to 30 min. a day switching classes, settling down the students, etc.
Loss of cross curriculum connections for the students...this is a big one for me. I very purposely plan these connections in a self-contained setting to help students see the relevant connections between subject areas.
Behavior issues are more difficult to address in a consistent manner.
A lot less spontaneous flexibility in the classroom.
Teachers lose an opportunity to sharpen or keep their skills sharp in all content areas.
We departmentalize for science only, and it works out great because we have 3 main units to teach and we each can specialize in one unit. The pros are that you get to know all the kids in the grade, so if you run into them somewhere else in the school you are familiar with them. We only change classes 2 days a week, for 12 weeks, so the con would definitely be that you don't have a chance to really get to know them!
I do think it helps them prepare for middle school---even if they just learn to keep up with papers and assignments from different teachers!
I teach in a departmentalized 4th grade. The decision was from the top down. Teachers had no input. I teach math and science to my partner's homeroom class and my own.
Our schedule is like this:
1st, 2nd, 3rd periods - we teach a double-block subject (partner teaches lang. arts and I teach math) and one other subject.
4th period is specials, then lunch.
5th-9th periods - we have our own homerooms, plus 8th period is an intervention period. That can become some lost time since kids go to different rooms for that (gifted, etc.).
Our kids only have two teachers. I teach math and science to my partner's homeroom class in the morning and to my own homeroom in the afternoon. I love both classes.
Time lost for changing classes is minimal because: we are located right next to each other, we have each class for one-half of the day, we each have our own homeroom at the end of the day so getting ready for home is not a problem, when the kids return from lunch recess, they return to their own homeroom and don't have to change.
I am able to be somewhat flexible in timing. I start out the time teaching math most of the time. It is supposed to be two periods, with science one period. If math takes longer, then science is just naturally shortened for that day and is made up another day. I have also started with science instead of math in the case where that subject may take longer.
I am not teaching my passion, but teaching the subjects I do teach, I have found very enjoyable ways to like them.
I am able to conference some with the other 3 math and science teachers on what we are all doing. Since this is my first year doing this, that really helps.
I have never taught intermediate self-contained before. Taught 1st grade mostly. So, I can't compare departmentalized with self-contained intermediate.
I do like this. I like having a teaching partner with whom I share the children. I can ask "Do you see Billy Bob doing this?" and she can validate or not some of my thoughts about students.
Since I concentrate on two subjects, I can be more specific, more focused myself which I believe does translate to better learning for the children.
While I like to integrate subject areas with the rest of them, when students come to my room they know it's "All Math,
All the Time" or science. It's kind of a mindset, I believe.
If you can think of any other specific questions, I would be more than glad to try to help if possible. Please feel free to PM me or post again.