How I Work Departmentalizing in 3rd Grade
Departmentalizing is my jam. Trust me when I tell you, it’s a game changer. Not only did I become an expert in my craft, but I got my life back. If your admin is willing and you can work with your partner teacher to iron out all the necessary organization, it will be one of the best teaching decisions you make.
I’ve been teaching 3rd grade for going on 9 years and I’ve been at my current school for going on 5 years. The first year at my current school was also the first year for one of my teammates. We immediately clicked and quickly realized that while reading was my passion, math was hers. By October, I was writing all of her reading plans and she was writing all of my math plans. At the time, we were on a 5 person team that argued about everything, so while we participated in team meetings and shared all of our ideas, we kept the extent of our partnership to ourselves. At the end of the year when test scores rolled in, our two classes did very well. It came to light that I was putting a lot of time and effort into crafting great reading lessons and she was doing the same for math. Our principal has never been one to push against proven results, so he asked us if we wanted to departmentalize. Since then, we haven’t looked back.
I am heading into my fourth year as a departmentalized 3rd grade teacher and over the years, we have worked with different types of schedules. Before I dive in to that, I’ll get real about the pros and cons of departmentalizing.
You will become an expert in your craft.
After 3 years of teaching reading, I can tell you what each standard is (down to the letter), I can elaborate on the curriculum framework from memory, and I can name at least 5 mentor texts for each skill. I know how to translate curriculum jargon into plain language for students and parents. Even though I had taught 3rd for 4 years prior, I didn’t have near this depth of knowledge because I was held accountable for so many subjects.
Your scores will go up.
I mentioned that at the end of the first year, my partner teacher and I had noticeably higher scores. It seems crazy, but our scores continue to rise every year. My partner teacher and I have both reached 93% pass rates over the years.
You will get your life back.
With less plans to write and less centers/subjects to manage, you get back so much of your personal time and plan time.
Student behavior will increase.
Sometimes all tough students need is a chance to reset. It’s hard to turn around a rough day, but when you get to move to a new classroom, tackle a new subject, and interact with a new teacher, it’s almost like a second chance. All of our students have two teachers in their life, encouraging them daily. Some students gravitate more toward one of us than the other, but they all know we are both equally their teacher who loves them.
Student focus will increase.
My entire room is reading focused. Students come in knowing that’s what we are going to be doing and even the most reluctant readers don’t groan when it’s time for independent reading. They come knowing what to expect and ready to do it.
You always have back up.
It has been heaven to have a partner during tough parent meetings or when trying to get a child identified for extra services or gifted. Teachers typically have to jump through hoops, but I’ve found that when I have a colleague who can verify my findings while in a whole other classroom with a whole other curriculum, things get done quicker.
It won’t work if you are your partner teacher aren’t in the same page (or are willing to develop/have similar management styles).
So much of successful departmentalizing is dependent upon organization and classroom management. If you aren’t on the same page with supplies or behavior expectations, then the students will be confused and you will be frustrated.
It won’t work if you don’t trust your partner.
I lucked out with my partner teacher, she is my bestie and we typically agree on classroom/student decisions. I don’t worry for one second about my kiddos because I know that when they are in her room, they are getting first rate math instruction and being treated with care. However, I’ve seen other teacher partners on my team struggle because of lack of trust.
We’ve tried many schedules over the years. Every year is different, depending on the reading/math/ESOL support we will receive and our encore/lunch times. Here are some of the schedules we’ve lived so far.
Are you departmentalized? I would love to hear how you work it!
Check back tomorrow to read my tips on how to make departmentalizing easy!
Talk to you soon,
Thank you so much for the insight and practical suggestions on departmentalizing. I have been a first grade self-contained teacher for the past 7 years. This year will be my first exposure to departmentalizing and I am both excited and anxious about the changes. I don’t yet know who my partner-teacher will be so I haven’t done any planning with someone. I’m bookmarking your page for easy reference/access. Thanks again.
Hey there! I am part of a 4th grade 3-way switch in TX!! Love the tidbits of information and your thoughts about departmentalizing. Thanks!!
This sounds amazing. Is this similar to team-teaching? If so, how many students did/do you have at a time? For example, are you sharing students? Or are you each staying to your own classrooms but teaching each others’ lessons?
We each have a homeroom of about 20. I teach reading to my homeroom then switch and teach it to hers. The kids switch rooms and we stay in our homeroom.