10 Tips for Departmentalized Classrooms
Yesterday I posted about how my team makes departmentalizing work in 3rd grade. Today, I’m back with 10 tips that help everything run smoothly. Let’s get to it!
Tip 1: Label Everything!
Printing student names on address labels ahead of time has been my saving grace these past few years. I print an entire sheet of 30 labels for each student in August and then staple the sheets together by class, in alphabetical order. It comes in handy when labeling notebooks and folders, but also throughout the year if I hand out new boxes of crayons that I want to label, or I want to quickly label baggies going home, etc.
Tip 2: Make a plan for name tags.
My partner teacher has never used name tags. This is definitely an option, and works well with flexible seating, but I always like to know where a student’s space is even if they aren’t sitting in it. If you’re like me, then there are a few different ways I’ve gone about labeling desks. I always wanted to have both names on desks so that my second group felt at home in my classroom and not like they were just visiting and borrowing someone else’s desk.
Tip 3: Organize your supplies!
The first year we switched, my partner and I just had students move with their pencil box. At the end of a year spent with pencil boxes crashing onto the floor and supplies rolling all over the hallway, we decided we needed a new plan. Ever since, we decided to house all of the supplies the students will need so that they don’t have to bring any with them.
During our 3 way switch, students shared numbered pencil pouches. For example, student number 2 for each class used the same pouch when in my class.
During our three way switch year, I used these cubbies on a cart to store folders and notebooks. The cubbies are labeled by number and students shared the slot just like with the supply pouches. For example, student number 11 for block 2 and 3 would share cubby 11 while student 11 in my homeroom kept their folder and notebook in their desk.
My partner and I also spend all of SS/Science time for the first week of school with both classes in one room. It gives us a chance to learn the students together and work through kinks. During this block of time we create rules, review bathroom/water procedures, discus pencil/classroom procedures, discuss homework, discuss Class Dojo, create a mission/vision, etc. We have found the year is so much smoother when the students know the rules are exactly the same for both rooms. Our first year, we had some kids who would always leave both of us for water or bathroom because we didn’t know, so once we put a procedure in place for that, it really helped.
We had been using Dojo for points and class competitions already, but it REALLY helped with parents when there were three of us. Because of how we introduced ourselves and our grade level set up to parents at the beginning of the year, they saw all of us as their child’s teacher. If there was a message about dismissal or absences, etc. they would message the homeroom teacher; but if there was a question about a test/study guide/notes/homework/progress for a specific subject, the parent just messaged that specific teacher. I loved this because I didn’t have to pass along questions about math or science and if my parents had a concern about reading, they came straight to me. The best part about Class Dojo is that it translates into over 30 languages so I was able to communicate with parents that I normally wouldn’t be able to speak with.
*Click here to read about how I used Class Dojo to transform my Student Reading Conferences.
Tip 9: Give the classes team names!
The first two years, we just called classes by their homeroom teacher. For example, we’d say “Mrs. A’s class needs to line up for recess” or “Mrs. Wiggins’ Class can put their papers here!” We found though that after repeatedly referring to them as belonging only to their homeroom teacher, they struggled to see all of the teachers as their teacher. This past year, we called our grade level the “Wildcats” and we each took and different big cat. Students loved competing with their team names and would even write it at the top of their papers to help us keep their papers straight.
Tip 10: Have daily friends!
I don’t have a full classroom of flexible seating, but I do have a few things. I also only have 5 computers in my room. The last thing I wanted to do was have students argue over who’s turn it was every day and with three classes of students, I knew I would never be able to remember. So, I gave each student a day. On their day, students get flexible seating, computers during independent reading, and line privileges. My class also had a kindergarten buddy class. On their day, students got to pick up their kinder buddy from class and take them to the library to get books.
I am always on the search for news ways to organize and make departmentalizing even more successful. If you have any tips, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments!
Talk to you soon,