In this post are five strategies to help teachers manage multiple classes, keep up with all the paperwork, and maintain an organized classroom.
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My first two years were in a self-contained classroom and I LOVED it! I felt like I really got to know my kids because I spent all day with them. I was able to incorporate science and social studies into the core content areas much easier.
And I only had like twenty names, parents, and allergies to remember versus like…forty!
When I moved to second grade in my third year of teaching, I was put into a dual language classroom. And I was not happy about it. (TBH, I didn’t really like the way the dual language program was run in my district.)
There were some cons to teaching in the DL program:
- Having to manage multiple classes (extra paper, extra materials, etc.)
- Work with another teacher so closely (in the sense that we were truly dependent on teach other)
- Classroom management plans had to be implemented differently
- No longer able to stretch out this lesson a bit longer and take from the next lesson
I ended up spending four years in the dual language program where I had to manage multiple classes. While I greatly missed being self-contained, I found many positives in teaching fewer subjects.
- Lesson planning took way less time
- I had a partner to share the burden of challenging behaviors with
- Only had to spend half a day with each class (so if one annoyed me more than the other…it was only half a day!)
But how to manage it all? That took some figuring out.
Ways to Manage Multiple Classes
I have compiled a list of a few things that helped me as I managed my two classes.
1. Give each group a name:
Of course we used our last names to identify the classes. But more often than not, I tried to use their “group names.” One year it was a green and a purple group. Another year it was green and blue. I also had a lion and a fish group.
My hope was that naming them by something other than “Mrs. Jackson’s class and Ms. Aguirre’s class” would keep from the segregation of classes happening.
2. Create a spot for each group:
Almost everything in my classroom was double so that there was one for each group.
For example, I have two turn in baskets and two sets of mailboxes for each group.
3. Lesson Plan Once, Write out Plans Twice
I taught math and language arts in my portion of the DL program. This meant I taught the same content two times a day.
However, I found writing out lesson plans for both classes was helpful. It might seem a bit repetitive, but it wasn’t.
One group always got the short end of the stick in math because their math time always got cut short due to end of day assemblies. Or honestly, just because it was the end of the day and I had less energy. So that group often got off track.
Writing out my plans two separate times allows me to make necessary changes to each group’s plans to fit their needs.
Also, it’s only natural for the groups to be at different levels. If one group tends to get things quicker, then I can move on with them or modify the lesson a bit for the class that needs more time.
4. Have a Procedure for Everything
I think this is one of the most important steps.
You have to think out a process for every little thing. Be sure to write out plans for thigs like:
- How you are going to store their student materials in their desks
- Their classroom jobs need to be well thought out
- How they turn in papers
- How you will line them up when transitioning
I also had to really think about how they would store student materials in the classroom.
With the desk situation in my classroom, I assigned one group the bottom cubby and the other group the top cubby in their desk.
5. Double, Triple, Quadruple Everything
When you teach multiple classes you have to make sure that you give each class the same things.
For example, I use a marble jar as my whole group behavior system. That meant I needed a marble jar and enough marbles for each group.
Double up on anchor charts and materials. Or, laminate the anchor chart and use it in both groups (and year after year!)
One way I found to battle all the paper copies is to do a lot of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures that allow for partner or teamwork (rally coach, sage and scribe, etc.) This way I only made one copy for each partner set, and not each student.
Staying Motivated with Multiple Classes
Surprisingly, the thing I found most difficult with two classes was staying fresh and energized.
When I lesson planned on Thursdays during my conference, I generally just wrote down the high points of how I wanted to teach the lesson. But then, sometimes during the middle of the lesson I would get a burst of energy that made me want to do something more creative.
For example, I would plan to have students talk to their partner about the summary of a story. But as I would be explaining that direction to them, I would decide to add a mix-pair-share or a Round Robin in there to make it more engaging.
Naturally, it always seemed like that super great idea I had with the first group never went as well with the second group.
I don’t know why. I guess it just doesn’t feel as genuine- like I am copying the other group.
Even though I was doing something fun and fresh for the kids, I had to start keeping things fresh for me too.
For example, I would switch up the Kagan Cooperative Learning Structure with each group, read a different story, or even just skip unnecessary parts of a lesson with one group.
One time I went into this long story with one group and completely skipped over it with the second group. It all balanced out because maybe another time I would get a burst of energy to share a different story instead of trying to match exactly what I did with the first group.
As with all things related to teaching, organization is key.
If you are teaching multiple classes, staying organized is critical. You need to build routines and structures so you can keep students engaged and keep yourself motivated.
Don’t forget to:
- Give each group a name
- Give each group a spot
- Plan once but write out two times (or how many times you teach the lesson)
- Create procedures for everything
- Double up on copies, anchor charts, even marble jars for rewards!
Here’s a quick recap of links I shared in this post:
- 4 Must-Have Classroom Management Plans
- How to Write Lesson Plans Quickly and Effectively with this Workflow
- 10 Classroom Jobs for Students
- How to Organize Student Papers
- Anchor Chart Storage Tips
- Kagan Cooperative Learning
Until next time,
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