Organization, routines, and checking things off my to-do list, these are a few of my favorite things! These are also great things that teachers strive for each and every day. But what happens when you have to manage multiple classes a day? The overwhelm, the extra papers, the extra materials. It’s a lot! So let’s chat about it :).
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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 verses 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. I didn’t really like the dual language program.
I was not excited about having to manage multiple classes. Or work with another teacher so closely. (Not that I mind working with another teacher at all…but I knew I would have to rethink my classroom management plans, stick to the schedule so that my class was ready to switch on time, etc.)
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.
Number one on that list? Less lesson planning! I also found a lot of relief in handling students with challenging behaviors for only half a day and with a partner instead of all by myself. I also enjoyed being able to collaborate with another teacher and have someone to support me with those behavior needs.
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:
It’s best to give your groups a name instead of just “Mrs. Jackson’s” class. I was quickly able to distinguish between groups by using colors as group names. It also helped me to label things in the group’s color.
Each group had a name when I was teaching multiple classes. 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. Naming them by something other than “Mrs. Jackson’s class and Ms. Aguirre’s class” keeps from the segregation of classes happening.
2. Create a spot for each group:
Anything in my classroom is double so that there is 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. From how you are going to store their student materials in their desks, how they turn in papers, and even how you will line them up when transitioning. Even their classroom jobs need to be well thought out.
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.
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Staying Motivated with Multiple Classes
Surprisingly, the thing I found most difficult with two classes was staying fresh and energized.
When I lesson plan 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.
I hope this helps you create some routines for ways to manage multiple classes. As much as I loved the self-contained aspect of my first couple of years, I grew to love teaching multiple classes way more. It meant more sweet kiddos to love on. (And more kids to drive me crazy…but less time I had to spend with them :P!)
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Until next time,
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