Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Two Classes - One Classroom

If you partner teach you know all about the pros and cons of having two class - 44 students. 

I LOVE that I only have to focus on ELA/Social Studies and don't have to worry about math/science. I also love having a partner, someone who can share and understands my joys and struggles with students and who is there for parent teacher conferences! 

What I don't always love is that it feels like I could always use more time, which I am sure I would feel even if I was self contained! Effectively managing two classes in one classroom can be a challenge all on it's own from how to organize their desks for two people to behavior management.  

My partner and I agreed to color code our classes, that way it isn't "my class" and "your class" - they are all OUR students. We just have a blue and green class. Everything is color coded blue for my homeroom and green for my partner's homeroom. 

I personally have tried EVERYTHING under the sun when it comes to managing my 44 students folders, spirals and books in my classroom. I have done tubs with their supplies on another shelf (all that did was take up my shelf room and take away from learning time having them go and get their supplies constantly). I have tried the bottom part of desk for my homeroom and the top part for my second class. The second class never had enough room for their books, pencil bags and all their other supplies! 
THEN it hit me. While my other ELA team member and I were planning our first few weeks and complaining discussing the issues we had with managing each student having 2 spirals, 1 daily folder, at least 4 books, a pencil bag and a behavior folder plus two workbooks in one desk AND the textbooks we would want to store in their desks for easy and quick access --I saw my two book holders and shoved them in the desk and sure enough - they fit! Now each student can have their own tub (obviously in their right class color with their names written on the fish) which clearly holds their daily folder, two spirals and a few books from our classroom library (the items that don't leave my classroom ever) with enough room left over for their other supplies. Those tubs will stay on the bottom and their textbooks will stay on top! PERFECT!!! 

Another problem that can occur when you teach two classes is how to manage behavior easily and effectively AND what to do with desk name  tags. The problem with taping their name tags down is that you would be taping down two student name tags on one desk and what would you do if only one student needed to change to different table but not the other student? (Besides picking off all that tape which is already gross looking because the kids have picked at it during your lessons and now it's brown from dirt -
I've  been there! Ew. Nasty!)
I use Velcro. (A product I spend WAY too much $$ on each August!!)  I Velcro down a green and blue name tag on each upper corner of the desk. That way if the student in the green class isn't meshing well with their table group and needs to move, but the table group is perfect in the blue class, all you need to do is rip off the green badge, grab their niffy tub and switch them to a new desk! 
I also use this for my management. If at any point a student isn't doing what they are suppose to be doing, they move their badge to the Velcro on the behavior strip. This is especially handy while I am teaching. I don't have to stop my lesson for little Timmy who is throwing erasers across the room. No, all I need to do is walk by, take off his name badge and stick it to the strip - without ever missing a beat in my lesson!! I'll talk to little Timmy about how throwing erasers isn't the best choice during a more appropriate time...  :) 

Another management tool my partner and I use is the blurt chart. This is for the minor behavior issues like blurting out, talking, or out of their seat to go talk to a friend across the room without permission. Each time they do any of those things they move a mouth, (because they were moving their own mouths!) each mouth represents a warning. They get 4 warnings. If they move a fourth mouth their behavior folder gets marked. This is the blue classes blurt chart. The green class has their own. The charts travel with the classes. So when my blue class goes to my partner's classroom a student takes their chart and bucket of mouths with them and someone from the green class brings theirs and hangs it up where the blue classes was. 
The mouths they earn in one class follow them to the other class. So if they earned 2 in my room and then get 2 more in the other class, their folder would get marked. This keeps my partner and I unified and makes it more of a seamless day for the students, reinforcing that the rules are the same. 

Students turn in their completed work into their colored tub, in the file with their name. This makes recording grades much easier because it is already in ABC order and eliminates the whole 
"no name... which of my 44 students does this paper belong to...?" 
 I take the tubs home on Friday, grade everything, file it BACK into their folders and then first thing on Monday the students will collect their graded work and take it home. 

I keep track of where each of my students are in the writing process. I do this so I know they are on track, especially since after the first few papers I just tell them when their paper is due and they have until then to get it done! I color the tips of clothes pins green or blue. Each student's name is written on a clip. The blue class clips are on the left and the green class clips stay on the right. The students move their clips as they work through the process. I love this because it is very easy for me to go up to it and call out the students who need to pick up the pace a bit on their writing. 

I have my students take home all failed assignments to be signed by parents and returned the next day. The past few years I have always had these thrown on my desk to eventually be mashed up into another pile and shoved somewhere. This year I am using these blue and green trays for students to come in and put their signed assignments here. I am hoping this solves my problem of papers everywhere!! 

I will post at a later time how I run my daily five and small groups with 2 classes... those areas aren't set up yet...!! :) 

Happy Teaching Friends!!! 


  1. I am teaching third grade this year. I taught second grade for 15 years and decided to move up with my little angels this year. I too am teaching only ELA and social studies. I admire your organization and creativity! I was hoping you could share your schedule with me. My partner and I are having a difficult time trying to manage both groups.

    1. It is trying at times having 2 classes sharing a desk, supplies, everything! For me the most difficult part is time. Being able to squeeze reading, word study, spelling, writing and social studies into basically 2 hours will definitely put your nerves to test, but will also force you to get creative! I found that we have to take it really day by day- hitting word study hard on Mondays, Writing hard on Wednesdays and reserving social studies for Fridays -- not to say that you can't integrate these subjects easily or that you can't do them all in one day, but just stopping and saying "Ok- I know I only have 2 hours, and 1 hour is going to be daily five and my small groups. We really need to focus a big part of our whole class time on writing today." Just breathe and know that once you get in a routine it will all fall in place!!

  2. I really admire your organization. I picked up a few tips to improve my own third grade classroom as well. Thanks for the ideas!