One of the challenges of teaching a combo class is teaming with grade levels. At my school, we are given two days of prep a month with our team members. I have two teams: 4th grade and 5th grade.
Our principal expects consistency across the grade levels. So with that pressure, I try to do things with both grades that allow this consistency. However, it is utterly impossible for me to do everything that each grade is doing. This is where the balance comes in.
I do plan all the field trips with each grade. For 4th grade, we go to the Geology Lab at SDSU and the Buena Vista Adobe. For Fifth, the fifth graders go to a Mock Trial at the Federal Courthouse, articulation with the middle school, and the 5th grade party at the end of the year.
Then there are field trips that both grades attend. I take my fifth graders to Biztown even though it is a fourth grade field trip and they attend the year before as fourth graders. That is one of the favorites and you can attend more than once because there are 21 businesses and different jobs for students to experience. So I take my class every year to Biztown.
The fifth grade field trip my fourth graders attend is Star of India overnight. I do this field trip every other year since my students loop with me. It is the same experience each time, so you wouldn’t want to go twice.
I am lucky that my principal has given me a few substitutes for grade-level field trips. However, there are times I have to deploy my students while I am gone. Thankfully, my staff helps with that.
Another thing I do with my teams is trying to do special projects or activities in line with the other classes. For example, I do the eyeball dissection with 4th grade on Halloween one year and the owl pellets with the 5th grade on the following year. I do Colonial Day with the 5th grade and deploy my 4th graders for the day. Whereas, I do Wax Museum with the fourth grade and deploy the 5ht graders.
For grading, especially report cards, I want to be in line with each grade level. So I make sure that during parent conferences we are focussing on the same test scores, have graded standards consistent, and have a similar form for displaying grades. Inevitably. there are always twins in my class and another teacher’s class, so I want to show as much consistency as possible.
With all of that said, the reality is I can’t do everything the other grades are doing. It is impossible and would bring my life to a whole new level of crazy. I pick and choose what I can to with them and the rest is my own.
As far as team level meetings, my team partners are generous and allow me to attend both of their meetings on the same day. I will go to a 5th grade meeting and we will discuss important planning for all three of us and they save what they can discuss between them for when I head over to the 4th grade meeting. The fourth grade does the same.
The reality is I do what I can. Combo classes are not easy and I am just trying to make it work for me and my students. If you have a combo class, hopefully, some of this information can help your classroom too.
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