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Monday 28 January 2013

Managing a split class.

Hi friends!  I had a lovely comment left from a follower asking me to write a post about how I manage learning and teaching in a split or composite class.
Now to be honest I have never really thought about it as I have only ever taught a straight class twice in my teaching career.  Following is a list of the split classes I have taught

* Yr 1/2/3 (for 3 yrs)
* Pre-school/1/2/3  (1 Yr)
* Prep/1 (3 yrs)
* Yr 1/2 (3yr)
* Yr 2/3 (2 yrs)

So how do I manage a class with so many different levels, the short answer is the same as a class that is a straight year level.
When you think about it no matter what class you have you are likely to have to cater for abilities that span 2 or 3 different yr levels, this can be because of special needs, attendance, developmental delays the list could be endless.  Essentially you will most likely work in groups, I found for reading and writing workshops ability groups were the best type of groupings and of course your focus for each group will be different.  Last year I used Daily 5 and CAFE for the first time in my class and I found the organising tips from the 2 Sisters invaluable.  I used to think that you needed to spend an equal amount of time with each group and I used to feel guilty if I didn't see the top group for as long or as often as my lower ability students, but those kiddos who are able to fly need to be allowed to fly.  I'm not saying to not supervise them but let them become more independent and manage their own learning.  They may be able to do a research project to enhance their reading or writing while your lower group may still be working on phonics, which group do you think really needs most of your time?  Also it is vital to record your sessions with your groups, either with anecdotal notes, actual recordings or jotting down goals for each group so that you can track progress.

When I timetable my groups I always made sure we started with the whole group to focus on a concept, for example with spelling we would have a focus rule  for the week eg, 'ea' words and as a whole group we would brainstorm words that belonged to that rule but then students were sent back to their desks to focus on either an individual spelling list or a group spelling list depending on where they were at and I would be able to work with small groups.  I always made sure we had the same focus if I could swing it, (it didn't always happen).

The other thing I really used quite a bit in my room was a Teacher Aide or Assistant.  Now I know we aren't all lucky to have one or the TA may be in your room to help a specific student so you need to be very creative on how you group particular students, perhaps your Special Needs student needs support with the same concepts as another group that could benefit from TA time.  If you don't have a TA, try to recruit some reliable parents to come and read with your students or to help with a Maths group.

Well this is a topic that I could ramble on with all day, and I don't want this post to become exhaustive so I am going to pick up again tomorrow with how I plan on paper to make sure I am covering the Curriculum for both levels.

I am sure my lovely follower would love to hear from other teachers how they manage teaching and learning in a composite class so feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below.

For all my Aussie friends I hope you enjoy your first week back at school and for all those affected by the floods and weather, I hope you are safe.  My thoughts are with you and yours.


  1. Wow! Love this post and it came at just the right time! I have a lovely friend who will be teaching a split class for the first time this year and I have sent her the link to this post:)))) I taught a composite 1/2 class last year but have never taught across stages. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tania ~ x

    1. Great Tina, yes teaching across stage levels can be tricky and I will address that in my next post!

  2. Thanks Tania! I look forward to the next post :)

  3. Thank you so much, Tania!! I am very grateful for your time and expertise! I have pinned all the Daily 5 and CAFE boards on Pinterest and I will look into them in more detail as soon as I can. I also found a site dedicated to Guided Math which outlines small groups. Thanks for your advice re grouping too. You make it sound all so logical and easy, that I am beginning to feel a bit better:)

  4. A great post Tania. I have taught composite classes several times. I suppose every class is a composite. Several years ago I had a straight Year 1 class but I had 3 students that were working at Year 2 Grade level.
    Last year I had Kindergarten and I had 2 boys that were working at Year 2 level for Maths. That's where I was able to use my Teachers aide so I could cater for their needs. You do need to be super organised when you have a composite, especially across stages. That can be tricky.

  5. Tania!! How did I not realize you taught split classes before!? I'm teaching a 1/2 combo for the first time this year. Sometimes I find it terribly tricky and others days, it feels like any other class I've had with a range of abilities. I do worry a bit about trying to hit all the individual Common Core Standards here in the states, but ultimately it is nice to be able to teach where they are at and not just what the book says they should be at. Great post!!

    ❤ -Stephanie
    Falling Into First

    1. Thanks so much Stephanie! I have just got a Year 3 class and I am really looking at a 2/3 with a couple of
      year 1's and an ESL student, so my experience with composites is going to pay off!


  6. I'm 26. Am I to old in age to learn how to hit a split