Things to Avoid When Teaching a Split

So you get assigned a split and you panic.

We have all been there not sure how we are going g to get through the year to cover two curricula.

I was given a class of 36 students and a split. I was a bit concerned. My principal told me that he would help me out by having another teacher take my fours for social studies/ science.

But I hated it

I didn’t hate the idea of not having to teach two grades at the same time but I hated not having the flexibility and cross-curriculum connection time to really support students in the way that I knew was going to be the most effective.

So although they are tempting and sound good in theory here are my tips for things to avoid when teaching a split.

Thing to avoid if you teach a split

  • Trading with another teacher
  • Treating your class like they are separate
  • Hyper-focused on the details ( curriculum over student driven)
  • Not looking at the big picture (common features, big ideas)
  • Compare your class to a straight grade (team teaching)
  • Focus on products over process (learning process instead of projects)


Trading with Another Teacher

Just don’t.

Unless this is taking one group away while you teach the other in a flip-flop style.

Just don’t do it.

Having a split means that you need your kids as much as possible in your room so that you can have the flexibility to switch things up as needed.

Like doing an experiment with one group while the other is working on math or reading.

When another teacher takes your class thus restricting the time and flexibility you have. Plus it prevents you from back filling lagging skills necessary for science and social studies in language or integrating other subjects.

This flexibility makes teaching a split easier so don’t trade that away for the small chance that you will have less work. In my experience, it makes it harder.

Treating your class like they are separate groups.

Think of your class as a group of individuals with a variety of needs.

They are one class.

Differentiation is good for all students and this is much easier accomplished in a split grade.

Think of the student first instead of the curriculum first. “How am I going to get Paula to meet the learning goals not how am I going to teach reading 1.6 to my students.

Remember the classroom isn’t about you and what you want it is about what the students need.

Hyper-focused on the small details –

you see everything as different. And get stuck on all the small details that mean you are trying to do too many things at once.

If you are a split grade teacher then click through to see the 7 things you should avoid. Number one may surprise you.

Not looking at the big picture

Find common ground between the two grades. It’s okay to repeat learning and skills and to blur the lines between the two grades.

Our students are complex beings so it is okay if they all don’t fit perfectly into the grade box they were assigned.

When you have a split grade you can better address this variety in learning and repeat skills that may be lagging or need to be strengthened and you can extend for students that are ready.  Exposing them to new content that they may be ready for.

Comparing your class to a straight grade

You know that whole work with your grade team thing.

It’s hard when you straddle the middle recognize this and put limits on what you can and can’t reasonably do.

It’s okay that you can’t do the same thing as they are doing.  You may need to integrate your science and social studies into your language, math or art more.

You may have to be more flexible and that is okay.

Give yourself a break you have a unique set of challenges when teaching a  split that your straight grade counterparts do not have.  So be okay with this and advocate for yourself that you can only do so much.

It is okay to say no.

Believing independent work skills are not teachable.

Almost any student can be in a split grade and can be taught how to be independent. In 10 years there have only been a handful of students that were not successful in splits. However, school just wasn’t’ their thing so I am not sure that it was the split that was the problem.

Students can be independent but there are a set of criteria that will ensure that their independence skills are going to be more successful.

  • Do THEY know what they are doing and is it at their independent level, or even slightly below.
  • Do they have bought in, with a choice of what they are doing? Have they taken the lead in what they are working on?

Students are able to be independent if they know what they are doing. If their work is student-centred and chosen by them then they will naturally do what they are capable of.

If this is below what they need to do then this indicates where you need to go to push them beyond this. Independent work is easier when there is high engagement. High engagement is easier when the students have buy-in and choice in what they are doing.

Focused on products over process

Too many of us focus on getting students to produce products instead of focusing on the process.

Skip worrying about the products produced and put your energy into the process.

This process driven environment will be easier to manage in a split as often the process of learning between the two grades is similar even though what is produced may be different.

So instead of “here is your project” instead focus on the “steps followed to complete any project” like questions, research, connections, analysis, and action.

Do you have any other tips for teachers to avoid when teaching a split grade?  Tell me about it.


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