Thursday, January 8, 2015

What Do You Do With Your Split Classes?

Do you have a split level class in your school?  SInce my first year of teaching, I've had around one to two classes per year of split level classes.  I've had K/1, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, and 5/6.  I've learned quite a few things with having split level classes and I'm always wanting to learn more.

A few years back I had a K/1 class, which was a challenging class.  I did have a classroom, which helped.  There is a wide range of abilities between the two grade levels, and trying to teach one or the other was challenging.  My kindergarten curriculum  has over 20+ projects, with almost one project a week to introduce elements of art, principles of design, and fine motor development.  My 1st grade students already created all the kindergarten projects, and having to redo the entire curriculum was out of the question.

I decided to teach two projects at once.  I designed my seating chart to split kindergarten on one side and 1st grade on the other side of the room.  I started with kindergarten while the 1st graders focused on worksheets or coloring pages.  After giving my instruction to kindergarten,  I let them pass out their materials, then I instructed the 1st grade side of the class.

Depending on the day, these procedures worked, but both grade levels demanded my constant attention for different reasons.  There were days when the kindergarten students were wanting my attention when I needed to help the 1st graders, and vice versa.

With other split grade levels I currently teach or have taught, I decided to split the projects most of the time, but not for every lesson unit.  When I do two projects at once, I attempt to make the challenge a little easier by doing two projects with the same materials, or demonstrating two projects with the same subject matter.

For example, If a 4th and 5th grade project required oil pastels, I would teach both projects at once to save on material management, even on a cart.  Here are the two projects I am currently teaching to my 4/5 split class:

4th Grade are currently working on a still life drawing using oil pastels to show highlights and shadows (tints and shades)

5th Grade are currently creating the famous banyan tree project seen on Pinterest and other art teacher blogs.

I had also done the same with my 2/3 split class using model magic clay:

2nd Grade students used primary color clay to make their secondaries and browns to complete a cheeseburger (inspired by Claus Oldenburg's Two Cheeseburgers)

3rd grade students also mixed colors and created a Joan Miro inspired creature

If one or both of the grade levels enter into a project that requires my full attention, I do have both grade levels complete the same project.  I do this mostly with clay projects because of the amount of prep, set up, and clean up needed.

Although this is a 3rd grade project, I have 2nd grade students make a coil pot along with the 3rd graders.  The above picture was a pot made by a 2nd grade student, and below by a 3rd grade student.

In 3rd grade, I introduce coil pottery to the students.  in my 2/3 split classes (which I have almost every year), I do the project with the 2nd graders too.  When those 2nd graders advance to 3rd grade the following year, they create the project again, but challenge themselves to add more to their project.  Those students also take on the role as peer helpers, assisting other in class with the construction of their coil pots.

I also like to introduce new projects with split classes.  This helps me to see the range of abilities with the students and to see which level would be best suited for the project.

Sometimes both grade levels enjoy the project!  The above image was created by a 2nd grader, and the one below by a 3rd grader.  Both are colored in completely, both added a good amount of detail, and both understood the concept of Picasso's cubist face.

So now that you'e seen some of my methods of instruction, here's a few extra tips that help in managing split classes:

1. If you are teaching two projects at once, split the grade levels apart with seating arrangements.  This will make it easier with set-up and clean-up with each grade level.

2. Stick with the same material, or at least the same subject you are instructing.  This will also make it easier with set-up, clean-up, and prep time.

3. If your classes are challenging with classroom management, it's okay to just do one lesson instead of two.  You don't have to be a superhero pushing yourself to the brink.

4. Have fun.  Don't look at split level classes as a burden, but a fun experience to try new things.

So you've seen some of my methods, how do you handle your split classes?

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