Is Elementary turning into Junior High?

Friends I am writing today with a dilemma...We are being asked to level our students for math and switch classes based on their levels.  Now the Early Childhood person in my says no way they are not ready for this!  Then again I see the argument for it.  They would be in classes with their specific needs in mind.  What do you all think?  Has anyone ever done this?  If so, help me understand and swallow this very big pill.

I know some of the difficulty is that I am giving up control of my students and entrusting other teachers to teach them.  All the while I am still accountable for them.  I then must take on a whole new group of kiddos (that part I love because I get to meet so many other 2nd graders) that I need to train, label seats for, communicate with parents that I don't know, mark grades, and have these math students be sure to bring their supplies back and forth from home to school.  Oh...I also have my regular students that have to do all of that and more for.

In some ways I feel like I am not being trusted to differentiate in my own room so it is being done for me.  I hate feeling this way.  I pride myself in meeting the needs of my students and I rather enjoyed running a math class with a variety of needs.  They learn from each other and the problem solving is amazing.

Then again I do know from trying this last year having learners in my room that struggled a bit were more at ease in a classroom of students with similar skills.  They did very well and progressed to where they needed to be by the end of the year.  I just did not feel that I was organized and totally on board.  I felt like I could not communicate with parents the way I communicate with my homeroom (I can't believe I just typed homeroom.  I didn't know that word in elementary school.)  There are good things and things I am not sure about with this idea.

Please help me get on board with this.  I want to do what is best for my ALL of my students.  Give me some tips or hints how to make switching classes make sense in grades K-2:)


  1. We did the grouping by levels throughout grades K-6 last year for reading and math. We had no options. It takes a great deal of work to be honest. How successful depends upon how the students are grouped and how the other teacher feels about it. I had some students it was wonderful for and some home room students who it was a disaster for. I had multiple levels in my room for reading and math so that is a completely different set of issues. The theory was everyone would be more successful if they were working on their particular level. I can honestly see both sides of it. They were talking about the entire district doing this in all subjects this year. I don't know what the final decision is. It is hard to turn over your students, but it is also hard to see a sixth grader who is working on a first or second grade level in reading and math. The older they get the harder it is to gt them caught up.

  2. Mrs. Schroeder... in my experience as soon as kids are tracked there is no mark for the lower ability to aspire to. This means that the lower ability stay the same or digress. Not fair because the so called "lower ability" student may be a good problem solver or discusser or have another talent that could be developed. The whole idea scares me .. we all bloom at our own rate ...

  3. YES, it seems like elementary is turning in to Junior High!! It seems like there is so much emphasis on tests, tests, and more TESTS!

    When I taught 4th grade, we ability grouped for Math and I loved it!! There was a lot of prep work involved (supplies, labelling, etc.), but I felt like I could meet the students' needs better when they were ability grouped. I still had to differentiate in the classes-- just because students were in the "high" class didn't mean Math was easy for them or they grasped every concept (even after instruction).

    I have never tried this in K-2, but I wish you the best of luck!!

  4. The building I work in has done both math and reading this way first to sixth for about three or four years now. It has really helped our scores with the students being ability grouped for each unit. The flexible groups changes each unit and allows for extra staff or teachers to work with the lower group so that they get the targeted instruction they need but can't always get. It did take some time for our first and second grade teams to get on board with the idea but wouldn't change in now. Good luck!!

  5. I will give you a comment from the perspective of a parent. My daughter (she is now grown) was in a school that ability grouped. The second year she attended that school they stopped ability grouping for reading, which I think hurt her because she was an accelerated student. She ended up helping other students with their reading issues.

    Ability grouping became politically incorrect.

    By 3rd grade they stopped grouping for math also. I must have made a sour face when the teacher explained this because she asked me if this would be a problem. I of course said yes. So anyway to make a long story short, her teacher ended up teaching her separate from the rest of the class. Not being able to count on that in the next years we ended up homeschooling. She graduated when she was 15. I know it is not perfect, but the student that is accelerated is hurt by NOT ability grouping (IMHO).

  6. We did this last year in first grade. About mid-year we got together and looked at all of our common assessment data and realized we had to do something extra for our kiddos who weren't getting it while providing a challenge for students who were beyond getting it. We rotated students once a week, for about 30 minutes. There were 6 first grade teachers last year, so it worked out nicely to have 3 groups in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I was able to have a fairly small group and was able to give alot more attention to those who needed it. We had great success with it last year, and I wish you the best as you get started.
    A Day in First Grade

  7. We do something similar to this at my school. (But also different...) We are in clusters of 3 teachers who each teach a subject and have a grade level homeroom. We share the same students for 3 years--they start in K and stick with us through 2nd. Our kiddos are also ability grouped (we have 3 different primary clusters). This is the only way I've ever taught and I can't imagine teaching all subjects to a single class! I absolutely love it. All three of us work hard to have the same procedures, expectations, etc. and do parent teacher conferences together. I am the teacher of record for the second graders, but I only teach them math. I trust that the reading and writing teachers are rocking it! (And they totally are.)

    I think you're talking more about leveling across a single grade level, but switching classes and departmentalizing CAN be done well even with kindergarteners! Teaching this way has raised our test scores drastically--all teachers are focused on a single subject and really become experts in their content.

    Biggest tips: CONSISTENCY amongst your team members. Materials management-our kids carry a pencil pouch/box and folder from class to class. Behavior management- we have a school-wide behavior system so kids aren't pulling cards in one room, moving on a clipchart in another, etc. This really helps!

    Sorry...I seem to have written you a book! But I LOVE teaching this way and could talk about it forever!

  8. I can certainly see your dilemma with arguments for either side. However, I think tracking at such a young age is wrong. Last year I had a second grade boy who struggled with writing. However, I KNEW it was a developmental issue and that in time he would come along. Fast forward to third grade...he scored Advanced Proficient on the state test for literacy. He was a sponge soaking up all the skills and modeling from the other writers and when he developed...he applied them with ease. If I had tracked him in the lower group, he would have had no incentive.

    The Write Handed Teacher

  9. On one hand: Where is the opportunity for the lower students to learn from the higher students when they are grouped this way? I agree with Kitty W. Developmental issues with children this young make tracking a nightmare. A school in my district did it for Math last year, but the teachers changed the groups for each unit based on a pretest. What about the student who was under the weather on pretest day? I just can't see it for children as young as second grade. Our school already does that for third grade and I am just glad I'm not teaching third anymore. I would not agree with it at that age, either. I think fourth grade is early enough!

    On the other hand: If (BIG IF!!) all teachers involved are willing to do as described by Ms. Preppy, I can see this working well. The biggest requirement (my humble opinion) would be teachers willing to give 100% effort 100% of the time.

  10. Oh I so understand how you feel. We will be starting something like this at the start of the year. It will be for 30 min at the start of the day. I have mixed feelings about it but it is mandatory so I guess We will see how it goes.

  11. Last year in first grade we switched for math- 4 teachers. We also did small groups for reading with other adults and small groups.
    We moved children all of the time based on need. There isn't any tracking going on as we didn't pass along that info to the second grade teachers.


  12. I've never experienced this, but I instinctively don't like it. Sure, it's very hard to differentiate in a regular class, but the students learn so much from each other, regardless of where they're at in their understanding. The struggling and average students are exposed to more sophisticated ideas and problem-solving techniques. The more capable students are given the opportunity to "teach" some of their peers, which strengthens their understandings further. As hard, at times, as a multi-level class can be, I think it's the best way to go.


Extra, extra tell Mrs. Schroeder about it!