But at my school, fifth grade is departmentalized.
So I teach fifth grade STEM.
Every day I have 4 class periods.
Students rotate every 70 minutes, taking their supplies with them.
I stay in the room and teach the same content 4 times.
There are definitely some positives of this set-up.
1. I can really focus on planning engaging lessons for my content area.
2. I only have to write lesson plans for one subject.
3. I know ALL the fifth graders.
4. I work closely with the other teachers since we share students.
5. I use the line "repeat for each class" when writing sub plans.
6. I know exactly what to say and what questions are likely to arise by fourth period!
There are some challenges too.
1. Seating charts. I hate making them and now I need 4 seating charts.
2. Notes. I use a teacher notebook to record class notes and model activities during lessons.
3. Assignments. I have 4X the papers when I give an assignment and just as many when I return them.
4. Journals. I have to collect them on occasion. That's A LOT of journals.
5. Supplies. There are supplies that I provide and managing them is a pain.
6. Projects. I need 4X the supplies as well as the space to store the projects during the unit.
I've come up with a few solutions.
But if you have any ideas, PLEASE comment below.
I'm always up for new or better ways of doing things!
CHALLENGE #1: Seating Charts
I don't really have a good solution for creating seating charts. I still have to consider a lot. Who bothers who. Who talks to who. Who needs additional assistance. Who has a 504 or IEP requiring preferential seating. Who needs (but does not have) glasses. Who is struggling. Who needs a challenge. Who is boy crazy. Who is girl crazy. Who drives ME crazy. Just kidding. (sort of)
I did come up with a strategy that seems to be helping a bit.
I created my seating charts by using the Popsicle sticks I use for calling on students. This way I can group, arrange, and rearrange the students over and over before writing the final decision down. I have a container for each class with all the students' names written on a Popsicle stick, so it's just a matter of figuring out everything I listed above. Yikes!
When I'm done, I staple the seating charts together and keep them laying beside my computer. Most of the time I don't need them now that I know everyone's names. But there are those days when I can't seem to remember my OWN name that I really rely on those charts. Plus, when I have a substitute in my room, they can simply flip through the charts for each class period.
I actually started recording other important information right on the seating chart. Students who are pulled for RTI (intervention classes) are marked and the time is written. Students with IEPs that allow for read-aloud testing are marked - this reminds me OR a sub. Students who are pulled for reading or math special services are marked and a time is recorded. Students who have speech or ELL services are marked with times. Sound like a lot? It is!!! That's why I started recording it right on my seating charts. That way I only have to look in one place for all of those times. So far so good.
CHALLENGE #2: Notes
Students in fifth grade don't know how to take notes completely independently. Well, some might, but MOST do not. They need guidance. They need me to model for them. When it comes to vocabulary definitions, I have them copy what I write. Some students need this support until the end of the year. Some students begin to learn how to write important information down without being shown what to write. It's a process. For this reason (and more) I keep a "teacher notebook" with all class notes, activities, and interactive folded papers in it.
Here's the thing.
I need FOUR NOTEBOOKS since I have 4 classes.
I realize that I could just uncover the notes that I write during my first class, but I've tried that. The students were less likely to be engaged in what was going on. Also, I spent a lot of time feeling like I was just "waiting" for them to copy what I wrote. I often have students develop the meanings of vocabulary terms in their own words. Each class is different, so I might have different versions for each one. When we collect data from an investigation, the data is always different so I found myself rewriting things a lot anyway.
So my solution is to have a separate interactive notebook for each homeroom class. This has been beneficial since I am creating an interactive notebook right along with my students. It helps me to keep track of how far I have gotten with each class. I try to stay at the same pace, but that isn't always realistic. Also, when a student is absent or pulled out of the room for some reason or another, I have a ready-made notebook for them to access so they can copy any notes or data that they missed.
CHALLENGE #3: Assignments
I'm not complaining about having papers to grade. That's not the issue. My struggle is with the returning of the papers. And even more so, when a student is absent. Keeping track of who missed what assignment and who hasn't turned in work is tricky. Especially when I factor in the number of students who miss only a part of my class. I remember seeing them, but sometimes forget that they were out of the room when I pass out the homework. Sheesh! It's a lot to manage.
My solution to this organizational problem is two-fold.
First, I have four file folders that I keep on the flat file behind my teaching station. One for each homeroom class. If I grade a test, quiz, exit slip, or homework assignment, I place the papers in the folder based on the students' homeroom. That way I can simply open the folder and return any papers at the beginning of class. I also use these folders to store papers that I have passed out (assignments, foldables, etc.) when a student is out of the room. So for example, if Johnny is at speech when I pass out the homework, I leave a copy with his name on it in the folder for his homeroom. That way if he is responsible (some are) and asks what he missed I can give it to him. It also helps me to be sure to set aside the papers for any students who have missed school. Even if it is for more than a day.
Second, when collecting assignments, I mark who has NOT turned it in. These are 10-11 year-olds. I would love to be really strict and say "If it isn't complete the moment I collect it, I won't accept it." However, that's not really practical. So, I keep a spiral notebook next to my computer that I note the names of students who still owe me something. It's nothing elaborate. Just a notebook with my chicken scratchings. But it works. I give a reminder the next day. Then it is up to students to turn work in before the week is over. At that point, it is too late.
We use our interactive notebooks EVERY SINGLE DAY so collecting them for a grade is my way of showing the students that I value the time and effort they put into their notes. It's a pretty "easy" grade to earn because all they have to do is keep up with notes and be sure their notebook is organized correctly. But the days that I choose to collect the journals are tough.
With four classes and almost 100 students, I have a lot of notebooks to collect. And taking them home is pretty much a nightmare. I drive a VW Beetle, after all. So I make sure to collect the journals on a day I am giving a test. The plan is that while students are taking their test I will give their journals a quick look and record their grades. That way students can get their journals back the same day.
How can I score 25 journals in about 30 minutes?
While still monitoring students taking a test?
That's the truth.
I usually get about half of them done.
Then I work through lunch and planning that day to complete the rest.
I do have a few tricks for making it go faster.
The notebook is basically a completion grade.
For this reason, I am looking for certain things to be included.
I pre-print address labels with these requirements listed - one for each student.
As I look through each journal, I circle anything that is missing and place the label on the inside of their journals. I write the final score on the label too. That way students get immediate feedback AND know why they may have missed some points.
Since I need to keep track of the journals for four classes while I grade them, I have students turn them in to the bin labeled with their homeroom teacher's name. That way I can work on them one class at a time and bring the whole bin to their homeroom by the end of the day. AND avoid having to bring home 100 interactive notebooks.
CHALLENGE #5: Supplies
For the most part, students are expected to come to class prepared with the supplies they will need each day. Pencils, paper, notebooks, colored pencils, glue, scissors, ruler, binder, etc. But there are a few supplies that I provide for student use. Dry erase boards, cloths (to use as erasers), old CDs (for drawing circles, calculators. Having to pass these out at the beginning of class and then collect them again at the end of class was ridiculous. Time consuming and frustrating for me.
So I ended up purchasing some cheap bins at the dollar store. In this bin I have placed enough dry erase boards, cloths, CDs and calculators for each table group. This bin is NOT a trash can. Students know this - since I had to get on to them about it the first week. Having the supplies right at hand is great because sometimes I make a split decision to use a supply I hadn't planned on and it's right there for the students.
CHALLENGE #6: Projects
Oh my goodness. I really LOVE doing STEM challenges. And so do my students. Especially when the challenge involves actually building something. Sometimes I do a challenge and give students only a day (class period) to complete the challenge. But that isn't really feasible for some of the projects I plan. There are times when students need 2-3 days or even a week to build, test, improve and retest their models. With four classes, that's A LOT of supplies to distribute, manage, and store during the duration of the unit.
So far I have utilized plastic bins and gallon size Ziploc bags for the distribution part of the project. I spend about an hour "filling orders" by placing supplies onto the bags or bins for each group. Students can then use the bins to keep track of their group plans, building materials, and data collection logs. This allows me to be prepared ahead of time with all the supplies students need. It's not a fun time trying to organize supplies with 25+ students breathing down your neck!
As far as storage of the projects while students are working on them? I have no good solution. I've tried a lot of things, but really I need some help. I need some creative storage ideas. How do YOU store student projects (especially 3D ones) for several days at a time?
If you found these ideas helpful, you might like to follow my Classroom Management board on Pinterest! This is where I pin all sorts of ideas that I find helpful in the classroom.