Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Departmentalized vs Self-Contained

Ok. So I switched districts for next year. I will officially be teaching 2nd grade Reading/Language/S.S.... I have never taught departmentalized before! I have only taught kinder and first self contained. Therefore, I wanted to see if any of y'all out there have any experience with departmentalization?? Not many schools around the Houston area departmentalize in the primary grades, so I was surprised when this school departmentalizes starting in FIRST! 
Don't get me wrong... I am SUPER excited about this new adventure! There are some wonderful things I am looking forward to!

1) It is in a completely new grade level
2) JUST a minute from my house (which I've never had)
3) I will be teaching (focusing on) the subject that I love to teach the most...READING! 

 I know that with a departmentalized classroom you are writing fewer plans due to fewer subjects but you have MORE students to get to know! So is it an even trade off? Is one easier than the other? I'd hate to use the word easier :-/.....In NO way is teaching easy, but I didn't know what other word to use. 

So is there anyone out there who can give me some advice regarding departmentalized classrooms compared to self-contained classrooms???? Can't wait to hear from y'all!!

PS- Here is a little look into my new classroom! I am LUH.VING. all the cubbies, tables instead of desks, the storage space, my huge window (always need to have the natural light shining in), and of course my promethean board (which I have no idea how to use-I am only familiar with SMARTboards)! :)

Thanks in advance for your advice and comments!


  1. First off, I love my Promethean Board. Just go to Promethean Planet online and you will find everything you need to know and get lessons for free.

    I love departmentalizing in the lower grades. I always only taught reading/la/ss for first and second. I transferred to open a brand new school with my old AP, so for the past 3 years I have taught self contained first. I would rather teach what I love (reading, la , and SS), but I also love having a job, lol.

    Anyway, the plus is that you really get to go into depth with your content and it is so much fun integrating SS with your reading. The stories and themes you can teach are endless. You become a master teacher in these areas after doing it for a few years because it just becomes so easy to teach this way. The students get better at the subject also because they are with teachers who truly know what they are teaching (not that those of us who teach self contained don't, but it is different). When you know you have x amount of time to teach and the kids move on, you fit it in. When you are with the kids all day, sometimes we leave something off so we can dig deeper into whatever they don't understand. I know because I tend to do less SS and Science because math and reading overflow into that time.

    If you need anything else, just ask. I will try to head you in the right direction! Good Luck!

  2. I started it last year in first grade, and I LOVE it! I wouldn't say that it's easier, I would say that it is more focused. It is a struggle to get to know more kids, but that is an easy obstacle to overcome. The kids didn't seem to have any problems getting to know 2 teachers, and I think that they were more focused as well. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Anonymous7/13/2012

    There are just as many positives as there are negatives. I loved just doing the lesson plan for my subject, and I really was able to learn my TEKS and expectations, but I always felt that it took some of the flexabiltiy that being self contained offered. I sometimes felt pressed for time. We clustered in threes, so I had one hour with each class to teach math. If something happened that day (program, assembaly, fire drill) during a non-homeroom class' hour, they lost the day and we had to make it up some other way. It is harder to keep up with more students but its also rewarding to know more students. Something you may consider is ability grouping within your cluster.Other clusters in my school would sort out the students in all three classes into high, middle, and low and divide their three hours that way. I find if you only have 2 classes in a cluster that is not as effective though.

  4. Anonymous7/13/2012

    I find all of these comments interesting. I teach first grade as well and we found out this week that we will be departmentalizing this year. I think it will be fun. I will be reading/language/SS as well. Thanks for the info.

  5. Thanks so much for the info! All that I was thinking but needed reassurance! :) I'm so excited for next year!!

  6. Carly, I just ran across your blog as I was "googling" departmentalized first grade. My school is considering this for next year. In fact, they might have me and one other first grade teacher try it in May to see how it works. I see these post are from last year, and I'm wondering how you feel about it now that you've been doing it? I tried to look and see if you've posted about it since, but I couldn't find it. I might not have looked hard enough though. I would love to hear from you and see if you found any links or blogs out there with more information, from other first grade teachers, that are departmentalized. By the way, I'm super excited to be one of your newest followers.

    1. Hi Corinna!
      I'm so sorry I haven't responded quicker! I don't think I received a notification that you had commented! :) I know I haven't blogged about being departmentalized since, but I have learned a lot this year! I really like mainly focusing on reading and writing! The only thing that I found a little more difficult was having to plan for double the amount of small reading groups! It takes a lot of time. Also, it is more students to get to know isn't impossible, it just takes more time and effort on our part. Also, having to change the lessons to differentiate for the two different classes. I have the GT class and a general class. So, I sometimes have to differentiate the same lesson for two different classes. I currently teach reading, writing, word study, AND social studies. My partner teacher only teaches math and science. We are hoping that next year they will move Social Studies over to the other teacher so that it will be more even. It is very hard to fit everything in on my end! So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
      I actually haven't found any other blogs that talk about being departmentalized at these young grades. I think it is very rare these days. I definitely suggest trying it though! Even though it is a little more work, I definitely enjoy it. Teaching reading is my passion and I love that I get to focus on that more. :)
      Thank you so much for following me! :) Once again, sorry for the late response! Keep me updated if y'all decide to try it! I'd love to hear what you have to say about it! And I promise not to wait 2 months to respond!


    2. Last week, we were told that 2 of us will be teaming and the other 3 team members will stay self-contained. Our administrator wants to "pilot" the program to see if it will work. I will be teaching Reading and Writing and my colleague will be teaching Science and Math. I believe she will be responsible for S.S. as well but I need to clarify that. I'm a little concerned about the planning for double the reading groups too. It seems like my work load will require more planning and my colleagues required planning time will go down. I'm excited about this new adventure and nervous all at the same time. I'm hoping we can make it work!

  7. Anonymous4/04/2013

    What do parent/teacher conferences look like in first grade with all the different departments? And how do you do your report cards? We are looking into doing this for next year. Thanks!

    1. Our parent teacher conferences are generally done with both teachers. We take turns sharing about the child's progress. If the parent has a content specific question then only that teacher needs to attend the conference. We haven't had any issues with conferences, luckily. It is nice to almost have a 2nd opinion or to have someone back up your thoughts and comments.

      Well, in our district, in grades K-2 we give the students a 1,2, or 3 for progress in reading objectives. (I wish we would actually give grades, but I can't help that) We do give number grades for Social Studies, Math, and Science. So, I fill out the 1,2, or 3's section and give the S.S. grade and the math and science teacher gives those grades. And of course there are areas to give comments to parents as well. Then the homeroom teacher passes out the report cards to their class.

      Hope this helps...let me know if you have other questions.. feel free to shoot me an email! :)

  8. I teach first and next year I am going to 3rd. I am grade level chair as well and we decided to be departmentalized. I will be teaching Reading/ELA and Science. We have 4 classrooms so we will be AB departmentalized. As far as lesson plans go each one of will take a subject. I will take Reading/ELA plans and we do writing across the curriculum. Friday is our writing day so that means they are expected to do writing in all subjects on Friday.
    I was nervous but now Im a little excited.

  9. This post was great! I will be teaming with my neighbor next year to teach first grade math/science/social studies while my teammate focuses on reading/writing. We are both excited but nervous as we pilot the idea for the first year in hopes of doing it grade-wide in the upcoming years. How did you guys come up with a schedule?

  10. Anonymous4/08/2014

    Interesting topic. My school is actually considering departmentalizing next year in primary grades. Your last blog was from last year. I was wondering how it is going this year and what your thoughts are?



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