• Why are Paloma's 4th and 5th graders switching classes?

    You may be thinking:  Middle schools do it. High schools do it. Should elementary schools do it too? Asking teachers to drop their traditional roles as generalists and serve instead as experts teaching one or two content areas is part of a growing trend called departmentalizing and some say it can result in many benefits for teachers and kids if it’s well planned and executed.

    • Allowing teachers to focus on and master one or two subjects provides for a greater level of expertise and deeper understanding. Because of this, teachers have a greater ability to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all learners.  Also, when teachers have the opportunity to teach what they love, they’re likely to be more invested.
    • Departmentalizing lends itself to a cooperative teaching approach. Grade level teachers work together to collaborate and coordinate content, manage communication with parents and students, and orchestrate parent conferences. Teams provide mutual support for one another and share grade level responsibilities. For example, teachers might take turns writing the newsletter, updating the website, or attending district professional development meetings.
    • When grade levels departmentalize, teachers take equal ownership of the students. The motto “everybody’s kids are everybody’s kids” becomes a reality. Teachers have the opportunity to bond with more students, not just their own homeroom.
    • Teachers benefit from a time management standpoint—they don’t feel stretched so thin trying to fit all subjects into every day evenly. Lesson planning can become simpler and less time consuming.
    • Departmentalization breaks the monotony for students. Students are able to move more frequently during the day, which helps increase attention. It also provides students with an opportunity to be challenged academically by different teachers in different classroom environments.
    • Students also develop interpersonal skills by being exposed to different teaching styles . This is particularly helpful if a student and teacher aren’t exactly a “match.”
    • Departmentalizing prepares kids for the transition to middle and high school. Graduating to the next level of schooling is not such an overwhelming prospect.

    Possible Questions:

    Will my child feel a disconnect at school, since they will no longer be able to form a strong bond with one teacher?  The research says that this is a possibility, but the disconnect can be prevented with deliberate actions by teachers to strengthen relationships with their students, as well as between students.  This year, the Kyrene School District adopted a new Social Emotional Learning resource called Sanford Harmony.  Paloma students will all be participating in these lessons as a part of their daily routine.  In 4th and 5th grade, students will participate in the lessons and activities with each teacher to build a stronger sense of community.  In addition, students move throughout their day as a cohort, so they will be surrounded by the same student faces all day; in math, in ELA, in ELE, and in Specials.

    Will it be harder for students to make connections across the curriculum?  Applying what they learn in math to the current science lesson is a key skill for students that strengthens connections in the brain and promotes the conversion of information to long-term memory.  To support these connections, 4th and 5th grade teachers will have 4 days of common planning time per week, actively using that time to foster connections for students across the curriculum.  In addition, all 4th and 5th grade teachers have taught the entire 4th and 5th grade standards before; we are already familiar with what students need to know in every content area.

    What about discipline, will it be consistent?  Will my child be treated fairly?  The 4th and 5th grade teams will continue to use ClassDojo as a resource to consistently reinforce positive behavior for our students, following Paloma's PBIS system.  PBIS is a research-based, school-wide system of behavior supports and interventions, catered to the needs of students.  PBIS pairs well with an arts integrated approach to teaching, as well as Sanford Harmony.