New Grade Level, New Challenges

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Changing grade levels is a big topic of conversation in June, and doing this is like moving into a new apartment. As educators, our job is to create the best possible educational experience for our students, and it should always be our priority. But there are instances where teachers switch grade levels because apparently, they are better suited for a different age level of students, while others have to move grade levels because it is what they are told. Though change can be hard, hopefully, most educators will go at it with a positive mind knowing that it is to the best advantage of the school and the students.

Some teachers may be ready for this change, some may not. Others will have the confidence to take up the new challenge, others may have doubts in their skills and abilities, especially if they are being moved from a lower grade level to a higher grade level. But good teaching is good teaching, and eventually, as an educator, you will start to fall into rhythm with the kids, and you will be amazed at how quickly you will adapt your teaching style and strategize what works with your new grade level.

To some, this might take several months of trial and error. But eventually still, with enough patience, you will find a way to teach the wide range of abilities in the classroom even in different grade levels. Based on experience, the premise is the same for every lesson. If you are going to present a concept that is the same from your previous grade level to your new grade, change the learning activities and outcomes depending on the ability levels of the students. For example, a science lesson on a plant’s life cycle will involve a large group activity such as a story, demonstration and/or presentation. Students will work on follow-up activities according to the grade level they are in. Third- and second-grade students may draw and label a presentation of the plant’s life cycle, while students who are learning from kindergarten to first grade will be drawing, tracing and/or labeling a picture of a plant. The goal here is to have the students experience varying degrees of the same lesson as well as have the same opportunities to socialize, learn and grow with one another in one classroom. As a teacher, you will now somehow be prepared to teach at any grade level that you might be assigned someday.

Surely, being moved to other grade levels can also be very tough organizationally. But using your summer break or any of your free time to organize your materials by subject is a great idea. Anything you have that you cannot use in your new grade level can be stored in boxes, one for each subject area. If you are not yet sure what grade level you will be teaching, try to have smaller boxes for a range of grade levels that you can place inside the subject area boxes. This will also be a nice opportunity to clear out a lot of things and get rid of stuff you are not using, and you will find that a lot of the materials can be used for multiple grade levels. If you end up teaching a higher grade next year, you can use your current materials to improve additional small group support for struggling students, and if you teach a lower grade level, your current materials can be used to challenge high achievers and differentiate instruction.

If you are not still prepared for your new grade level, the best thing you can do is to embrace in all ways that teaching your grade level is easier and more fun than teaching another grade level and keep reminding yourself of these factors. Don’t think about what you are missing with the other grades, and focus on all the cool collaborative projects you can do in your grade, and the wonderful in-depth discussions you are going to have. Who knows? You might even realize that your new grade level is your niche!

By: Mary Grace E. Ballesteros

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