Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (2024)

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (1)

Today I wanted to share my combo class recipe for success with you today! Thankfully, my first year in Combo Land was nothing like the photo above!
This year I taught a combo for the first timein my 19 year teaching career. Until this year, I felt like I always "got out of" teaching the combo. I would always ask, "But how do you effectively teach two grades? One grade is hard enough to plan for and teach!" Well, I ended up having toface my fear when the only opening at one of the best schools in my district was a combo class, and if I wanted a position at that school, I had to take the leap! What I have come to realize is teaching a combo isn't as hard as I thought it would be, and it has many rewards. If you recently found out you will be teaching a combo next year, or if you have been scared off by combos like I had been, read on to ease your fears and discover my "ingredients" for a successful combo class.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (2)

When a combo class is builtcorrectly, with on-task, independent workers, it can be a teacher's dream. This year I had 28 very well behaved students who worked independently (for the most part!) while I was teaching the other grade. Having a well-built class is important and a huge ingredient to thesuccess of your combo class. In my district this means no students whor*ceive special services. Make sure to have this conversation with your administrator if you are asked to teach the combo class. It makes a huge difference!

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (3)

We always go over classroom procedures and expectations at the beginning ofthe year.With the combo, I spent more time going over and practicing procedures before releasing the students to beindependent while I worked with the other grade. Simple things such as procedures for sharpening pencils, what to do if they were stumped on independent work and I was busy with the other grade, and what to do if they had to go to the restroom while I was with the other group were things my students had to practice before theycould be left on their own. I usually rush this part, but with the combo, I took my time to be sure they properly learned the procedures.

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Since I was teaching a 2/3 combo, my students did not previously know each other. I noticed right away the third graders gravitated to the other third graders, and the secondgravitated to second graders. At recess they were only playing with those from their grade level. Iwanted the students to be a cohesive group, so we did lots of team building with the Tribes Learning Communities book and discussed the idea of Bucket Fillers. After a few weeks, second and third graders were playing together during recess. Here are a few books I recommend for helping to build a positive learning community:

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (5)

All of the Bucket Filler books are wonderful!

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (6)

Maria Dismondy's books are excellent forbuilding self esteem and discussing character. This one is my favorite!

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Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (8)

Thiswon't work for everyone, but if you are able to, ask theteachers at each grade level you teach if you can divide up and send one grade level to the them for certain subjects. This worked well at myprevious school. Those of us who didn't teach the combo were so thankful that we didn't have to do it, that we felt the need to help out the combo teacher. Thesecondgrade teachers each had about three of the second grade combo students during the language arts block. This left only thethird graders for the combo teacher to teach language arts. Then the third grade teachers took the third graders for math,leaving only the second graderswith the combo teacher. The combo teacher did the same thing for P.E., leaving only the other grade for her to spend extra time with, and that was when she taught social studies or science.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (9)

This year I had four consistent, dedicated volunteers. I have always had classroom volunteers, but I knew I would really need them in the combo class during certain times of the day. I made sure to have volunteers during my math time and literacy block. During math, I started off with second grade and we corrected homework and I taught their math lesson for the day, while third grade completed anindependent practice page from the previous day's lesson.Sometimes they needed clarification, and I wasn't there to help them, since I was working with thesecond graders. The parent volunteer answered questions and monitored the class and I was able to focus on teaching my lesson. After I taught second grade their lesson, they worked on theindependent page for that lesson, while I pulledthird grade up and we corrected their homework and I taughtthird grade their next lesson. Any second graders who had difficulty withhomework would get called back to correct it with the volunteer, and the volunteer wasthere to answer any questions the second graders had, while I was able to focus on third grade. My volunteers are a huge component to the success of my classroom!

During my literacy centers block, I had two volunteers. I usually did a close reading or other comprehension activity, and the volunteers focused on grammar or word work with their groups. We rotated about everfifteen minutes, and every student was able to get the attention they needed. The parents also pulled back students one at a time who needed extra practice with fluency, spelling, andvocabulary. The planning page below is from my Classroom Volunteers Binder.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (10)

I love to spoil my volunteers at the end of the year to thank them for all the help they've given my students. Click on the picturebelow to see my Classroom Volunteer Thank Youfreebie.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (11)

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (12)

This was animportantingredient to the success of my combo. When students were finished with their assignments, they needed to have a meaningful, engaging activities or projects to work on.Sometimes I posted task cardsaround the room and students worked independently orin pairs.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (13)

Other times I had task cards set up in baskets and students would take one to their seats.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (14)

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (15)

During math, I set up dice games and students couldpractice basic facts with partners. I gave students a lot of choice during this time, since I knew they would be more invested in the independent work if they could choose what they wanted to do. My main focus was being able to teach and work with one grade, while keeping the other grade engaged and learning, not just completing busy work.

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Thiswas really easy for me with language arts, sincethereare so many commonalities betweensecond and third grade. (Math was a little tougher for me, so I taught both grades separately.) I taught writing and guided reading together. I was able to teach many grammar concepts whole group since many standards were the same or very close.Three days a week the students read from their anthologies, and those were grade level specific. On the first day, I read the story withsecond grade, while third grade read independently andworked on their vocabulary four square. One the second day, I worked with third grade, while second grade worked independenly and completed their vocab four square. On Wednesday they partner read andworked on a comprehension page with their partner. Each group also had a readingjournal they completed and was due by the end of the week. The rest of the week was spent doing guided reading activities.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (17)

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (18)

There were days my parent volunteers couldn't make it on their scheduled day. When that happened, I had to rely on the students to workwith each other if they had a question.This ended up being a good thing,because the students were empowered and seen as experts in the classroom. Students who had questionscouldn't just ask an adult for help, they had to work together with their classmates to problem solve.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (19)

I know this won't work for everybody, but this year our students each received their own tablets. We added Spelling City, Bite Slide, ABC Ya, Study Jams, Kahoot, and a few other websites our district purchased to their start menu. The students always had their tablets and an on going project to keep them engaged if they finished their assignments early. If your school doesn't have 1:1 devices, but you are able to get your hands on a few iPads or other devices, you can set up approved apps or websites for your students. You will be amazed at how engaged and on task they are!

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (20)

What I have come to realize is teaching a combo is a lot like teaching a straight grade, but instead of having a variety of levels of students to juggle, you have the two grade levels to play ping pong with! I found myself going back and forth from one grade to the other, much like a game of ping pong. Since I had independent workers, I had very few behavioral problems. It was so nice to just teach for a change! I spent more time lesson planning, but no time in SST or IEP meetings, so that was a fair trade off. I feel I was able to teach more deeply this year than I have been able to in the past. I've already offered to teach a 2/3 or 3/4 combo next year if needed!

One thing that I struggled with at the beginning of the year was how to do my lesson plans. Even though I love

ErinCondren'steacher planers, I knew an EC planner wouldn't work for me with my combo, so I opted for a digital version instead. Ilove this one by Polka Dot Posie Print.

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (21)

Everything you see on the right side page is what I taught whole class. I was modeling reading expectations and we completed a Me on the Map activity and PEtogether. On the left side, I have math, word work, and grammar, all subjects that were taught separately. The bottom page is second grade's lesson plans, and the part that I'm holding up isthird grade's plans. I cut off the days on the third grade page and placed it on top of second's, so I couldeasily flip the pages back and forth in my binder and stay organized.This worked so well for me this year!

If you are teaching a combo next year, or in the future, I hope you enjoy it like I have! If you have any questions along the way, feel free to email me at and I would be happy to help you!

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (22)

Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (23)

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Recipe for a Successful Combo Class (2024)


How do you plan a combo class? ›

My usual strategy is to get one grade started on a project/worksheet/reading for the day, teach the other side and do an activity. Get them started on a project/worksheet/reading for the day, and then rush to the other side of the classroom to present their lesson… Whew!

How do you teach a 1 2 combo class? ›

To successfully combine first and second grade, you will teach some subjects together, use seatwork strategically, and adjust the schedule. Bible, poetry, and other activities will be combined and taught from either first or second-grade materials; you may choose which one based on your class situation.

How do combo grade classes work? ›

A combination class is formed when students from two consecutive grades are placed in one classroom under the supervision of one teacher. Students in combination classes receive their respective grade-level assignments and all appropriate grade-specific curricula.

Why was my child put in a combo class? ›

Split or combo classes happen due to teach and student numbers. If there aren't enough teachers to cover a specific number of students in a particular grade but there are also extra students in the grade above or below, a split is the perfect solution to ensure the right student to teach coverage.

What is 3 2 1 classroom activities? ›

A 3-2-1 exit ticket is an activity that students do before leaving the room. In a blank chart or in a list, students write 3 things learned, 2 things that they found interesting, and a question.

Why do some schools have combo classes? ›

The combination class, in which students from two adjacent grades are grouped within one classroom under one teacher, is a tool that school administrators can use to manage uneven class sizes and conserve scarce facility and personnel resources.

What is the combination method of teaching? ›

The Combination Learning Model is based on the idea that students learn best when presented instruction through a flexible combination of two or more learning components. It is a process-based theory rather than a focus on subject content or standards.

How do teachers plan for multilevel classes? ›


students to include ahead of time. You can create several different groups based on the levels in your classroom. Then, make a schedule of which group you will meet with each day. Use the groups and schedule to plan the activities and type of support you will give to your students.

How does a combo class differ from a regular class? ›

The combination class, in which students from two adjacent grades are grouped within one classroom under one teacher, is a tool that school administrators can use to manage uneven class sizes and conserve scarce facility and personnel resources.

What are the advantages of combination classes? ›

What's most interesting is the social and emotional skills students learn in a multi-level class. Many teachers have observed that older students in a combined class often make good decisions knowing they are role models for younger students – and as a result, the older students naturally develop leadership skills.

What is the flipped classroom model? ›

A flipped classroom is a pedagogical model that flips traditional lectures and homework. The traditional lecture is viewed at home before class and homework activities are done in the classroom with the instructor present to guide students in their endeavors.

What class do kids struggle with the most? ›

A recent survey of 2,000 parents found that 56% felt most overwhelmed by math class as students, while 51% of their school-age children feel the same way today. Other subjects that gave both groups trouble included science (26% and 25%) and English/Language Arts (21% and 27%).

How to deal with a child who constantly misbehaves in class? ›

What to do
  1. Be steady, consistent and firm.
  2. Acknowledge the feelings of the individual.
  3. Remember that disruptive behavior is often caused by stress or frustration.
  4. Address the disruption individually, directly and immediately.
  5. Be specific about the behavior that is disruptive and set limits.

Should students pick where they sit in class? ›

Many teachers say letting kids choose where to sit helps them learn how to make good choices. Some teachers point out that students are often more comfortable speaking up when they're sitting near kids they like the most. “If kids are happy and comfortable, they are more willing to learn,” says Umland.

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