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NYC Helpline: How To: Get Started
How to Home
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Moving Up?
Judi Fenton

It can be scary to see on the new tentative organization sheet that you are moving from an early childhood classroom to an upper elementary grade. However, there are several things you can think about to help you get ready for the big transition.

First of all, it's much easier for an early childhood teacher to move up to 5th or 6th grade than the other way around! You understand how important it is to build relationships with every student and to make sure that your classroom is a community of learners. You know that students need to feel comfortable in their classroom environment in order to be able to learn.Fifth and sixth graders are interesting. (I happen to have a 6th grader at home right now!) They are still children who need to feel safe and reassured, yet, they are constantly pushing boundaries, striving to be more independent, and testing limits. They are also completely obsessed with social issues, sometimes it seems that you'll never be able to get to academics! You will need to acknowledge this with them and give them time to be social in order to build a classroom community that they feel meets their needs.

Community building is key. I would get a book of team building activities (I know that Kagan has some books, and if you do a Google search, many corporate and church activities will come up). The idea is to build a classroom community that creates strong bonds and encourages your students to rely on one another. I would do a community building activity each week, maybe every Monday or Friday. I would definitely create some class norms with your classes. (See Setting Norms with Your Students.) Students also should have multiple opportunities to explore what it means to gain so much independence in their lives and in their learning. You can do many reflection exercises with them so that they can figure out how they best learn, what they are really interested in, and what they believe in. At this age they can really begin to figure out where they want to situate themselves in the world.

In terms of transitions, you will need to find a system that works for you to make the transitions easy. You will need to be consistent with any system you choose. I have seen 6th grade teachers who have the students come into the classroom, place their homework in a bin (and if they haven't done the homework, they must put a signed note that explains why not), you can have a homework monitor (or you can do it yourself at first, when the students are doing a do now) check and record who has the homework and who doesn't. (Remember unless the student is absent, they MUST have something in the bin.) There should be a do now (or question of the day) on the board when they enter. The question should have everything to do with what you plan to do that day, it should preface, bring the students in, and get them thinking about what you will be working on. This independent intro work should last 10 minutes at the most. The idea is to get them right into work, with as little transitioning waste as possible. Then you bring everyone back to discuss their ideas. This should be done in ways so that everyone gets to speak--you can have them share in pairs, table groups, other groups, and then have a class discussion or lead into your mini lesson. You can play with all of this of course, to find what works for you, the point is, you will need a structure that your students become familiar with and learn to do every day. (Just like in an early childhood class, predicatability is key!) Whatever you decide to do, I would have an agenda posted that you absolutely follow--we all need to know what to expect.

I think there’s a common misconception that managing an early childhood classroom is easier than management in an upper elementary grade. Yes, they are bigger and usually louder than younger students, but the need to be fair, listen, and treat each student as an individual is still important with older students.

There are some fantastic management articles in the How Tos section of teachersnetwork.org, look around and then e-mail me back!


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