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Combo Classes

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    • 17 posts
    July 19, 2010 11:30:20 AM PDT
    Does anyone have any experience with combo classes? My child, a sixth grader, has been placed in a 5/6 combo class. How will the teacher ensure that each grade level receives the appropriate amount and level of instruction? What criteria is used to select students for combo classes? How is the teacher selected to teach a combo class? I am very unhappy with this arrangement but, of course, the principal is trying to sell it as a great advantage for my child. Because my child is a quick learner and high achiever that requires little classroom attention, I would say the advantage is to the teacher.
    • 5399 posts
    July 19, 2010 11:37:10 AM PDT
    It truly depends on the teacher as to whether the combo works. Our oldest was in a combo class, the teacher loved her job had taught for years and wanted the combo.  One thing we were told is when the 6th graders help the 5th graders they retain the information themselves, we weren't looking for ours to teach other kids.
    It worked great for ours because of the teacher and her abilities to seperate and teach one group and keep the others learning. It was also nice when they were in 8th because they knew 7th graders.  It is probably most beneficial to the 5th grade but like I say if the teacher is good your child will excel and have the opportunity to stay out of some of the politics 6th graders get involved in 
    • 882 posts
    July 19, 2010 11:44:19 AM PDT
    I think we're going to see a lot more combo classes this year.  Trust me, teachers are just as stressed as parents about it...okay, probably more!  When I went to school, combos were the school had several 1-2-3 combos and 4-5-6- combos.  I don't know how they did it except that:  1)  there weren't the carefully delineated standards that there are today; 2) as a 6th grader, we did a lot of the same things the 4th and 5th graders did (???); 3) our school was a country school and the kids mostly came from attentive, actively involved families; and 4) we did a lot of "seatwork" (independent, on our own) rather than be directly instructed.

    Hopefully, the teachers will collaborate and do some switching so the kids can receive the direct instruction they need at their level.  The bottom line is that most teachers, while not feeling 100% confident about "how" it's all going to work, will, nevertheless, figure it out in the first weeks of school and try to find the best solution for all the kids.  We all have the same end goal---in a perfect world, at least.

    My suggestion is to attend back to school night to see what the teacher's plan is and to not hound the teacher right away because, chances are, he/she is still figuring it out.  ESPECIALLY because we were fuloughed last week and our technical first day of work is TODAY!  (Oye!...ridiculous)
    • 625 posts
    July 19, 2010 10:56:02 PM PDT
    My advice would be to participate in the class and observe this week. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt knowing that he/she is doing the best they can with a situation not of his/her making. Kids can actually thrive in combo. classes. The modeling is good for both grade levels and some amazing things come out of them. The compliment that your child is more "independent" is better worded something like this: your child has the ability to follow directions the first time, needs little behavioral re-direction and is ready to begin working on that skill of being able to handle more than one task and being given the freedom to exercise some creativity over his/her learning.    Not being "indpendent", can often be construed as needing lots of teacher intervention, which isn't always instruction. Does that make sense?

    Also, thought the principal may be "selling" it, the choice is to offload families to other schools, have kids on multiple tracks per family, etc. This comes from the top down and is a direct result of the budget. It isn't because someone wants to work the system for their personal delight. My combination class will probably go down as my favorite class of all time. The lens of the child is the best way to look at these situation versus supposing what might or might not be going on in a classroom.
    • 709 posts
    July 19, 2010 11:10:24 PM PDT
    In the 5th and 6th grade (1995-1997) my daughter was in a full time GATE program at Prairie Elemetary School and this class was a combo of three grades!  It worked out great because that meant these kids could have the same teacher for all three grades.  The way it worked was when the teacher was working with one grade the other two grades were expected to quietly do their work and she checked to make sure they were.  It was a great experience for us!

    I'm not sure how combo classes would work in a regular setting my daughter's MIL is teaching a first and second grade combo class this year so it will be interesting to hear more about it.
    • 158 posts
    July 20, 2010 3:23:45 PM PDT
    At the elementary school where I used to work (before I was laid off) the students in combo classes would go to a single grade class for core subjects such as math.  Don't know if all elementary schools do the same, but it gave the teacher with the combo class one on one time with each grade he/she taught.  I know of two teachers who taught combo classes last year who requested to have their lower grade students back for this year, even though they are not doing combos again.  
    • 444 posts
    July 20, 2010 10:51:29 PM PDT
    As a teacher who taught a combo class (K-1, so it was a lot different) it was wonderful!! All of my students made amazing gains and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Yes,  it was hard at times, yes the kinders would get stuff that was over their heads, and yes the first graders would get material that was taught last year. But it was truly a great experience!!

    I wouldn't go and observe the first week of school (unless the teacher asked for it). You won't see much teaching, mostly just teaching the routines and it could even be disruptive to have parents in there.

    I would think that at 5/6th grade, all students would be able to work independently and it shouldn't be a problem. Even in a straight sixth grade class, I would hope that the teacher would be able to work with students who are below grade level and challenge students who are above grade level.

    Hopefully for this class, they chose fifth graders that were above grade level and independent workers as well. Who knows, your child's class might have all the great kids!! (when we planned combos, we tried not to have too many disruptive students as that made it harder for the teacher and the kids).
  • 8
    July 21, 2010 9:59:51 AM PDT
    I'm in the same situation as you and I have to say I'm not a big fan of combo classes as I was a 4th grader in a 4/5 combo class and remember the 5th graders doing 4th grade curriculum.  I would be concerned about the amount of time the teacher has to spend with both grade levels.  I would also want to know what experience the teacher has teaching these two grade levels.  It's incredibly difficult to meet the needs of all students in a traditional setting so I would be concerned about how the teacher is able to "shift gears" between the two grade levels.  If the teacher is supported by other teachers for core instruction, the 5th and 6th grade teachers, the principal and the dynamics of the student population is favorable, it could be a positive experience.  Unfortunately, it could also be possible that your child will be repeating 5th grade.  Some schools have their 6th graders rotate classes like they would for secondary school (7 - 12).  If your school has that set up it could be a great experience academically as well as preparing them for 7th grade.  Ask the teacher for a syllabus or the 6th grade benchmarks so you know what your child is supposed to be learning and what the teacher intends to cover.  If those aren't available ask that the textbooks come home over the weekend so that you can review them.  With that info you can spend some very quality time with your child at home having them talk about what they are learning.  This would also help fill the gaps, if any, and allow you to plan for outside learning opportunities.  Social studies is early civilizations.  If the King Tut exhibit is still in the Bay Area, go see it.  I took my 6th grader to the exhibit in LA 5 years ago and it was fabulous.  Also, spend some time in Chinatown.  We had planned to do that last weekend, but it was packed so we'll plan on going back.  There is a lot of local history about Chinese immigrants in the Sacramento area too with the gold fields and the transcontinental railroad.  Plan to spend some quality time at the public library for outside reading material to compliment the texts.  Start an interactive journal with your child or have your child start one with a classmate so they can build their writing skills.  (Texting is the demise of the written language!) 
    Given how the district leaders chose to handle the budget this year, your only option may be to leave the school for another school in the district or private school.  I'm learning that can be just as traumatic as the combo class.  After having a child miss out on a 6th grade education (for other reasons), I'm currently considering our options and will decide what we feel is best for our child.  You know your child better than anyone else and only you can decide what is best for them.
    • 1498 posts
    July 21, 2010 3:29:14 PM PDT
    To all the parents who have children in a combo class...please be supportive and open minded about the situation. Many times principals and teachers to not relish the idea of combo classes but unfortunately they do arise. If there is enough support and positive energy from the parents, the teacher will feel at ease and his/her year will be a successful one for both the teacher and the students!