Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

Changing Grade Levels – Make the Transition a Smooth One!

By Sue Gruber

Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers

Changing grade levels can be a huge challenge. There’s no doubt about it—change is hard. Even if you are the one who initiated the change, it can be stressful.

Imagine these scenarios…

  • You are minding your own business relaxing and enjoying every minute of your summer. Suddenly you’re jolted out of your hammock by a phone call from your administrator letting you know that you need to teach a new grade next year.
  • At the end of the school year in a moment of wild abandon, you raise your hand at a staff meeting and volunteer to change grade levels. All summer you’ve been alternating between full-blown panic attacks and mumbling to yourself, “What was I thinking?!”
  • Due to budget cuts, declining enrollment, low-seniority or other issues, you’ve been laid off from your teaching job. The week before school starts, you receive a phone call telling you that you’ve been rehired to teach a brand new grade.

It doesn’t matter how you found yourself in this position. It definitely requires extra work to transition from one grade level to another. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed! Here are some tips to help make your transition to a new grade level a smooth one:

  • Get a hold of the grade level standards for your school, district or state. Don’t get caught up in the tiny details…just familiarize yourself with the big picture of where you need to be by the end of the school year. I keep a photocopied set of the standards inside my plan book. As I cover each standard, I highlight it. This helps me figure out what I’ve covered and what I still need to teach.
  • Call another teacher from your school who teaches your new grade level. Get together for coffee or lunch. See if that teacher is willing to collaborate and do some planning with you for the first week or two of school. Finding another teacher to plan with really saves time. Who knows…you just might end up planning together the entire school year.
  • Make a general plan for the year. Divide a big, blank piece of paper into 10 squares. Label the squares with the months of the school year. Start roughing out the different concepts you need to cover in each curriculum area and start spreading them out over the course of the year. Don’t go into great detail. For example, science in September electricity, October-November plants, etc. Plug in any field trips, read aloud books, big projects, etc.
  • Moving from primary to intermediate grades:

Upper grades can be quite a shock after teaching primary grades! Chances are you’ll love them—it just takes awhile to adjust! One of my teacher friends, Kathy, made the move from first grade to fifth grade. She checked in with me at recess on the first day of school. Kathy felt like she had won the lottery! She was thrilled because the kids knew what she meant when she said things like “line up”, “write your name on your paper” and “open your book to page 6”! Kathy couldn’t believe that she made it all the way to the first recess without anyone spontaneously springing out of his chair and landing on the floor!

Here are some things to consider when moving to a higher grade:
**Upper graders are really little kids trapped in HUGE bodies! Don’t be intimidated by their size and mature looks. Deep down they still love to color, be read to, etc.
**Hands on activities are not just for primary grades. Intermediate students really respond to science experiments, projects, math manipulatives, etc.

**Build some choice into assignments when you can. For example, let students choose which ten math problems to complete on a page of fifteen problems.

**Find a great read aloud book that hooks your students! Set aside your read aloud time for the end of the day. Let your kids know that they need to stay on track throughout the day in order to have time for today’s chapter.

**Upper grades are wonderful. The class discussions you can have with the kids can be AMAZING!

Moving from intermediate to primary grades:

My last grade level change was from fifth grade to kindergarten. For some unknown reason, I felt ready to conquer my fears and teach the most frightening grade of all—kindergarten! (I think it was the potential of body fluids in kindergarten that had me the most petrified!) I have never been so tired in my life as I was those first days teaching kindergarten. I had no clue that it would take kids twenty minutes to stuff the contents of their cubbies into their backpacks the first days of school. I didn’t know I’d have to teach them how to open their snacks!

Tips for moving from upper grades to primary grades:

** It works wonders to actually teach every little step and procedure that you want the kids to do. After you explain it, ask for volunteers to demonstrate what you mean. Primary students need to be shown—talking about it isn’t enough.

**Remember in upper grades how you could plan in thirty to sixty minute blocks of time? Forget about it! Think 5 or 10 minutes maximum for the beginning of the year in primary.

**Prepare to be worshipped! Most primary students adore their teachers. They’ll be stunned if you make a mistake! They’ll think you are an excellent singer! Their awe will render them speechless if they run into you outside of school!

May I be the first to congratulate you on your new grade level? Teachers are the most wonderfully flexible people on the planet! That flexibility will save you! I know you’ll have a great year! Now make sure you relax and enjoy what is left of your summer!

Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers

Copyright 2009: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 and is filed under AUGUST 2009, Barbara Gruber, Sue Gruber. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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