Classroom Management

Five Tips for Teachers Changing Grade Levels

As teachers, so much is constantly changing in our career. State standards, professional requirements, our students…there is so much change to anticipate from year to year!

And sometimes, for various reasons, we even change the grade level we are teaching. For some this might be an exciting change; for others, not so much.

I’ve changed grade levels twice in my career. I taught kindergarten my first year teaching because, well, it was a week before school started and that was the only job offer I had. I wasn’t really in a position to be picky! I had zero experience with kinder, and much preferred upper elementary. A year in kindergarten confirmed that I was NOT meant to be a kindergarten teacher. So I started applying for other jobs.

My second and third year teaching I taught 3rd grade, which I thought was my sweet spot! I absolutely loved it. I loved the content I was teaching and the age of the kids was perfect – young enough that they still liked you, but old enough to be independent.

Right at the end of my third year teaching I found out I would be moving to 2nd grade the next year. I wasn’t married to 3rd grade so I was okay with that change; however, I was a little nervous since I had never taught 2nd and didn’t know what to expect.

Turns out, I absolutely loved it!! Best change ever. 2nd graders are the sweetest, but still they are still very independent! My last two years of teaching were spent in 2nd grade.

It can be hard making a big change like that, especially if you’ve never taught the grade level before. As someone who likes to be as prepared as possible, I know how it feels to go into the summer not knowing what the next year will look like. I would encourage you to take some time over the break to get acquainted with your new grade level, and here are 5 tips on where to start!

1. Familiarize yourself with the standards.

New grade level means different standards. If you are simply moving up or down one level, you may be fairly familiar with the standards already. If you are making a bigger jump, then you probably don’t know what to expect as much. Either way, take some time this summer to read through the state’s standards for the subject(s) you will be teaching.

You don’t need to memorize the standards! You will get to know them pretty well over the next year, so don’t stress out about it too much as standards can be pretty overwhelming. Just know the basics. One question I think would be good to ask yourself is, “How are these standards similar to the last grade level I taught? What is different?”

For example, in 3rd grade math, we learned place value to the 100,000s place. In 2nd grade, you only go to the 1,000s place. So I already knew how to teach that, I just didn’t have to go as far! If you are moving to a higher grade level, you will probably have to add on a few things, but there is probably a lot you are already familiar with. Standards are designed to build on each other as you reach higher grade levels, so no matter which direction you are changing, it probably won’t be that different from what you’ve taught before.

2. Get a copy of the curriculum.

If you are able, try to grab a copy of the curriculum you will be teaching or see if you can find one online. This will help so much with planning! If you are able to read through the curriculum ahead of time, you can familiarize yourself with the order in which things are taught and come up with a general idea of how you want to teach things. If you can’t get a copy of the actual curriculum, see if you can at least snag a class schedule or Year At a Glance so you have an idea of what is being taught when.

3. Talk to other grade level teachers.

If you know the other teachers in the grade level, see if you can find some time to chat with them this summer and get some ideas from them! If you don’t know who they will be or aren’t able to get in touch with them, turn to social media!

There are teachers all over Instagram willing to help you! If you don’t know where to start, check out my Instagram and see who I’m following – you’ll definitely be able to find some amazing teachers in there! Bonus – if you teach 2nd grade, I already have a list of some amazing teachers to follow on Instagram that I made last year.

Another idea is to join Facebook groups for your grade level. You can find a group for just about any grade level you teach! Jamie Sears from the Not So Wimpy Teacher has one for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. I’m not familiar with groups for other grade levels, but I know they are out there! Just do a quick search on Facebook and I guarantee you’ll find some.

4. Get an idea of how you want to teach the standards.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the standards and have a better idea of the order in which you’ll be teaching different concepts, start planning! Maybe just start with the first month and find some activities you can do for the various concepts you will be covering. I like to look at Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for ideas.

This is also a good time to prep anything that might require a little extra time! Like printing, laminating, cutting…the beginning of the school year is busy enough, don’t add those things to your to do list! Get them done ahead of time so you are prepared.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I don’t care how long you’ve been teaching, a grade level change can feel like you are a first year teacher all over again! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team, other coworkers, admin, Facebook, Instagram, whoever! Teachers are some of the most helpful people I know and no one is going to judge you for asking for a little help.

Especially if someone on your grade level team has been teaching that same content for awhile, soak up their wisdom! Not just about the content you’ll be teaching, but about the students too. What classroom management strategies work best for this grade level? Would fill-in-the-blank expectation be realistic for them? Remember that not only is your content changing, your audience is too! Even a one year change can be a huge difference in the maturity level of your learners. Something you think is age appropriate actually may not be. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others if you aren’t sure if something will work for that grade level!

Hopefully this has been helpful to you as you prepare to navigate a brand new grade level! Spend some time this summer familiarizing yourself with your new area – but don’t forget to relax some, too! You will definitely need to be well-rested when your new adventure starts this fall!

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