1St / 2Nd Grade Combo Room?

Updated on August 21, 2011
J.C. asks from Eagle River, AK
14 answers

My son just started 2nd grade. He is a very smart boy, and is right in the middle as far as his levels in math and reading. He is a very well behaved boy and is a very independent worker. They are using that ability to self motivate as the reason why they are moving him to a new class they are starting next week that will be a 1st/2nd combo class. I have been told that all kids will be taught at their level, and that the 2nd graders will be working while the first graders get instruction and vise versa. I am feeling uncomfortable with the idea. It seems like the kids will not get as much time, attention, or dedication from the teacher if she is having to only teach half the class at a time, and that it will put the 2nd graders at an unfair disadvantage as far as getting them ready and in step with the others going in to 3rd grade. Have any of you had your kids in these types of combo classes? How did it work? Where the kids really taught at and kept up to the same level of learning as the regular classes?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the input ladies. I guess I was just concerned that by being well behaved he was going to not get the attention he still needs to learn well. You have put my mind at ease, and I will be sure to go next week, meet the new teacher, and volunteer in the class so I can see how things are being ran. Thanks again.

as for 1st graders being skillless, that is not a concern. In our school they can read when they leave kinder.

Well, my son started the new class today and he loved it.

added after the end of the year: Turns out we were not happy at all with the way the class was set up. Basically they did everything on the first grade schedule (lunch, recess, ect) so the 2nd grade kids felt like they had been held back and rarely got to see their friends from their own grade. At the end of the year awards they even had the 2nd graders from the combo class who got awards stand with and be photographed with the first graders. Since it was the 2nd grade class that was too big last year, this year they are doing a 2nd/3rd combo and I already made sure my son will not be in it.

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answers from Omaha on

Minnesota was doing this YEARS ago (I was in a 1st/2nd grade combo class 30 years ago) and the state is known for high-quality public education.

I think you'll be pleased with the class and so will he! Often the 2nd graders get paired with the first graders to role model and assist--the best way to learn is to teach someone else how to do something... so the opportunity for his learning is ideal!

Good luck and enjoy!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I was in a split 2nd/3rd class. We learned all the required elements and we did have independent work time while the other class was with the teacher. I remember enjoying it, we did some projects with the other class and that encouraged team work and gave the 3rd graders a chance to help the others. There was also an assistant in the class to help with anyone who needed more individualized attention.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,

A Montessori curriculum is based on multi-age learning groups. It really depends on the teacher.
Typically in a traditional classroom that is a combo class the teacher will still have the same # of students as a non-combo (so still 25 kids, just 12 are at one level and 12 are at another level.).
By this point lots of teachers are using small groups to teach anyway, so he may have encountered this in a non-combo classroom. At this age kids should be starting to work independently, the teacher doesn't just teach the whole time... she introduces a concept and then they work on their own.
My daughter was in a 1st/2nd combo class as a 1st grader and now she is in a Montessori school. I really value multi-age learning. But I would stay in contact with the teacher.

One thing that we did in the beginning of the year when she was in the 1st/2nd combo class was to get parents to volunteer in the classroom, but we soon found it wasn't really necessary since the kids were starting to work independently anyway. It worked out quite nicely.

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answers from Portland on

Combo classes often get a bad rap, but if the right teacher is teaching it, your child can have a great experience. I have been a teacher in CA for the last 7 years. One of those years I taught a combo class. Many of my parents were concerned with what that meant for their child, but were very happy with how the year went. First, as you said, many combo class teachers have the luxury of being able to hand pick their students. This means that your child will be able to be in a class with other motivated students and usually very few behavior issues. Second, because the class is divided, the grade level groups are often much smaller, which allows for more one on one instruction. It also allows the teacher to taylor the learning to each student. Slowing down to reteach concepts, or more often challenging the students with new material that the regular classroom teacher may not have the chance to get to because of the variety of students and learning levels in a single grade level class. Third, it's a great opportunity for kids to become self-motivated learners, in addition to taking on a leadership role with the younger students. I could go on and on, but I really do believe that combo classes can be a great thing assuming you have the right teacher. Hope this helps!

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answers from San Francisco on

This is a GOOD thing!
From my experience working in elementary school, the split classes usually have the best of the best, meaning the most focused, mature and well behaved kids. AND they usually get an extra aide :)

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answers from Appleton on

Go to Hallmark Channel and watch both The Waltons and Little House. You will see that all the kids went to a one room schoolhouse. This means that Kindergarten through High School were all taught in one room. These kids learned and prospered. If they didn't get something from the grade before they could catch up and listen as the lesson was given. If they were above their grade level they could learn from the next lesson.

Both shows are based on real families.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My sister had the same concerns when my nephew was placed in a 2nd/3rd class (he was in 3rd) but he did remarkably well. So well he was getting his regular work done in record time and was given extra credit assignments to fill up his time. He was also able to help the 2nd graders, among other things he read books to them 3 times a week, he's always been an outstanding reader so his teacher wanted to utilize his talent. He is a quiet well-behaved boy (in class, lol) and when I just asked my sister she said he was never neglected or overlooked. She also pointed out that for some subjects they were taught separately, some students going to another class and another teacher coming to theirs so he was always taught at his level.

Also, keep in mind that as your son gets older and progresses through each grade they will be guiding him towards doing more and more things on his own in preparation for middle school/junior high and handling more responsibility✿

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answers from Austin on

Often, in these split classes, (after all, that was what was done for many years), the older students eventually start helping the younger ones in a "peer tutoring" situation.

That also gives the older student confidence, too. They become the "helpers" in the class.

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answers from Seattle on

A couple of questions you need to ask the principle and teacher of the class.

1. Is this a self contained classroom. That means four walls and no other class to share the space.

2. Has she done this before and with first and second graders and how did this experience go for her? A biggee question! How experienced is she?

3. What type of teacher and teaching does she use. Is she a sit down at the desk only teacher or does she let the sit on the floor, have general work time, work in groups, work at their own speed in some areas, work in collaborative groups sometimes?

4. Does she let/need parents come into help regularly for small groups while she works with other kids?

5.And finally how big is the class? Some times the class is smaller because of the mixed grades. That is a good thing.

My concerns also include. First graders at the beginning of the year are skill-less. Meaning they need to learn letter sounds and how to make them, basic math skills and concepts. These skills take up almost all the day (former k-1 teacher here) so how is she going to balance her time? This is a question you need to ask her.

I am not against multi-grade classes. I always taught in them. I hope that I have given you some good questions to ask. I think multi-grade classes are good if the teacher and conditions are right.

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answers from Washington DC on

I remember when I was in grade school we had a combined group, I think it was a 3rd/4th grade room. The younger group in the class were advanced I think. But everyone got a long fine and it all worked out well.


answers from Los Angeles on

They only put children into those combo classes that are independent enough to be able to work by themselves and actually get the work done. If they think he will be fine, he probably will be. Students in those classes still get attention, but can work well without a lot of instruction. However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea, let them know and they might be able to switch him.



answers from Lincoln on

I think this can also depend on the size of the classroom. I came from a village of 300 and our elementary was composed of K, 1&2, 3&4, 5&6. My class had 7 in it and the class ahead or behind of us had about 10 or so. So, it made sense to combine the classrooms. It was as you stated, the 1st graders got instruction, then the 2nd etc. I think it really taught us how to work independently and help one another out (peer tutoring). It can be positive. Good luck!


answers from Sioux City on

I taught in regular classrooms and combination classrooms and I prefer the combo room. I would willing send my child to one and would choose it over the regular classroom if the class size was under 25 students and my child got the same teacher for two years in a row.

I got to know the students far better and I was better able to see how they were progressing from one grade to the next. The kids had an environment that fostered them to work together and help one another which more closely represents what they will have to do once they leave the school setting. I didn't have to get to know the kids each year. By the second year of having them I already knew their learning style and ability so I could take them from where they were and move on.



answers from Phoenix on

I taught a kindergarten/first grade class. I don't think your son will be at a disadvantage if the combo class is smaller and he's okay with change. When I taught the combo class I had only 17 students compared to the other kinder and first grade classes that had 22-24. Each kid got a lot more attention meaning more learning going on. The main disadvantage in my mind was the way in which my combo class was created. I was given 2-3 kids from 6 kinder and first grade rooms. So, every student in my class started the year with a different teacher and routine and was just thrown into my class 90 days into the school year. Wasn't a good school year kickoff, but we managed. I don't think learning was affected negatively. I think my students did better than they would have if they had stayed in their "first" classrooms with more students and less teacher time. And as far as my teaching went, I didn't dumb the kinders down, I pulled them up to first grade level faster. So, I wouldn't worry about your son not learning second grade stuff- it is more likely they are teaching more at a second grade level.

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