First Grade "Team Teaching"

Updated on June 24, 2011
E.L. asks from Ozark, MO
14 answers

My six year old daughter will be going to first grade in the fall, and we recently found out that they do team teaching (combining two classes and two teachers) with the two first grade classes. When I first heard about it I thought it was pretty awesome. I think it's a great opportunity for my daughter to get to know more kids, and I like the idea of her having two teachers.

Some of the other parents, however, are not so happy about it. Some of them are even switching schools! Apparently there is a history at the school of kids getting pulled out and switching schools after being in this team teaching class. They say it's because they don't get enough individual attention because there are too many kids. I don't understand this, because there is the same student/teacher ratio as there is in a normal class.

I am curious to find out about any of your experiences with this, good or bad, and what you think about it. It would have to be pretty bad for me to switch schools, because we live right across the street, and we had a fantastic kindergarten experience. I'm honestly not too worried about it, I'm sure my daughter will be fine, I just want to understand why some people are so against this team teaching thing! :-)

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So What Happened?

Wow, amazing answers! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and respond.

Yes, of course I have been in a classroom before.

A lot of great information and different points of view that I never thought of before. You have given me a lot to think about!

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answers from Houston on

Hi E.,

I used to work at an elementary school that had team teaching starting in 3rd grade. My nephew who was living with us at the time had a hard time adjusting to it. I think for him it was never having his own space. Every time they changed classes he had to get all his things and move them. The desk they are in is not just theirs, they have to move everything to another room and another desk. It also meant keeping track of 2 of everything now. 2 teachers, 2 homework lists, and ect. I didn't experience him not getting enough individual attention. I was very involved with all his teachers and thought they did a great job. It might just take time to adjust at first, especially being in first grade, but I hope you have a great experience.

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answers from Washington DC on

The question to ask before you get all hot and bothered is this: Do they combine for every subject? Do they combine all day? Do they teach the concept this way and then go back to their classrooms to practice? OR Do the teachers swap off? Meaning - one teacher is better at Math, so she does the Math while the other is better at English or Reading, so she does that?
There were some concepts that our 1st grade teachers taught together and it worked just fine.
Volunteer in the classroom a few dozen times to see how it works. You might find that you understand why they do what they do. The teachers wouldn't do it if it didn't work.

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answers from Columbus on

I can give you a student's perspective. This happened to me in the 3rd grade. Two teachers. About 55 kids. Half of the time, portable barriers were put in between our classes, right down the middle and the other half, the two teachers tag-teamed the entire group. It was very distracting having that many children in the same, albeit large, room. I was a good student and it still distracted me. I found it hard to pay attention to the teachers with so much chaos.

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answers from Washington DC on

Have you ever been in a classroom? I am not being uppity, just curious. Even with 16 "at risk" kids when we had 3 teachers having just 3 absent made the whole dynamic of the group that much different. That much easier
I can't imagine 50+ kids under 7 in one room, with 2 teachers, only 2 teachers??.
Maybe in 4th or 5th grade, when the kids are more self sufficient.

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answers from Honolulu on

I cannot imagine, 1st grade being this way, with 2 Teachers in a combined class.

At my daughter's school, they have from 2nd grade, the kids rotating to other Teachers/classrooms per subject. Not all darn day though. And they do not move their desk/things to the other class either. EVERYTHING in their homeroom stays in their homeroom at their desk. They just switch classes, with another class/Teacher for a subject or 2

Combing 2 classes together, what is the logic to that?
And to me, all kids in a grade level DO get to know each other anyway. You don't have to combine classes to do that.


answers from Jacksonville on

My son was in a class that had "team teachers" when he was in 5th grade, but what I understand you to have described is not what my son experienced with "team teaching". What THEY did, was like a modified middle school day. They had "a" and "b" subjects with teacher T, then switched to a different classroom with teacher R to learn subjects "x" and "y" (while teacher R's class switched to teacher T to be taught subjects "a" and "b"). Then the students reverted back to their original classroom to be taught subject "z".

The classes were never combined into one. The class ratio didn't change at all. But the teachers only taught certain subjects. One taught math and science, while the other taught language arts and history. Whomever was the "homeroom" teacher taught the rest of the subjects.

It made for a gradual step into middle school where the students change classes for every subject.

If that is what will happen at your daughter's school, I would be a little leary of it, simply because it requires a lot of 'personal responsibility' for the kids to have all their needed supplies/papers/homework with them when they switch classes. Most kids aren't ready for that yet at 1st grade.

If it is a combining of the two classes, with say, 40 kids with 2 teachers, I probably wouldn't be thrilled. But a lot would depend on exactly how the teaching was done. If one teacher is teaching reading or history to 40 kids at once, then the other teacher is teaching math to 40 kids at once and the "extra" teacher is "assisting" the students in the "background" while the lead teacher does the teaching.... then I would not be pleased with it. It makes it much more difficult, in my opinion, for the teachers to assess (on the fly AS they are teaching) that the students are or are not grasping the material. And the kids won't have as much opportunity for input themselves that way either. Imagine when the teacher asks a questions.... not 5 hands will go up--- 15 will go up. Your child will have fewer opportunities to "show what they know" or even to demonstrate that they DON'T know so that the teacher knows to repeat something.
At least that is how I would view it, if taught as I described with the 40 kids in one class. But maybe there is some aspect to it that I am missing... ?

I personally think that any situation where you have multiple adults in "charge" of a group of kids, that you will have less bonding between the adults and the kids. And that can affect their learning experience.



answers from New York on

I work in an elementary school, and my kids are older, and I can't see the benefit of this team teaching for such young children. It can be very overwhelming for them and doesn't give them enough opportunity to bond as a cohesive unit with their own teacher and classmates.


answers from Austin on

You are going to learn, many parents are not good at change and yet they will pull and move their children to different schools? Never made any sense to me. I say embrace the change and Become part of the help to the teachers.

Our daughters school did some team teaching in some grades.. and it was fine. It is just a different way of doing groups of learning styles.

It will depend on the teachers. By second grade at our daughters elementary, the kids were actually switching classes. Again some parents worried about it, but the kids did great. They received the full hour of teaching instead of part of the class working on something, while the teacher worked with one group in one level and then working with a different level group.



answers from Detroit on

We have team teaching at our school.....some times the three classes are together (50+ kids) and sometimes they are taken separately (17 kids)....with typically one teacher and possibly an aid (not another teacher). As Elizabeth pointed out, for some kids it is hard not to be in one environment (especially at the lower grades) most of the day. I can say I was aware of more disciplinary issues at the school this year, and it was dealt with very inconsistently. On the plus side, each teacher has a specialty and uses that to their advantage.



answers from Seattle on

The personal attention can be really huge, primarily because team teaching can be VERY difficult on teachers, depending on how it's done. For the very simple reason when it's done by combining or swapping TWO classes, that instead of 30 names, and 30 personalities, and 60 some odd of parents/guardians, and 1 set of favorite kids and 1 set of problem kids... they now have 60 names to learn, 60 personalities, 120 some odd parents/guardians. Yes, the RATIO is the same, but the teachers have double the workload because they have twice as many students. It's a lot easier for average kids to get lost in the shuffle, and for bright kids to be entirely dismissed, because each of the teachers has double the work load to contend with.

It can be very difficult on parents as well. Being 'outnumbered' during parent teacher conferences, 2 people with very different personalities to have to be trying to touch base with on a regular basis, 2 different styles/ opinions about your child, touching base with one but not the other, miscommunication, etc.

Essentially there's double the potential number of problems, and very little recourse. There's also a double the chance of a terrible year being wonderful (aka *total* personality clash with one teacher, but the year is 'saved' because of the other teacher).

The way I've personally seen team teaching work best is

1) when a single class is split by 2 teachers on either a 3 day and 3 day schedule (1 day overlap with both teachers present). It's essentially a job-share kind of arrangement where the school gets the benefit of 2 teachers, a built in seamless sub, but only has to pay 1 or 1 & 1/4 salaries instead of 2. SU[PER common in southern california in the 80's when class sizes were 40+ students and there wasn't enough money or space for more trailers.


2) when the 'team' is actually 5-8 different teachers that the children rotate through like middle school. A lot of gifted schools work this way. This is the model many public schools are trying to emulate, but they're starting out with MUCH larger class sizes, and greater educational challenges.


answers from Chicago on

I could see my son "falling thru the cracks" In school I remember having to get noticed by the teacher to get additional attention and if you were getting negative attention you were not getting noticed ... that is where my son goes first with his Adhd & impluse related issues. I would give it a try but monitor the situation very well.


answers from Detroit on

12/13 years ago, my oldest son, now 22, was in a Co-Teaching 2/3 grade classroom. The school was trying to become a "professional developmental" school (Detroit Public Schools) and thought they would try co-teaching classrooms. We had almost 70 kids in this massive classroom. The teachers were absolutely wonderful, but my son fell way, way, behind. By the end of the school year he was behind in reading and math. We moved to our new home the following year, it ended up being a nightmare. He had to adjust to a new school system, curriculum, and teacher. His new 3rd grade teacher (who was a jerk) even called his old teacher and asked what was done all last year because he was so behind. He thought that he never should of passed and thought that he needed to repeat 2nd grade. He never caught up, and ended up being “labeled” as a slow learner and placed in general/inclusive classroom. Schools have changed classroom curriculum that is the only good thing (more focus on reading and math) and parents need to think about the adjustment to a normal classroom the next school years.

BTW…with a lot of hard work, my son is in college now, living on his own, and is a computer technician at a computer store



answers from Pittsburgh on

I would definitely be against this concept for first graders. There is SO much to be taught in the first grade. The building blocks of their whole school experience are layed in the first grade. Its a pivotal year academically as well as emotionally. The smaller the class size the better for this year really. What you should do is get a group of parents to rally the school to change this. Our teachers are always telling us to do this because nobody listens to what the teachers say-it is the parents who can affect real change.


answers from San Antonio on

I taught 5th grade with two other ladies. THEY team taught, I was on my own. From my POV, here are pros and cons of team teaching:

-twice as many children to get to know (like you said)
-two teacher are looking out for you, get to know you, know your strenghts, know your weaknesses, etc.
-the teacher teaching english is really good at it (or should be) and threfore teaches that to all the kids. The teacher really good at science is teaching that, so the kiddos get the better teacher teaching in their more knowledgeable subject.

- sometimes my teacher friends put all the kids in one room while they watched a science video or while one teacher ran to the local fast food joint to go buy lunch. The room looked chaotic - 40 kids in one room with one teacher. Granted it wasn't all day, but the kids had to learn to work on their task at hand and not get distracted. Hard I think.
- too many kids, so if you're not a trouble-maker or a genius, you may get somewhat ignored. Hopefully that wouldn't happen, but it could.

I think team-teaching is more for the teachers and less for the students. I could be wrong, but from my observation, there are more reasons for it that help the teacher that help the child. But that being said, if you have good honest teachers that have a record for being great, then I would have no worries in the least. I would love for my child to be in the classroom with my former team-teacher friends.

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