How to Teach a Combination Class

I think I may just be the Queen of Combination classes!

Right now I’m on the fourth year of a 4th/5th combination stint, but way back when I started, I did several 1st/2nd’s and 2nd/3rd’s. Why do I keep doing it? Am I just a glutton for punishment?

Right now, my principal has given me a choice of whether to teach the combo or not, with the added perk that any major behavior kinds of kids or truly struggling students wouldn’t be placed in my classroom…Hey, that’s reasonable…We’ve got enough going on trying to fit two grades in, without making me prematurely gray.

I feel for teachers who don’t have this combo “perk” and who don’t have a choice in the matter. That’s how it was for me when I first started teaching. Oh, and the second perk is a good one…no yard duty…SOLD!

Of course, each combination would work very differently. God bless you K/1ers who have kids with 2-minute attention spans. Kudos to you! Don’t know how you manage that… I can tell you how a combo looks in my 4th/5th grade classroom.

We start off doing morning work as a whole class. I find or make things that work for both grade levels. At math time, I am fortunate because my fellow teachers take my 4th graders, so I can have a concentrated hour with my 5th graders. This piece is crucial in my mind with Common Core Math.

Hope you have willing team members who can help you this way. If they’re on the fence, a bribe always helps! I make sure they get an occasional coffee (or adult drink) as well as a Target gift card at the end of the year…not that it makes up for taking them, but it sweetens the pot.


After math, we do writing as a whole class (one of my favorite subjects to teach) and then we do most of the reading lessons together. Lots of the standards are very similar for 4th and 5th grade reading, which makes it so much easier to teach. I like to do a combination of Reader’s Workshop, Silent self-selected reading and reading (ELA) centers.


After lunch, we do read aloud together, or as some may call it Miss Larson’s Theater Matinee…I am a sucker for giving each character a voice, especially ones with accents (pirates and the British are my favorites).

Lastly, we either do an art project or PE together or more commonly do science and social studies. Each grade has such very different standards that there is no way I would combine them.

My usual strategy is to get one grade started on a project/worksheet/reading for the day, teach the other side and do an activity. Get them started on a project/worksheet/reading for the day, and then rush to the other side of the classroom to present their lesson…

Whew! I am exhausted just thinking about it. It’s tough, but it works!

So, that is basically how I manage my combination. Even though there’s more planning for sure, I like it for the most part… you might say that I’m in a groove. 🙂

Got any of your own tips for combinations? I’d love to hear what other teachers do!


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Hi, I’m Jenn! With 20 years of teaching in the classroom and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, my passion is to support teachers and their students by offering helpful teaching tips and quality resources. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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