If you’re teaching a split class (multi-grade or combined class) and need advice on classroom management and organization, you’ve come to the right place! You’ll find practical tips from teachers who have taught in multi-level classrooms and combined classes at all different grade levels.

Tips and tricks from teachers in combined class schools


I’ve invited teacher-blogger Mary Mueller of Guided-Math to share more about her experience with teaching split classrooms. Thank you, Mary, for the helping tips!

Did you just find out you are teaching a split/combination/multi-age classroom? Are you in a bit of a panic mode trying to figure out how on earth you are going to handle two (sometimes more) grade levels at once?

Ten years ago, my teaching career began in a split classroom in a very large school district in Illinois. First of all, I can’t believe that I just wrote ten years! Secondly, now that I am counting, I can’t believe that seven of those years have been in combination classrooms! All of those questions and panic moments went through my head with the news of my first assignment. Back then, I never knew that first year, in a 1/2 split, would set me on a path of more split classrooms and would help positively shape who I am as a teacher today.

In the beginning, I saw combination teaching as a welcome challenge. This was a challenge that I was not going fail at. I was always looking at what I did and figuring out how I could make the structure better for both my students and I.

Throughout my years in 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 splits and three years in 4th grade, I realized that split teaching is really no different than a straight classroom. I found that I did not change how I taught or how I structured my day in a split classroom than I did for my straight grade.

Here are some things to think about when planning your combination classroom.

  1. Talk to your administrator to find out what is required of you.Do you have to teach two separate curriculums? What subjects can you combine? How can your teammates support you?
  2. Think of your class as a range of abilities rather than two different grade levels.The reality is a straight grade can have just a big of an ability spread as a combination classroom.
  3. I recommend a balanced literacy format.Teach reading and writing lessons as a whole group, and then break up into small groups for guided reading or individual conferences. This is where you will meet the needs of your students.
  4. Typically you will have to teach two separate math curriculums.I highly suggest you look at theGuided Math format. This will solve how to teach two math curriculums and gives you a chance to individualize math instruction.
  5. Be prepared before the school year begins with information for parents.When those class lists go up, you are bound to have questions from parents. Being prepared to show them how you are going to effectively handle two grades will ease their fears. Create a brochure or newsletter with your teaching schedule, what curriculum you are going to cover, and details how you are going to meet the needs of your students.
  6. Stay positive!!Get in the mindset that this is going to be a great experience, not just for the students but you as well!

Good luck with your combination classroom teaching assignment! I know that you can and will succeed! For more information and to read more about how I structure my math or multi-age classroom check out my website, Guided-Math.

Questions about split classes and multi-grade slasses

The following questions were submitted to me as part of the Ask Angela Anything blog post series. You can submit any teaching-related question anonymously to maintain your privacy and student confidentiality. I’m including the two questions below here on this page instead of in the column to make it easier for teachers of combined classes to find answers all in one place.

I  am teaching a 2nd/3rd grade split. I’ve heard to call one level the juniors and the other level the seniors. My gut tells me not to start day one saying my 2nds or my 3rds but is it inevitable? What’s the best way to manage the classroom to create a team yet honor their grade levels? I don’t want any of my third graders to feel like they are still in second. 

Hi, Jane! There will be times when you need to refer to them by grade levels, and at those times, personally, I would call them second graders and third graders. But you can also let each grade level choose a name for themselves that reflects their unique identity as a class within a class. It can be part of your first week of school activities, kind of like some teachers do with reading groups. I think that would be a nice way to build a sense of community and give kids ownership over the classroom. They could also create a class name so they have one cohesive identity, too. For example, your whole class could be the whales, and your second graders could be the orcas and the third graders could be the belugas. Tell the kids about your dilemma on what to call them, and ask for their input! I bet they’ll come up with something way better than either of us could think of.


I have applied for a job in a combined 4/5 classroom and I have a good chance that I will get an interview. I don’t have any experience in multi-level rooms, I don’t even know what kinds of questions to ask, and, although I can see how the Cornerstone book could be a help with this type of classroom, is there anything that your book does not mention to help me organize for this type of room?

I would imagine that the 4th and 5th graders would work together on many assignments; you’d be able to differentiate your instruction and activities by ability level and not just grade level. This would probably be the way the principal would like it, judging by what I see in recent educational trends. If you would teach that way, then it would probably be helpful–in preparation for the interview–to come up with a few specific examples of how you would do this. In terms of organizing, you may need to keep some things separate (maybe different bins for them to turn in their papers, etc.) but for the most part I don’t think the grade level split would change much about the room layout.



  1. Sibyl

    Thank you for this! I just got hired to teach K-3 this school year . This is also my first year of teaching. I will make this website my homepage! 🙂

    • Dana

      I just got hired in a K-3 classroom and this is my first year as well! Do you have any tips for starting out?

      Thank you!

    • Wendy

      Sybil, I am the exact same situation. What did you do? Where did you go to get the information you needed to do the job well?

      • Jill

        Same here! I’d love to hear how you all did it!

  2. Ashley

    Hi! I am getting ready to interview for a K/1 classroom. Just wondering if you had any helpful suggestions or any interview tips?

  3. How to Structure Reading in a Multi-Grade Class

    […] teacher Mary Mueller shares tips for teaching a multi-grade class. She suggests thinking of your class as a range of abilities rather than two grades. Creating […]

  4. Amanda Carrasco

    Hi! I am going into my 9th year in a multigrade classroom (2nd and 3rd this year) and i love it! I was just wondering how you write your lesson plans. Any tips or visual references would be much appreciated!

  5. Claudia

    I have a question. Is it worth to retain a student from grade level when the yearly classes are multi-grade level? Thank You.

  6. Michelle

    Hi, I have a question I just went on an interview to teach a multi grade class and was called back to do a demo lesson. What do you think is an appropriate lesson to do for a 2-3 class? It is the second week of school so I don’t want to make it too elaborate.
    Thank you

    • Mrs. Lopez

      Hi, I am curious about how your demo lesson went? What did you present to the team?


  7. Alexis

    This article is very informative, but I do have a question.
    How can I teach a combined class with two distinctly different age groups?
    Well, I’m a chess instructor for a small organisation within a school and I have regularly have new student joining, so they need to start from the very beginning of the curriculum. One of my groups has students from Grade 3-6, and the other from 16-18. I cannot move dates around and set classes for each group, so I’m left with two groups of students who think, act and interpret information differently. I do not have any other assistance at the moment, even though I am looking. Is there anything that I can do to create a better learning environment and effectively teach both groups?

    • Angela Watson

      I’d imagine this would need to work a bit like the old one-room school houses: have the older students teach the younger students sometimes (there’s no better way to solidify your understanding of something than to teach it to someone else), and have the younger students do independent work while you teach the older students, then switch, so that each group has the opportunity to learn directly from you and then practice independently/with a partner.

  8. Carol

    This is my first teaching and I have 3 grade bands grades 4-9 as an intervention specialist. Do you have any suggestions on how to meet all the standards and individual goals?

  9. Robert

    Hi, I am now in a K-9 classroom. Yes a one room school. I have an assistant to help with the K-2’s. I am pulling my hair out. I dream of a two grade split. How do I survive this?

  10. Buena Kaylor

    Our school is going to have 3 multi-grade classes next year. (1-2, 3-4 & 5-6) Our biggest question is which students should be in these classes. Suggestions are-high first grade and low second grade (I think this is the worst choice!), high first and high second, and forget high-low and choose students that can work independently and follow directions.
    There may be other ways that we haven’t thought of…. (I use first/second…but you could substitute third/fourth or fifth/sixth.)
    What are your suggestions?


    • JR

      I would suggest independent workers. If you choose high/low, you’re going to be pulling your hair out trying to address the needs of widely disparate abilities. With independent workers, it is easier to work with groups, while the others are working on individual or partner/group work.

  11. Mrs. Lopez

    Thank you for this information! I just got hired to teach a split 3/4 grade and will also be my first year teaching! Although I am very nervous, I am also trying to keep a positive mindset and make it a good experience. : )

    • Carly Carlson

      I just hired for a 3rd and 4th grade split room as well and it is my first year teaching. Do you have any tips for organizing everything?

  12. Georgia

    Hi, Our community is starting a school and I think I will need to combine a few of the grades to maximize the space and resources. From your professional experience, what grades would you say go best together? 3/4 or 4/5 or 5/6? Would it be too much too have 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8?

    • Angela Watson

      3/4, 5/6, and 7/8 sound like workable combinations. Many schools do it that way.

  13. Mary

    I’m teaching 2/3 class next year. Do you suggest sething up the desks by grade levels or mixing the classes up?
    Also, do you have any ideas for math and reading centers and how to organize them?

  14. Lee

    We are a small private school that has only one 3rd grade student enrolled for this coming school year. We are trying to keep the family, but we are unsure as to how to handle the situation. Multi-age with either 2nd or 4th would make sense if there was more than one student. Any thoughts on how to accommodate this student?

  15. Beth Moore

    I was curious if anyone had a scope and sequence, pacing guide, or curriculum map for grades 4/5. I live in Indiana but would be willing to see anything at this point…

  16. Desarae

    Hi There.

    I have to teach Grade 4/5, 6/7 and 7/8 Health. All the grades have different but similar topics; should I combine both topics? Should I teach the younger grades the older grade’s topics?

  17. Krystal

    I was just hired to teach EBD at a new school (this is my third year of teaching, but first year teaching science). One of my classes is 7/8 science. The pacing guides have the students starting off on two completely different topics. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can effectively teach both groups of students two different unit topics in the same class period? Thanks!

  18. Mrs Ferris

    I am to teach a grade 3, 4, 5 split this year with some 3s learning to read or their sounds. 9 children have individual programs and there are 25 in the class. I’m looking for advice on planning and how to balance and meet various needs with such a large curriculum to cover.
    Thnak you!

  19. Cc

    I am about to start my first year of teaching and just received a job as a 4/5 teacher. I was wondering if anyone had any advice.

  20. Krista Noonan

    Hi Angela, I’m currently teaching a 3/4 split that requires two different curriculums. Would be available to discuss this over skype? I’ve been teaching about a year prior to that and could use all the advice I can get!

    • Angela Watson

      I’ve never taught a grade level split before, so I wouldn’t be of much help. I’m also not able to conduct individual coaching sessions with teachers, simply due to time constraints. I’m sorry!

  21. phumlani malambule

    Hie Angela Watson, l just want to really appreciate for what you are on.

  22. Emily

    Hi Angela!
    Thanks for your great advice! I was told I might be teaching a 1/2 split in the fall and I’ve never taught 1st, 2nd or a split before! What would your scope and sequence look like? Would you focus on primarily second grade curriculum or 1st? Thanks!

  23. Laura

    Is there any way you can show me an example of a lesson plan for teaching two seperate history/ science/ spelling/ and penmanship for 4th and 5th grade?

  24. Richie

    Hi I am Richie, handling Visually and Hearing impaired students, can ask some strategies or lesson planning than i could use… i think i have so much burden to take in making lesson plans and instructional materials.
    2 totally blind
    5 partially sighted= 1 grade 4, 2 grade 5, 2 kindergarten
    1 ADHD
    the rest is hearing impaired
    which has equivalent of 21 students

  25. JadeMB

    Ive taken on role of teacher in small school, teaching 29 studenta from foundation to 6. It’s nice to get ideas and ‘food for thought’.

  26. Avery Weaver

    I am teaching 1st and 3rd grade all at once do you have any recommendations?

  27. Jason

    I just got hired as a Grades 1/2 teacher at a small school. I will have 6 students for the fall. Any ideas of Math lessons?

  28. Carly Carlson

    I just got hired in as a 3rd/4th grade split room at a charter school. This is my first year teaching. Is there any advice for what works and what doesn’t? I want to thank anyone who replies in advance!!

  29. Chrestine

    What could the teacher have done to improve the way the students worked in groups?

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