How to Prep for Departmentalizing

This year will bring about a BIG change for me! I've always been in a self-contained classroom-- until now! I took up a new position this year, and it just happens to be in a departmentalized 3rd grade! There will be 3 of us: Math, Reading, and Science/Social Studies.

I decided I better do some quality research-- and go right to other teachers who have been in my shoes! After asking for tips on the All About 3rd Grade Facebook group-- I've come up with a list of my favorite ideas!

1) Assign a color to each group-- and use those colors religiously. So, I will be teaching math, and I purchased a rolling cart, 3 dish buckets from Walmart, and 3 rolls of duct tape. I labeled each bucket with teacher names and used different colors: Navy, teal, and green (I was trying to stay in my classroom theme colors)
Also, when I label things for the students (like interactive notebooks), I can quickly put duct tape on the spine and recognize the class color! The students will keep their math notebooks in my room (less traveling = less headache)

2) What if the rotation is super long (90 min)? Keep this in mind:
"Make sure you take breaks to get the kids up and moving. We do random dancing. Sometimes we dance going to get our supplies for the following subject" (Katie Elliott)

3) Stay in touch with your teammates all day, every day. Before you begin-- be sure you've talked about the following:

  • How will we discipline? 
  • How will we contact parents?
  • What is everyone's routines for cleaning up or rotating?
  • How can we track behavior?
  • What are everyone's classroom rules? Should they be similar?
  • How will students keep track of their materials?
  • What materials should they bring EVERY day?
  • What materials will stay behind?
  • How will we track unfinished work or missing assignments?
  • Will we give homework?
4) Students aren't always the most responsible (say what?) until we teach them to be more mindful-- and many things can be lost in the shuffle between room. Geneva Pemberton recommends, "The less they carry to each class the better it is. Try to store things in the room where they will use them."

5) But how will I know what's happening in other classrooms? I know-- as teachers we hardly get breaks to just talk to each other see how the day is going. Oftentimes I won't see a fellow teacher until the end of the day! I LOVE this idea from Shelly Parker-Finch! 

"We pass a clip board around with the 3 classes where we write missing homework, bathroom breaks, behavior problems, etc. That way the next teacher/homeroom teacher has an idea of what is going on with each student. Also works as a record for parents to see how many times someone had a missing assignment or behavior."

I thought this was such a great idea-- I have this on my TPT page for you to use! 
I recommend typing student names (instead of writing them every day) and then making several copies of the finished logs for the month (copy them in your class color-- of course!) so you can be ready to go every day! I plan to copy mine on blue and put on a clipboard-- then I'll make sure my "teacher helper" carries it from class to class for me!

6) This last one is very important (in fact, I think every teacher needs to remember this) and comes from Robbie Ann, "Remember they are 'our kids', not 'yours and mine' ".

If you have any advice I've missed-- please share in the comments below! I hope you have a great school year!


  1. Wow! it looks amazing how are organized your treys with tect books with different color tapes for easy access. The behavior log is a great idea to keep a track. All the best.

  2. My team we each have a clipboard that can open and we can store things inside. Our clipboards are each of our colors. We have the same turn in buckets in our rooms that are our colors as well.

  3. I love your ideas! Thanks so much for sharing. With ClassDojo my partners and I are able to share out behavior but I love the Behavior Log going from classsroom to classroom. I really love the departmentalizing idea for third grade. It's been awhile, please tell me how it's gone.

  4. How do you get your notebooks cut in half?? I’ve tried going to a Home Depot and similar stores and they can’t do it for me!

    1. Find your local Staples. They will do it for you! They have a special machine that does it.

    2. I had my father do it for me wit his large table saw-- so you might try just asking aroun dto see if someone has a saw you can use?

    3. Why do you cut your notebooks in half?

    4. They are cut in half because you get more use out of them. However, I have bad news about cutting the composition books in half. They fall apart because they are bound with twine/string and cutting them in half cuts the twine. Then the pages start falling out. Sorry.

  5. Thank you for sharing!! I will definitely try it!

  6. Wonderful ideas! I've never departmentalized until now! I will be doing ELAR and this really helps!!

  7. Awesome ideas! Can you share the schedule with the 3 different teachers?