Cathi, I struggle with the question a lot!
I think the biggest pro is each teacher being able to focus and devote time to teaching one subject area. It is so hard to put equal time into learning about each subject when you teach them all!
The con I see is students constantly switching classrooms during the day. I don't know if there is an age where this becomes easier or not as disruptive, but with the younger students it may be hard.
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I think departmentalizations should happen school wide in elementary. In my school the students leave the room for specials so they are used to some sort of switching classes. Bottom line: if the teachers are better at what they teach, guess who else is better?
The pros...It gets them ready for middle school and adjusting to the various teaching styles.
The cons...The students will need a couple of weeks to get used to the transitioning and settling down to get to work. Some student will have difficulty adjusting to the varying teaching styles; others may experience anxiety with the constant movement.
I recently had this conversation with a principal of a K-5 school, where for the first time grade 3 was departmentalized. He said the third graders were not ready and next year they will remain with only one teacher and go out for their specials.
At my school, we have been switching classes in third grade for at least 4-5 years. It has been wonderful for students and teachers! Scores have really improved because the teacher can concentrate more in their field and thus do a better job. Students say switching classes makes the day just fly by. They stay more focused and really seem to enjoy going to the different classrooms. We have 6 units of third graders so we have 2 pods of 3 teachers. In each pod, one teaches math, one language arts, and one teaches science, social studies, and a new writing process class we've implemented. Third graders only have to have 30 min. of science & social studies, so that teacher could take on the writing class.) Our classes are about 90 min. in length.
Students do not carry textbooks from class to class. They use the ones in each classroom. They all have one to carry home when needed, but they don't have to carry them from room to room. They just need their notebooks and pencil pouches. Everyone has been pleased with it! I can't imagine having to go back to being self-contained with all the new standards to implement in everything. If you're thinking about it, I'd give it a try. Good luck.
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