Sometimes as a teacher, you want a change of pace by taking on a new subject or grade level. Or, you might be asked by your administrator to make the switch. Either way, changing grade levels or subject areas is a move that can be as daunting as it is rewarding. Get ready for the switch with these helpful tips.
1. Find inspiration from teachers in your new grade level or subject area.
Regardless of whether or not you’re the only teacher for a particular subject or grade at your school, it’s helpful to remember that there is a whole community of teachers nationwide. And you can access it! Find a grade-specific Facebook group and see how teachers tackle learning objectives, social-emotional learning, and behavior management for your new age group. Connect with teachers across the country to get a variety of perspectives, and teachers in your own city or state to get community-specific advice. Follow teachers in your specific subject area or grade level on Instagram to get curriculum and activity inspiration, or @teacherspayteachers to see a curated selection of teacher hacks that work across all ages. Social media can be your friend in this process.
But it doesn’t have to be your only friend! Head over to TPT and follow Teacher-Authors you admire. Sign up for their newsletters, read their blogs, try some of their freebies, and read through product reviews to see how teachers like you are using these materials in class. If you end up really liking a particular TPT Teacher-Author, you can bring your love for them right back to where we started with a social media follow.
2. Get to know your new state and district standards.
With a new grade or subject comes new learning objectives. State and district standards vary by grade level and subject, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your new standards. Since standards build on each other, you may find that your new grade’s standards go a little beyond or a little less far into a topic that you’re already used to teaching. If that’s the case, then you can adapt a lesson you already have in your toolkit to work for your new grade.
It can also be helpful to review the standards for the grade below your new one, so that you know what knowledge your students should have coming into your classroom and can prepare for any learning gaps. You can also take a glance at the standards for the grade above yours if you want to check that you’ve covered all of the foundations your students will need later on. As an added bonus, you can also see how your lesson will be leveraged for future learning.
3. Connect and collaborate with your team members.
Establishing connections with the other teachers and staff at your school can make your experience changing grade levels or subjects easier. If you’re not the only subject or grade teacher or if you have a teaching assistant, you can connect with your peers to collaborate on curriculum and activities. If you’re the only teacher of a subject or grade at your school, consider reaching out to the teachers in the grades above or below you, so you can get a sense of where your students are literally coming from and where they’re going.
4. Calibrate your teaching style and classroom management systems.
Teaching a new grade level or subject area is a chance to tailor your teaching style and classroom management to a new group of students. For example, the way you organize your classroom will likely be different for 3rd grade over 1st grade. Not only are your students different sizes, but they are at different places developmentally. So, you may find that some classroom management strategies work better than others in encouraging your students to learn and behave in a positive way. Research grade-specific and subject-specific strategies to implement in your classroom on top of your tried-and-tested methods.
5. Set your classroom up for success.
Your switch to a new grade level or subject area can also be a chance to try out a new classroom set-up! Bring fun and function into your students’ learning with your classroom decor and bulletin boards. It can be themed to your subject, have a specific aesthetic, or emphasize organization. Decor isn’t the only part of a classroom, though. How your room’s desks are arranged can actually have a huge impact on the learning experience, so find a desk arrangement that will add to the positive classroom environment you’re building.
6. Plan ahead with lesson plans.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s still important to remember! Having a plan, especially for your first week or two of teaching a new grade or subject, can help ease any nerves you may have. By having lessons and activities more or less planned, you can devote more attention towards learning about your specific group of students who you’ll be spending the year with.
7. Embrace your strengths with a positive attitude and growth mindset.
Take what you’ve learned in teaching your former subject or grade and apply it to your new one. Your strengths as a teacher, like connecting with students or breaking down big topics into small chunks, will work in your favor no matter what you’re teaching. While there may be a bit of an adjustment period, know that you’ll get there and keep a positive attitude.
You can also apply an important aspect of social-emotional learning to yourself: adopting a growth mindset like the one you encourage among your students. This means remembering that, with time and dedication, your abilities as a teacher will grow. Sooner or later you’ll be the go-to expert on your new subject or grade.
8. Reflect on what is and isn’t working throughout the year.
Changing grade levels or subjects comes with a learning curve. Take time as the weeks go on to evaluate and consider which teaching strategies, classroom activities, and learning tools are working best for your students and which might need some tweaking. Consider regularly meeting with a teacher friend who’s also switching grades or subjects to discuss and reflect. Not only will this hold you both accountable, but it will also give you a partner with whom you can problem-solve together. Ultimately, your ability to adapt and pivot will help you grow into your new teaching role and have a positive impact on your students.
9. Be kind to yourself — you got this!
Be patient and extend yourself some grace! Change takes time, and that is especially true with switching grade levels or subject areas. Fall back on your strengths as a teacher, and remember that there is a whole community of teachers and an abundance of resources out there to help you. You will get there, so enjoy the journey and have fun interacting with students in a new and exciting way.
In need of resources, materials, and activities for your new subject or grade? Check out the TPT Catalog to find what works best for you and your new students.