Teaching, Uncategorized

Teaching a Kindergarten & First Grade Combo Class

I do not plan on turning my blog into an education blog, but I wanted to share how my K/1 combo class is set up. When I found out I was going to teach a combo class, I was not able to find a ton of information on combo classes so I hope this information will be useful (or at least provide comradery for my fellow combo classroom educators).

I began this school year by teaching in a first grade classroom. After the initial 10 day count, it was discovered the school I was working for had 3 too many teachers.  For various reasons, I had been wanting to transfer to another school so I volunteered to transfer.

Mid-September I was placed in a Kindergarten/First grade combo.  My new students came from 5 different classrooms.

Throughout the school year I have had anywhere from 16-23 students.  I am currently at a good mix of 18 students. (9 first graders and 9 kindergarten students.)  I do not have a full time teacher’s assistant. (The first and second grade classrooms share one teacher’s assistant.  She is amazing and pops in when she can but with 6 different classrooms, we do not see her as frequent as everyone would like!)

In a perfect combo world, the classroom would be comprised of students performing on a higher level.  I know this is the case in some schools but my class was more a numbers game.  We started the year with a very small percentage of my students on or above grade level.

During the year I have had all students all day, K students leaving once a day for reading, then K students leaving twice a day for reading, and now K students back to leaving just ONCE a day for reading.  Confusing, yes! My students thought so, too!




Above:  Classroom seating.  The first picture shows our first grade pod and the second is our kinder crew.  I can move my desk/”podium” to either group or in the middle. This NEVER would have worked in the beginning of the year but we have really been working on friendship and teamwork.  The students love it!  I did not plan to seperate the grades but the students love having their own identity and like to have competitions between the grade levels. Who has the cleanest area?  Who was the quietest?  etc.  We use Class Dojo in our classroom so students are able to earn points individually, as a grade level, and as a class.

Each first grader does have a kindergarten “buddy”.  The buddies help each other during centers and group work as needed.  (Sometimes it might be the 1st grade buddy offering assistance and sometimes it is the other way around!)

Here is our current schedule.   Please note, I did not design the schedule, it is our master first grade schedule.  (Although 1/2 my class is Kinder, I am considered a 1st grade classroom.)

25 minutes ARRIVAL: Students arrive and complete morning work and eat breakfast.  Our school provides a free breakfast to all students.  For morning work, the students work on a math or writing assignment.  When they are done, they may read or write in their journals.

15 minutes ANNOUNCEMENTS: School announcements

40 minutes SPECIALS: My kindergarten students go to specials with 1 class while my first graders go to specials with another class.  We do not have enough specialists for everyone to have specials everyday so once a week I have my Kindergarten students during Specials.  We use this time to conduct guided reading/centers or complete a whole group reading and writing task.

2 hour reading block:  Here is where it gets tricky.  My Kindergarten students are split and go to two different kindergarten classrooms for 45 minutes.  Our county now uses the CKLA curriculum.  We began the year using Fundations and I taught that to everyone. Now, the students are getting grade level instruction.  My kinders come back to the classroom while we are still working on first grade CKLA.  I created book/work baskets for each student and the kinders work independently from their baskets for 15 minutes.  (Baskets include readers on each child’s reading level, a whisper phone, and phonics activities they can complete independently.)  One of my first  graders puts each child’s basket on their desk before they arrive and this goes pretty smoothly.


Book baskets stored in our library.  Yes, I need to level my library- no judging please.

For the next hour, we work on I/E (intervention/enrichment time) for 30 minutes and guided reading for 30 minutes.  (I try to meet with 2 guided reading groups per day.  Is this ideal.  No, not really.)

Students that are not meeting with me work in centers.  I provide a rotation chart so they always know where they need to be!  I also require an accountability piece for each center.


Guided reading centers and more independent book baskets.  Green baskets are for kindergarten centers and blue are for first graders.

1 hour/15 minutes: LUNCH/RECESS

We eat lunch with our students.  After lunch, we have recess.

1 hour: CKLA Listening & Learning

At first, the kindergarten students were leaving to go back to Kindergarten for their Listening & Learning strand.  This was just too much of a transition so I asked if my students could stay with me during this time.

If you are not familiar with CKLA, this is a time when we have a read-aloud and discussion questions.  This is the CALMEST part of the day.  I love it! Currently, we are studying Ancient American Civilizations. This usually takes about 40-60 minutes because my class always has a ton of questions.  If we finish early, I give my first graders a writing task and pull my kinders to read their grade level Listening & Learning strand. (I am required to teach to first grade so if we do not get to the K level in a day, it is ok!)

1 hour Math block: This is where it gets tricky again!  I will say again, I am required to teach to first.  This is not always possible.  Whenever I can, I teach to the entire class with modifications.  For example, first graders are now working on standard: CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.OA.A.1
Use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

I am able to align this with the kindergarten standard: CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.2
Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.

My kinders have been working on addition and subtraction throughout the year so are familiar with the first grade standard of using symbols so I modify the lesson by using numbers up to 20 for 1st grade and up to 10 for the kinders.  Although, some of my kinders are right there with the 1st graders in math.

Whole group usually lasts about 30 minutes and then I am able to spend 30 minutes in small groups. (Pulling 2 groups).  In the event the K and 1 math standards do NOT line up then I spend 30 minutes with K and 30 minutes with 1. (NOT ideal, I prefer to teach math whole group!)


Math stations:  Green for kindergarten, blue for first grade, and red buckets and flash cards for fast finishers.  The other bins are math manipulatives students may grab as needed. The pocket chart above is our math center schedule.  We would be lost without it! 🙂

5 minutes:  Clean up and dismiss.  That’s it! Our day is done.

You may notice an absence of science/social studies.  In the beginning of the year, it was in our schedule but since switching to the CKLA curriculum we are covering those subjects during the Listening & Learning portion of our day.  I do include science passages and questions in one of our guided reading centers for each grade level.

Would I teach a combo class again.  Hmm.  Maybe… but I would want a full time teacher’s aide so my class would NOT be split during the day as the transition time was really rough in the beginning.

2 thoughts on “Teaching a Kindergarten & First Grade Combo Class”

  1. Will you be able to keep your kindergarten students for 1st grade next year? I did the same exact situation 15 years ago and found having the same half of the class made the transition the following year much easier! I’m glad everything is working out for your K/! combo.


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