One Plus Two Equals a Happy Classroom! 1st-2nd Grade Combination Class Suggestions

Tips for a combined classroom for grades 1-2

Whether you are slowly adding grades to your school, serving a small community, or weathering a downturn in enrollment, many reasons combining classes might make sense for your school’s circumstances. Perhaps your school started as a preschool and is adding a new grade each year. You might find that adding second grade to your first-grade class is the most logical solution based on enrollment and staff. If you have an energetic and willing teacher, the teacher can instruct your students well and even enjoy some advantages to combining those grades.  

To successfully combine first and second grade, you will teach some subjects together, use seatwork strategically, and adjust the schedule. Bible, poetry, and other activities will be combined and taught from either first or second-grade materials; you may choose which one based on your class situation. And then the following year, you would teach from the other grade.

Subjects that are fully combined (same content)

  • Bible
  • Poetry
  • Activities: History/Science/Health; Art; Music

Subjects taught separately while other class works on seatwork:

  • Reading – morning and afternoon
  • Phonics
  • Cursive Writing
  • Arithmetic Combinations
  • Arithmetic Instruction
  • Second Grade Spelling (First-grade spelling is part of phonics class)


At the beginning of the year, train your class to work independently on seatwork. Students need to know to save their questions for the time between groups and to move on if they get stuck. You will keep one eye on them and have signals worked out to give necessary permissions. To augment seatwork, choose activities that truly supplement learning. You might assign some steps to an art project since activity time is much reduced. Provide quiet extras for your quick students like a library book in their desks, but make sure that they do not rush to get to these options—check seatwork for quality.


Instead of having three reading groups for each grade (six total!), choose two for each that best fit your class needs.  If you have a small enrollment, you may find that one reading group for each is enough.  

During the year, second-grade transitions to class reading in the morning and silent reading in the afternoon.  That change frees up class time that is best allocated to arithmetic.  Group 1 afternoon reading ends at lesson 85, group 2 at lesson 134, and group 3 at lesson 159. If you have group 3 readers in second grade at lesson 134, you might consider having them join a first-grade reading group in the afternoon for extra practice.  


During phonics warm-up/review, you might have one grade participate with the other if they can complete their seatwork in the allotted time. One advantage of combination classes is that the younger students get to preview, and the older students get to review material. Embrace that advantage!  


Writing class can be woven together because there is instruction time and practice time.  Once the first class begins practice, then you instruct the second class. Be sure to walk around to praise, guide, and check on the ones who are practicing—practice is only good if it is done well.  Smoothly flowing from one class and back helps to maximize your teaching time.  


In arithmetic, there is a great deal to cover and not enough time to do it!  You must be efficient with every minute. Once second-grade shifts to class reading, you can add time to arithmetic. The two grades will take speed drills and tests simultaneously, but they will be instructed separately. Whenever possible, they may do combinations together.  Like with phonics, if the second graders are completing their work, then they might join the first graders for review games. Do not allow the second graders to dominate; you should give each group combinations from their level.  The children will enjoy playing together that way.    


Activities are scheduled in the afternoon after the core subjects, and they get very little time.  You will set your priorities in choosing how to use that time.  On days with PE, you would not need afternoon recess; on days with chapel, you might not have Bible class, freeing up time to use for activities.


One time-saver is to have a helper supervise a restroom break while the other class is getting instruction—ten minutes is gold!  If you have a regular helper, you could train that person to take a reading group or a brief help class.  A helper could also manage those doing seatwork.  

Creativity and flexibility make a combination classroom a success.  You will be tired, but your students will be on track!

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