What DOES a departmentalzied classroom look like?

So I teach 1st grade. We are departmentalized. It is AH-MA-ZING!

But I often get asked the question--how do you do that with 1st grade? What does it look like? Ok so here goes.

We have 5 first grade teachers. 98 first grade students.
8:20 bell rings, morning announcements, take attendence, make lunch choices within homeroom.
8:30-9:20 1st rotation
9:20-10:10 2nd rotation
10:10-11:00 3rd rotation
11:00-11:50 4th rotation
11:50-12:00 return to homeroom, get ready for lunch, talk about calendar
12:00-12:30 lunch
12:30-12:50 recess
12:50-1:50 5th rotation
1:50-2:00 switch back pack up
2:00-2:50 encore (pe/music/media/art) then dismissal at 2:50

Now that I am teaching math, I really don't need a classroom library filled to the brim with books. So I turned half my library into a math center/math tools.

For my homeroom students, on my whiteboard, I have a spot for the date, our encore, our homework. I also have a helping hand. I find this much easy to manage than daily jobs. The helping hand changes every day and this person is the line leader to encore and lunch.
I also have a spot on my whiteboard where I have our "I can" statements or goals for the day or the lesson. I also did this when I taught in a regular classroom.
This marking period I am teaching math. To encourage our students to practice their math facts, I have also made a graph for them to map their classes' progress of math fact levels. If they pass a math fact level, they get a strip, and they get to tap it to their column of the graph. At the end of the marking period the class that has the most growth is going to get a prize. (I haven't decided yet :) )
This behavior chart I used last year, and the mailboxes, I do NOT use this year, however they are in the corner of the room.
So as a behavior incentive for the entire grade I have what I made up "The WALL of Fame" (maybe I didn't make it up, I may have seen it somewhere, I just don't remember or not sure where though if I didn't make it up!!) So how the WALL of Fame works--if a students does anything fantastic---from helping another, to participating when no one else is, or pretty much anything positive, they get their name on the WALL of Fame! Now if they continue to do great things, they get to add a star beside their name. IF they earn 5 stars, they get to pick a prize outta my prize box. Now OMGoodness---yes this could become extremely expensive with 98 students, with constantly trying to reward them. And actually at the beginning of the year I had a 'secret student' for each class. If they made good choices, at the end of the rotation they got a prize, but that got to be way too costly, so I had to switch it up this marking period!! So anyway the thing with the WALL OF FAME. When I leave for the weekend on Friday, I wipe away everything on the wall of fame. So if they don't earn 5 stars by the end of the day Friday, they always have next week! This encourages them to work harder to earn those 5 stars in 5 days.

Hopefully you've been able to get some ideas on running a departmentalized classroom! Best of luck to you! Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment with any questions!!

Take care & God Bless!


  1. So, what do your rotations consist of? For example, are they leveled (ability grouping), are the rotations by subjects (if so, what 5 subjects are rotated)? Thank you in advance for your help. I'm really interested in hearing about this.

  2. Hi Carey, we started the year out by just rotating by the home rooms to get the kids used to the idea of rotating, but now we rotate by ability level. Our kids with the highest needs are in a group of 12, and our higher ability is a group of 26--they are able to function independently where the other group can not. The subjects the 5 teachers teach are math, science/social studies, writing, reading phonics and pulling 2 small reading groups, and reading literature and pulling 2 small reading groups. Let me know if you have any other questions! Or if there's any way I can help I'd be more than happy!


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