How to Sort Your Chicks–Strategies for Smarter Classroom Placement


The Question:Our principal is interested in delaying putting our incoming Kindergarten students into classes in the fall. She has heard about schools that keep all of the new Kindergarten kids together for the first few weeks and do some lessons all together and other things as small groups. Once we get to know the kids (their personalities and abilities,) we would divide students into classes. Have you tried this at your school? What are your thoughts?

The Answers: 
We did this. The whole first week of school the kids came in groups of 20 each day. So each group only came 1 day the first week. All the teachers stayed in one classroom with them. We took notes & tested them & then placed them as best as we could.  The problem is that many of the kids acted differently around other kids once they were in their placed classrooms. Also, some of the kids that had the best behavior that first day ended up causing a lot of trouble in their classrooms. You can’t judge how a kid will act in just one day. As they get comfortable in their own classroom their true personalities come out.
We tried it! It was horrible! The parents were VERY anxious about not knowing who their child’s teacher was. It was hard to prep for students (label, etc.) once they were actually sitting in our rooms- aka late nights for us after teaching a day at the beginning of kindergarten. Open House, “Meet the Teacher,” was confusing/frustrating for parents. Now, we place the students in classes. If one or two students need to be moved (behavior, etc.) it’s easier to move them to a different classroom, and we transition them within the first week…ish. We also have QELI and another assessment that’s due near the beginning of school, so waiting to place students adds to the stress of completing those assessments. For your sake, I hope this doesn’t happen
It seems to me that the most important time for kiddos (and those needy kinder parents) to bond with their teachers is during those first days of school. I agree with the before school meets, testing, etc. so placements happen before school. Kinderkids should start school knowing who their teacher is. 
I’ve never heard of this!!!
Wow !! This would really help our classes when it comes to dividing behavior etc!! We need something to help, our classes are sometimes weighted .
I would hate this as a parent. I wanted to leave my child with a person who I trusted and not as just one of a group of kids. I like the idea of pre-assessments before school ever starts.
I love this! I feel like it is an excellent way to build community as a whole K as well. Some personalities just don’t work well in a classroom together and this sounds like an excellent way to minimize that.
I LOVE this idea!!!
We have not done this, but it sounds like a terrible idea. I agree that the kids (and parents) need stability and security starting day one, especially those babies who have such a hard time separating from parents. They need to begin to form secure bonds with their teacher and classmates without having to worry about being shuffled again.
I agree with Diana. I really feel like those first few weeks should be with their Kinder teacher. It is so important to develop and foster the community within the classroom. Before school screening and meet and greets can help in getting to know kids before they are placed in classrooms.
Dream come true!!! I’ve heard the schools in Long Beach do this and it’s very successful. My team mates and I dream about doing this.
We do these activities a few weeks before school starts and they are just optional but we have always had a good turn out. I love it!
Taught kindergarten for 7 years and wish we had done this so numbers and ability would have been split more evenly between all teachers and classes. One year I had all sped and behaviors in a class of 20 plus kids while the other teacher had 15 and no behavior or learning challenges in her group. They should treat k the same way they do other grade levels and split it evenly for higher success for students and teachers. Great idea! Hope it works out the way it sounds!
LOL…I saw this and thought…”Hey! That sounds like what our principal wants to do and then I saw the poster’s name …one of my teammates!!
Might be something to try…
I would love to try this. you just never know what you get. This year I have 7 behavior problems. I have gotten all but 3 under pretty good control. The other teachers do not have that many. But like it was already said, they will be on their best behavior for a week. Still, I would like to try it.
That is why we do academic testing and have then come in groups of 10 to interact with each other in August. Then we split them after that.
Love this idea!!! Wish we could do this. Incoming testing is something to do but often the kids are shy and withdrawn. What better way to get to know them-give them ample time to open up and be themselves.
I think it sounds like an ok idea… My only issue would be where to house the children during this time. My school has a kindergarten that has 9 classes with 18 in each class. That’s a lot of kids.
Interesting….I’d love to hear how it works. I think it sounds promising. But establishing your classroom community is really important and that could delay that.
Is there any research/data from Long Beach schools? Did they see more growth in their students?
Excellent idea ! The classes would be sorted more evenly with academics and behavior. My friend’s school does this every year. It was a very low performing school, and they have received awards for their progress. As far as stability and security, my teachers and I always work so well together that the children know the other teachers and we lend support not only for each other but the students feel that way too.
All the kids come for half days for 2 weeks. They rotate in between classes. Each day they are mixed differently. So one class might be looking at fine motor, another looking at listening, sitting still…etc. They make notes on their observations. Students then have appointments to assess academic skills in the afternoon. Then teachers meet and sort students to hopefully get a good mix of academics, behavior, and personalities.
Does your school do a screening session before K starts? In my district we screen them in the spring before they start. They are tested on skills, vision, speech, etc. From this we create our class list. Of course this doesn’t take into account kids who move into the district or parents who don’t sign up their kids. Oftentimes our biggest behavior kids or delayed kids are ones we didn’t meet prior, but in general, it splits them up pretty well.
Wrong on all levels. The first few weeks are key to establishing rules, routines, rituals. Not doing that is akin to building bad habits and sabotaging the rest of the year. Ask her to show you the early childhood research.. there isn’t ANY saying that this is appropriate.
Sounds way too confusing. You need that security, community building, and bonding from Day 1. Also, kids progress at different rates, so how are you to predict how it’s all going to shake out? Also, students move away, and new ones arrive, randomly all year, so there’s no sense in trying to plan personalities and skill levels.
As a parent, teacher, and sped teacher, I wouldn’t like this. Preschool screening should help with placements and school district’s preschool staff (if the students went to district preschool).
We tried it one year and it did not work, for the same reasons that Jennifer mentioned.  We are actually looking at staggering our start so that a third of the children come day one, another third come day two, and the final third comes day three. We would have all three k teachers working together for the first three days. Then get together to divide up the kids for the week after Labor Day weekend. The first days are then used to get to know the kids and have three sets of eyes on each kiddo.
It works for us, but we only group the first week. There are six of us so we team up in groups of two, and then assess the kids to determine baseline data. We also observe behavior and social interactions. We come together as a grade and begin sorting boy and girl, high and low so classes are more evenly distributed. We also consider number of IEPs and ELLs per teacher so we do not become overwhelmed. While some parents are anxious they’ve become accustomed to this practice as we’ve been doing this about seven years now and appear more satisfied as the year progresses. We only label the child and don’t sort supplies or assign anything until Friday. Kids do table stations and learn where things go.
It is awesome!
I read all of the above comments. While I know that the first few weeks are vital in having the students learn routines and procedures and help the rest of the school year go smoothly, I also know that the right combination of students can make or break how things go. I think that parents could tell the children that we are having one to three weeks of “camp” before school starts. And, really make camp for those weeks. Plan engaging centers that encourage using fine motor skills and practicing pre-reading and math skills. Teachers will observe and take notes the whole time, then meet on Friday to discuss how to divide the children. This is just a thought and I don’t know if it is a good idea or not. First of all, where would you find a space to accommodate such a large group of children to play together? How would you organize centers for such a large group? Which teacher would be responsible for the safety and well being of which children? Dismissal would have to have its own separate plan. Everything would have to be planned meticulously. Depending on the plan, this could be successful or it could be a disaster. If choosing to do this, we would tell the children or the parents that there is camp for this period of time, and after that school starts. This way, the children, although young, will realize something different is coming up. And the period afterwards can count as the time to teach rules and procedures.  A good alternate option is to do things the traditional way and to just switch a student to a different classroom if things don’t work out. I think that is much simpler. Also, this way, we won’t be 1-3 weeks behind in instruction, although some may argue that you lose instructional time with the wrong mix of kids.
I just retired from 29 years of teaching Kindergarten. I think this idea started in my building about 16 or 17 years ago. This cannot be done without a lot of planning, forethought and communication to the community. We found this system helpful in getting to know all of the students and separating them into classes of children who worked well together, as well as being able to balance classes for gender, race and academic ability. The teachers must be reassuring to the students and present the idea to them as a way for them to get to know all of the other children and all of the other teachers. All of the children saw all of us Kindergarten teachers, as people they knew and could trust, and the Kindergarten teachers got to know all of the children. As complicated as it was,I cannot imagine doing things any other way now. 
Nancy, I do not know you, but I saw that you mentioned that you are from Hazelwood in your post. Some teachers from your district came to U. City to meet with us to learn about our Kindergarten placement system about ten years ago. Did this ever take off in any of your schools? We also talked to some teachers from Parkway who were going to start doing this last year, but have not heard any more from them either.

One thought on “How to Sort Your Chicks–Strategies for Smarter Classroom Placement

  1. “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” I’ve told my kids this hundreds of times. I have taught kindergarten 40 years, being the ONLY kindergarten teacher in the building for 37 of those years. If they came to my school, they were MY kids! Our staff has been doing a book study on the book “Seven Simple Secrets: What the Best Teachers Know and Do!” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker. As the book says, “It is a fact that the best teachers have the fewest discipline problems. And contrary to the beliefs of the less effective teachers. it is not because they get the best students every year. Rather, it is because they implementated the seven secrets we have addressed in this book. Their classrooms are well managed,their lessons are well planned, their demeanors are positive, they are consistent in implementing rules and procedures, they actively involve student in their lessons, they love teaching, they remain professional in any situation, they teach bell to bell, and they employ positive relationships with their students.” As many people have commented, you cannot accurately predict the behavior of the students based on a first day encounter. Things WILL be different once they are comfortable. As a teacher, you just have to be able to deal with that behavior and teach those children what is expected of them and about the consequences of not following procedures.

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