5 Classroom Organization Tips for Departmentalizing in Elementary


5 Departmentalizing Tips

Departmentalizing is becoming increasingly popular in the younger grades, but it’s not always easy for teachers and students. You want to have a well-organized plan before you jump into this completely new experience. Here are five classroom organization tips that have saved my sanity when departmentalizing for the first time in the elementary grades!

1. Assign homerooms and use them to your advantage.

If you’re having nightmares of filling out 100+ student names on folders, forms, and more, this idea is for you. Make each teacher responsible for the basic paperwork for their first period class (homeroom). This is something that would be way too complicated for middle school teachers teaching six different classes with a random mix of kids, but upper elementary departmentalization usually includes rotating the kids as the same class throughout the day. The homeroom teacher should be responsible for the following items:

  • Student work folders (keep your graded work organized by class and hand it to the homeroom teacher each week- only file for your own homeroom)
  • Student paperwork & emergency contact info
  • Seating chart

You will still have to record grades for your subject area for each class, but it’s no different then keeping track of separate math, reading, and science grades!

2. Use the same seating chart in each class.

Having students sit in the same desk in each class can cut down on a lot of disarray. We don’t always have the same seating configuration, but each of us has an orange group, gray group, etc. Within each colored group is a number 1-4. This means that a student sitting in blue group seat 2 in one class sits in blue group seat 2 in the other classes. When you have to move someone, it makes it easy for them to find their new seat in the other classes.

It’s a lot easier if the homeroom teacher is the one in charge of their class’ seating chart and the rest of the team communicates if a change is needed. However, you can write names in pencil on the seating chart, or use sticky notes that can easily be moved around. If you want to, keep the seating chart on the clipboard (see tip 3) so that all teachers have access to make changes.

Color coded seating chart


3. Use class clipboards to keep pertinent information available.

When you first departmentalize, you can end up with several sets of seating charts, rosters, homework logs, and more. Set up a clipboard for each homeroom class so that this important information will follow that class around throughout the day. This means that you won’t have to flip through a bunch of paper (and remember what class you have, which is a real problem sometimes!) every time you need information. The class helper is in charge of bringing it from class to class and placing it on the teacher’s desk. I also sometimes stick a note in there for the next teacher too if I have something important to tell him or her.


This adorable clipboard is from The Monogram Line

(use code Education15 for 10% off your order!)

4. Communicate with other teachers using Google Sheets.

When you send tons of e-mails each day, sometimes it can be hard to find that note about Billy from the math teacher when you need it. Stay organized by creating a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. You can keep it completely private and only the teachers you share with can see and edit it. We paste our student list into the spreadsheet by homeroom teacher at the beginning of the year, and keep the tab open every single day. This way we can document behavior issues quickly, and it’s all in one place when we have meetings with parents.

Student Comments

5. Keep the students organized.

Put items on your school supply list that can be easily carried from class to class. We prefer not to take backpacks from class to class because it takes too long to pack up and unpack. Having students carry zipper binders (to keep all their papers from falling out in the hallway) and pencil boxes to each class has been a lifesaver! We allow students to store things in their homeroom desk, but in the other classes they can only bring what they can fit in their binders & pencil box. This requires them to stay organized and only bring what they need.

Are you departmentalizing this school year? Leave a comment below with your grade and subject area!


6 Responses

  1. My fourth grade team will be departmentalizing for the 16/17 school year. It will be the first time any of us have taught this way, and we are excited for the change. I enjoyed reading your tips! Any other advice?

    1. Hi Emily! That’s exciting, but I’m sure also very nerve-wracking for your team. Just keep communication open and be patient. It’s awesome having other teachers to help you with tough students that you share.

  2. Thank you for sharing these ideas. I like the common seating chart idea.
    My 5th grade team and I have departmentalized for many years. It is challenging at first but with all of the curriculum we are required to teach I find it much less stressful to only focus on a few subjects (science, math and reading). I use a 2″ binder to stay organized. Each class has a separate section and this has worked well.
    Another tip from our team is to have a common procedure for turning in work/homework. We all have a 3 drawer storage container with the homeroom teachers name on it. Any work due for the subject I teach is turned into the box with the students’ home room teacher’s name. This way no matter what room the students are in, the place they put their work is the same.
    We also created a grade level website. We take turns updating the home and math page and we are each responsible for maintaining our subject area tab. This is also a great way for parents to stay on top of what is happening in each class.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Your blog and TPT materials are so well-done and offer so many tips, I can’t thank you enough for all your input. We are departmentalizing this year going from teaching multiple subject to dual subject with a teaching partner. I also have a single-subject credential in English, so I will be teaching English and History while my partner teaches Math and Science. We are excited to try this new approach and feel that it will offer us the ability to teach deeper since we will only be responsible for planning 2 subjects instead of 4 and then coordinating our PBLs, art, and cross-curricular activities. The suggestions you have offered here are great and I think they will help us to start with an organized plan. Thanks so much for your help.

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April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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