Compartmentalizing in Elementary – Pros and Cons

Compartmentalizing in Elementary – Pros and Cons

As our school starts to discuss what compartmentalizing is going to look like next year, I question how we can do it successfully. I don’t doubt we can do it, and that we can do it well, but as we know in education, so many good ideas fail because they aren’t implemented correctly. Whether it is lack of planning, everyone not being on the same page, or just lack of knowing what it takes to successfully integrating. Having been at a school that failed in compartmentalizing 4th and 5th grade (I started teaching the year they went back to self-contained), I want to see our school be successful. We have amazing leadership, phenomenal teachers, but as I contribute to the discussions, I want to make sure that we are looking at all the angles and doing what is best for our scholars.

Researching the idea I came up with some of the pros and cons. I would love for those of you have experienced to share what worked and didn’t work in our experience of compartmentalizing:


  1. Lower costs in materials for the classroom (instead of buying curriculum for every student, it is just needed for the teacher to be utilized in the classroom). This allow for more dollars to be invested in training teachers.
  2. Teachers who get in-depth training and time in their subject matter, become experts in their content area.
  3. Teachers are better able to plan more engaging lessons because they are only planning less lessons. They also find their 2nd time doing the lesson is even better than the first time (Is this a sign we should definitely look at students who are going to need more in-depth to be in the 2nd group?)
  4. Students get pushed into more in-depth thinking and content with teachers who are experts.
  5. Students are more prepared for the transitions of middle school and high school.
  6. Another benefit was protected time for subjects, particularly science and social studies which many times get shoved aside.


  1. Are elementary students to young and need the bound established with a contained classroom? That’s an argument. (One solution to this was having teachers loop for 2 years with their kids so they could create stronger bonds.)
  2. Some students are just not able to adapt to the transitions through the day. (One solution was a self-contained classroom for students identified. My question is, how balanced is the classroom?)
  3. With less time to teach a subject, differentiated instruction is more difficult. When a teacher has a full day, they can spend more time on a subject as needed.
  4. Students have more responsibility in getting materials places. Some parents feel that burden as well.
  5. It can be harder for teachers to have the “whole” picture of students.
  6. Time lost to transitioning.
  7. Harder to cross-curricular teach.

Things to consider:

  1. Pairing team members together who can work well together so they can work to teach cross-curricular (our team has had lots of discussions about how we would like it to look, and I feel we are solid in wanting to work together).
  2. How do we group kids – by ability, homogeneous, a mix?
  3. How do we overcome the negatives to turn them into positives?
  4. Communication with parents and their input is critical.
  5. Total buy-in by all staff involved.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and experience. I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn more about my profession, my elected content area, and how to become a better teacher for the success of my students!

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Patty Benton is a 4th grade teacher located in Colorado. Her passion is helping every student recognize there are no glass ceilings. They are all capable of reaching for new goals, and obtaining them. Patty was raised in Iowa, but now lives in Colorado with her three beautiful children and one crazy, crazy dog named Izzy and a sweet gentle dog named Ginger. She loves having the mountains “right there” for adventuring, but also enjoys being in a major metropolitan area. As a family (minus Ginger & Izzy, of course!), they volunteer at a local food bank and Patty was the ministry leader for a Single Parent’s Ministry.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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