Classroom Looping: The Benefits and Pitfalls
Looping is an infrequently used practice in modern schools, but for those who get the chance, it can be an amazing experience.
What is Looping?
Looping is the process of staying with a single group of students for more than one year. The most typical form of “looping” is a two-year span with the same students, although some schools prefer a 3-year loop and certain types of alternative school settings (such as Waldorf), can loop for the entire elementary experience. There are many benefits, and a few downfalls, to looping.
Benefits of Looping
You really get to know your kids. Looping gives you the opportunity to really understand your students in ways that are difficult for single-year teachers. Knowing what makes a student tick, what they are passionate about, how they learn best, what motivates them, and what works (and doesn’t work) for discipline are all excellent advantages of looping. Likewise, your students really get to know you. They feel comfortable with the classroom expectations and routines and can focus on learning.
Year 2 (3, 4, etc.) is less devoted to classroom routines and far more devoted to learning. The second year of a loop gives teachers an amazing opportunity to jump right into learning instead of spending weeks learning procedures and implementing classroom management plans. Of course you will still need to spend some time on these tasks, especially if you want to make changes from the previous year, but you will still save ample time compared to single-year teachers.
Looping gives teachers an opportunity to expand their repertoire. Many teachers teach the same grade year after year without much thought as to what comes before or after their grade level. Looping forces teachers to learn new standards, new expectations, and new ways of doing things. This helps a teacher grow as a professional and learn techniques that will eventually help her serve students working above or below their current grade level. Even if you never loop, there are a lot of great reasons to explore what goes on at other grade levels.
Looping forms lasting bonds. If you want to form a lasting connection with your students, looping is an excellent way to do this. Spending hours and hours together is also a great way for students to bond with each other. Think about students in small private schools who spend year after year in the same class. They understand and look out for each other in ways that are difficult for students who share just a single year together. Looping will forever connect your students to you and each other.
Downfalls of Looping
Certain groups of students are tougher than others. Teachers who have been teaching for years know that some years are really challenging. If you’ve ever thought, “Something must have been in the water that year,” you know this feeling. Sometimes the group of students is fine as a whole, but you have a really hard time connecting with an individual student. A downfall of looping is that you don’t get that “fresh start” every year. Likewise, a student doesn’t get the chance to make a connection with a new teacher who might be able to reach him/her.
It’s hard to make changes from one year to another. Students and parents who have been with you for a while know what you expect, and you may have a hard time convincing them to do things in a new way. You might need to work strategically to undo any routines that you would like to change. Similarly, your academic and behavioral expectations for students will change over time. This is hard to relay to your students who are used to doing things at a certain level.
It’s hard to become a true “expert.” When you are constantly moving between grade levels, it is hard to really know and prepare for a specific grade level. Learning new curriculum takes time and a change in grade levels typically means spending more of your own money on resources for your classroom. Learning more than one grade level can be both a blessing and a curse.
The opportunity to loop with your students is a great way to grow as an educator. It will push you to challenge yourself while making a lasting impact on your students. It isn’t always easy, but the rewards are significant.
What do you think about looping? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!