A humorous look at class list creation in elementary and primary schools. Any educator that's ever made classes will enjoy these GIFs.
The Ultimate Guide to Elementary School Class Lists
Class list creation is one of the complex tasks in elementary and primary schools. We help educators create better classes and save time.
If you would prefer to watch the guide rather than read it, we've converted it to a video:
We founded Class Creator in 2014 to help schools with the complex task of creating new classes. Since then we have helped thousands of elementary schools make over four million student placements.
In that time we have noticed three things that impact how efficient and effective a school is when creating great classes.
Priorities- Clearly defined priorities.
Process- A well-planned and documented process.
Policies, Timelines, Letters to Parents, and Rubrics.
System- An appropriate system to handle this complex process.
Class Creator: Student Placement Software
What are Great Classes?
I believe the best answer to most questions, including this one is…“It depends”
I have worked with educators that want their classes to be PERFECTLY balanced in every area so that every class is the “same”.
I have also worked with educators that believe the composition of classes is completely irrelevant and has very little impact.
What does the data say?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole heap of studies on the impact of student placement/class list creation. We have searched high and low for studies on student placement and class composition, but there isn’t a whole lot of conclusive data out there.
We have even looked into how we could fund a study into student placement, but with so many variables in class compositions (and education in general) that it would be extremely difficult to conduct a large enough study to produce significant insights.
However, there are a few studies that can offer us some insights into the impacts of class composition:
Impact of Student Friendships
“With respect to having a friend, 6th-grade students without friends showed lower levels of prosocial behavior, academic achievement, and emotional distress than did students with reciprocated friendships. Not having a friend in 6th grade also was related to emotional distress 2 years later.”
Source: Friendships in Middle School: Influences on Motivation and School Adjustment
“Close friendships are important for children’s academic achievement and social-emotional adaptation. Extant literature indicates students with learning disabilities are at increased risk for isolation, although little research has been done to examine the development of reciprocated friendships across late elementary school.”
Source: Best Friendships of Students With and Without Learning Disabilities Across Late Elementary School
Impact of Student-Teacher Relationships
“Student-teacher relationships deeply influence students’ academic and psychosocial functioning. Although different models vary in their explanation of these effects, none denies their existence. As demonstrated, evidence suggests that student-teacher relationships remain important throughout students’ academic careers, with research spanning from preschool to high school.”
Source: The role of teacher relationships in the lives of students
What do we (students/parents/educators) know?
If you have been a teacher, you know that every class is different. You may even have a favorite/least favorite class that easily pops into your mind.
If you’re a parent you will likely have experienced the joy of having your child in “great class” with an “amazing teacher”, and less positive emotions of having your child in a “rough class” with a teacher that is “not a good fit”.
If you’re a school leader I’m guessing you have had the thought “Teacher A would be amazing for Student B next year” or “I better remember not to put Student X with Student Y next year!” or even “I can’t put Student X in Teacher A’s class next year because of Parent W!”
If you went to school, as a student, you will likely be able to remember being in a class with your friends. You may also remember NOT being in a class with your friend.
So, if you have had anything to do with elementary/primary schools, you know the class compositions and student placements have an impact.
Common Class Formation Factors
After working with thousands of educators from around the world we know that the key considerations that work for one school, may not work (and in fact, maybe completely wrong) for another school.
One thing we feel confident in suggesting however is to “pick your priorities”. We have more on picking your priorities in the next chapter, but in a nutshell, having too many factors when creating classes is a surefire way to create classes that lack focus and fail in multiple areas.
Below are some of the many variables schools use when creating classes:
- Class Size (Number of students)
- Academic Levels
- Special Needs Requirements
- Special Needs Resources
- EAL, ESL, EAD, ELL, etc.
- Parent Requests
- 504s, PBIS planner, etc.
- Student-Student Separations
- Student-Student Pairings
- Family History
- Multiple Siblings (eg. Twins)
- Maturity & Age
- Learning Style
- Student-Teacher Separations
- Student-Teacher Pairings
- Family Custody Considerations
- Programs(Music, Sport, etc.))
- Support Programs (RR, G&T, etc. )
- Teacher-Student Separations
- Teacher-Student Pairings
- Religious Considerations
- Emotional Support Requirements
- Organization/Work Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Location/Bus Routes
- AM/PM Classes
- Schooling History
- Makes friends easily
- Class Ratio Requirements
- Government Funding
- Classroom Access
- AND MANY MORE!
With so many variables it is easy to see why class creation can become time-consuming at best and completely overwhelming at worst! That’s why our next section is all about picking your priorities.
Your Priority Pyramid
“The most important thing is to keep the most important thing, the most important thing”
There are almost an infinite number of factors and variables that you could consider when making your class list. The problem is if you try to consider them all, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and drown in data.
This is why we encourage our schools to prioritize by creating a Class List Creation Priority Pyramid.
By completing this exercise, you will help keep the most important thing, the most important thing.
The Class List Creation Priority Pyramid has four layers:
Layer 1: Constraints (3-5 Factors)
These are the things that are largely out of your control and related to resources/funding. Things such as:
- Number of Buildings/Classrooms
- Number of Students
- Number of Teachers
- Class Size
They are at the top of the pyramid because you have to be mindful of them, even though you can’t change them.
Layer 2: Must-Haves (3 Factors)
“If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”
What would be your three top priorities when making your class lists? Try and be as specific as possible when coming up with your priorities.
Here are some of the most common considerations:
- We need our classes to have between 20-23 students.
- We need our classes to be balanced/streamed by gender/academics/behavior/etc
- We need minor ethnicity/race students not to be isolated.
- We need to separate our most challenging students.
When creating your class lists your expectation should be that all of these priorities are met.
Layer 3- Nice to Haves (3-8 Factors)
Any factors that you really want to include in Layer 2, but didn’t quite make the cut, go into this layer.
Often this layer ends up with factors such as:
- Students are placed with at least one friend
- Student-Teacher Requests from Parents
- Student History to be considered
- Student-Student Pairings/Separations
- Student-Teacher Pairings/Separations
- MTS and EAL support
- Teacher Assistant Allocation
- Medical Requirements
- Student Dynamics (Leadership, Introverts, etc.)
You will likely be able to meet most, if not all, of these factors if you have a great placement system (EG. Class Creator), but if your system isn’t up to the task (pen & paper or spreadsheets) you will likely have to give up on a lot of these factors because the process will become too overwhelming.
Layer 4- Everything Else (Unlimited Factors)
Layer 4 is for everything else…which can be a lot of factors, depending on your school.
By placing these factors in Layer 4 you keep them in mind, but you are also accepting that they are not THE PRIORITY.
You are not “giving up” on them, but you are accepting that there are “bigger fish to fry”.
Now that you have your priorities in order you can move on to the next step.
Successful schools are usually very well organized. The same goes for creating class lists. If your school has a clear process in place, it makes it much more likely that things will run smoothly and that stakeholders will be happier. We believe that there are four areas where schools can develop their process in regards to class list creation:
School Policy [DOWNLOAD Editable Example]
This provides you with an opportunity to formalize the objectives and processes of your school. It gives you something to refer to when things get “complicated”. You may decide to include your “Class List Creation Priority Pyramid” in your policy, that is why we encourage schools to do it first.
Timeline [DOWNLOAD Editable Example]
Things run much more smoothly when they have a step-by-step plan. Everyone knows their roles, responsibilities, and deadlines, so there is transparency and accountability.
Assessment Rubric [DOWNLOAD Editable Example]
Most schools consider a variety of assessments when creating their classes. Often these assessments can be rather subjective. Providing a rubric of these assessments allows for continuity and moderation amongst the school/grade level, which in turn leads to more informed decisions when creating classes.
Communication [DOWNLOAD Editable Example]
Policies, timelines, and rubrics are lovely, but they aren’t much use if no one knows about them.
Okay, this might get a little “sales pitchy” about Class Creator, but please think of me more as a proud parent rather than a salesperson.
The main things to consider when reviewing your Class List System are:
- Is it flexible enough to meet the needs of Your Priority Pyramid?
- Is it going to help you make the best classes possible for your school?
- Is it going to encourage consistency across your school?
- Is it efficient? Does it value the time of all the educators in your school (including yourself)?
- Is it easy to use? Does it require staff meetings to train staff?
- Is it capable of collecting huge amounts of data?
- Is it capable of displaying that huge amount of data in a way that informs decision-making?
- Is it capable of empowering educators?
- Is it secure? Both the student data and the class lists themselves.
- Is it going to function in the future? EG. Saving student history.
Historically the most common ways to make classes lists have been:
- Student Cards/Sticky Notes/Pen & Paper
- Placement Cards
There are benefits to each of these systems (mainly that they are free, assuming you don't consider the time they cost), but when comparing them to Class Creator I think they are significantly inferior.
Even if you don’t use Class Creator, the main thing is your system is well organized, easy to use, efficient, reliable, and is going to support your needs into the future.
At the end of the day, Class Creator is an investment in a commonly undervalued resource in schools...time.
Class Creator as a System
1. Sign Up ≈ 3 minutes
Fill in your school details in our sign-up form. We will set up your account and email your login details within 12 hours. You can get started right away.
2. Import ≈ 20 minutes
Use our simple Excel spreadsheet to import your students and teachers.
It doesn't matter what SIS/SMS you're using, Class Creator plays nicely with everyone.
3. Configure & Send Surveys ≈ 15 minutes
Customize your survey to collect the data that matters to your school. Click "Send Invitations" and Class Creator then emails your teachers their own survey invite to complete for their class.
4. Teacher Surveys ≈ 15-30 minutes
As teacher complete their surveys you can see the data coming in via your admin dashboard. Teachers love the ease of Class Creator and the editable rubrics mean your data is moderated across the school.
5. Create Class Lists ≈ INSTANTLY
Click a button and your new classes will be created instantly balanced across behavior, academics, gender, support requirements, social dynamics, and much more.
6. Edit Classes ≈ 30 minutes to 3 hours
Drag-and-Drop students between classes whilst receiving feedback in real-time on class demographics and student placement alerts. Class Creator empowers educators, it doesn't replace them.
7. Share Your Classes ≈ 5 minutes
Share your classes with staff for feedback and/or send them their finalized class list with all the information on their new students. Class Creator automatically saves your student data for future years. No more forgotten separations!