Applied Digital Skills
If you are or will be part of a co-teaching partnership, this post will show you some ways to make your partnership work beautifully. A co-teaching team works in the general ed classroom; for the majority of the time, students with special needs are not pulled out to receive services in another location.
For instance, a middle school social studies teacher may have an ELL teacher co-teaching with him during one class period because five students in that class are newcomers to the United States and speak only Arabic fluently. A high school teacher may have one or two sections of biology to which many students with IEPs for reading are channeled; a co-teacher who specializes in reading disabilities co-teaches in these classes. A 4th grade teacher may have two students with plans and another three who have specific learning disabilities in her class; she works alongside a special education teacher daily during lessons in the four core academic subject areas.
For more background, download this Brief History of Co-Teaching. One teach, one observe: One teacher delivers instruction while the other observes student learning. Usually the observer collects data on student understanding so that the co-teaching team can better plan future instruction. Sometimes, specific students are watched closely so that the teachers can determine new strategies to use with them.
One teach, one assist: One teacher takes the lead in providing instruction while the other moves around the classroom, assisting struggling students. This help is not limited to students with special needs; the assisting professional is there to serve whomever needs support. Parallel teaching: The class is divided in two groups and the same material is presented simultaneously by both teachers.
Station teaching: Both teachers are actively involved in instruction as students are divided into groups and rotate from one station to the next. There may be stations where students work independently or with a paraprofessional in addition to the two stations the co-teachers facilitate. Alternative teaching: One teacher takes a small group of students and provides them more intensive or specialized instruction that is different than what the large group receives from the other teacher. It is important to note that both teachers have equal status and equal responsibility in all six of these arrangements.
In the co-teaching relationships that work best, at no time is one teacher seen as subordinate to the other. Both professionals are credentialed professionals, although each may have his or her specific areas of expertise. The advice below sums up the most common recommendations. Not surprisingly, mutual respect is critical to the co-teaching relationship.
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When they collaborate, Amy feels her suggestions for tweaking whole-class lessons are not taken seriously by her partner. The physical science teachers welcome her ideas and eagerly adjust their lessons based on her suggestions. They are seeing a steady increase of students mastering the required standards in the classes Susan supports. Co-teaching works better when the partners agree on who does what, when. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities prevent either partner from feeling the other has overstepped a boundary or shirked responsibilities.
Obviously this type of planning requires a great deal of time, ideally before school starts. If extended time is not available prior to the beginning of the school year, then the co-teaching team should expect to put in extra hours before and after school in the first few weeks so things get off to a good start. My co-teacher Sandie and I did not have advance warning of our assignment. We found out about it on the first teacher workday, leaving us only a few days before the students arrived.
Innovation is difficult. Sometimes this means one person has to put aside his or her favorite tried-and-true strategy and try something different. When Susan suggested a tactile, quiz-like method for reviewing the periodic table to her physical science co-teaching partners, they were skeptical about the time and materials it might require. They initially felt it would be more efficient to simply give additional notes to their students and then pair students to quiz each other. The students loved the activity, and almost every student with special needs passed the chapter test two days later.
All three teachers were thrilled and committed to using the activity in future years. The co-teaching relationship brings together two people with wonderfully rich expertise and experiences. General educators, on the other hand, tend to have broad knowledge of the curriculum, standards, and desired outcomes for the larger group. Therefore, when general educators plan lessons, they tend to aim for the masses Dettmer et al. Both perspectives are important, and co-teaching teams need ample planning time to work through how to best utilize each one. Lack of planning time can lead to territorialism.
Without time to plan for a good balance of content and individualization, a general ed teacher may become protective of his subject matter, or a specialist may become protective of his students. One teacher often asks Emma to pull aside the five or six students with specific disabilities within his class and work only with them.
An assistant principal who oversees the math department facilitates the meetings so Emma feels supported and the geometry teacher has another content-area expert to hash things out with. Keep in mind that planning must include both instruction and assessment. How much time is ideal? This figure corresponds to what worked for my co-teacher and me, and it also confirms what I hear from many co-teachers in the field.
Strive to find that time any way you can. Innovation requires failure. We are often our own worst critics.
This is the kind of ongoing learning we want to model for our students. And, as in most situations in life, a little bit of humor goes a long way.
Laugh with your co-teacher. Planning time is one thing; constant communication is another. Not only should co-teachers frequently plan for what standards will be covered, how material will be taught, and how students will be assessed, they should also regularly communicate in less formal ways. In addition to ongoing communication, Ariel Sacks reminds us to periodically check in with our co-teacher about how we are doing in general.
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She recommends asking your partner the following:. Finally, co-teachers need to present a united front when dealing with parents.
Some partners go as far as to create a shared email address from which all communication flows. This may or may not be practical in your situation. For more in-depth information about communicating and collaborating with your co-teacher, see Communicating and Collaborating in Co-Taught Classrooms Conderman et al. This is what happened with Sandie and me.
We were able to find snippets of time during the school day to use for planning and checking in with each other, but we had no common planning period. Go to your principal with a couple of proposals about how this can work without too much disruption to the rest of the schedule. Sometimes co-teachers may not understand fully why they are being asked to team. If this is the case, ask for a meeting with the principal and any others responsible for the assignment. Thomas R. Peter Scales. Karen Nemeth. Lesson Study. Pat Hutchings. ICT in the Primary School. Gary Beauchamp. Sally Dimmick.
Powerful Lesson Planning. Janice Skowron. Inclusion Strategies and Interventions. Toby J. Gifted Program Evaluation. Kristie Speirs Neumeister. The Educator's Field Guide. Edward S. Using Research Instruments. Peter Birmingham. Principles and Practices of Teaching and Training. Teaching Gifted Students in the Inclusive Classroom.
Frances Karnes. Objectives, Competencies and Learning Outcomes. Reginald Melton. Student Assessment. Debra J. Teaching and Learning Online. Brian Sutton. Education Services Specialist. Beth A. Mark Loon.
Project-Based Learning Across the Disciplines. Acacia M. Serve and Learn. Florence Fay Pritchard. Nabeel Zaidi.