Friday, April 4, 2014

Co-Teaching: Setting the Stage for Success

I recently found out that my school will be adding a teacher to the ESOL department.  Although it is late in the school year, we were lucky enough to find a good candidate and had money in the budget to bring her on now as opposed to risk losing her by telling her to come back in August  Since students have already been assigned to classes for the semester, the new teacher and I will spend part of the day co-teaching.

Co-teaching (sometimes referred to as "plug in") has been around the special education world for a while.  It was recently introduced to the ESOL world and in my opinion has been implemented with varying degrees of success.  My experiences with co-teaching have been a mixed bag as my co-teachers have ranged from brand-new educators (with five weeks of summer training) to teachers that have more experience teaching than I do living and breathing.  Regardless of who I've been assigned to co-teach with, I've learned some things along the way, especially in the area of starting off the relationship:

Be Willing to Plan: One of the most difficult parts about co-teaching is finding time to plan with each other to review data and determine instructional priorities.  Be creative and think outside the box.  While I try to be flexible as far as my willingness to stay after school (I favor getting to school early over staying late), there have been many times when co-planning has occurred over Sunday afternoon Gchat sessions.  If you're going to go the online route, consider setting up a shared document folder such as Google Drive or Dropbox so that you can both easily access class files.

Be Willing to Let Some Things Go: Every teacher has her preferred routines and procedures. Enforcing the routines and procedures in a single teacher classroom is realistic, but it can become difficult to focus on instruction if the list gets too long.  Agree on a mutual list of desirable routines and procedures and move on.  For example, I do not require students to head their paper in a particular way.  To be honest, I do a happy dance in the morning when I am able to correct over one hundred papers without playing amateur handwriting detective.  However, one of my co-teachers insisted on spending the first week of school teaching (and quizzing) the students on the proper way to head a paper.  While my remaining three classes spent the week focusing on other routines and procedures, time was carved out for my co-teacher to hone in on this particular area during the remaining class.

Choose Which Models Work For You: There are many co-teaching models and choosing the right ones for you is usually a case of trial and error.  Here are some of the models that I've employed in my classroom.

One Teach, One Assist: Each teacher has her own strengths and this model allows a co-teaching team to harness those strengths.  For example, last year's co-teacher was strong in reading instruction.  On days that we focused on reading, she conducted the explicit instruction portion of the lesson while I assisted with manipulating the technology, helping her answer students' questions, and focused on classroom management.  

Ping-Pong: When employing ping-pong both teachers take turns leading instruction.  You'll know that you're meant to be when you begin to complete each other's sentences.

Station Teaching: Both teachers lead the students through a series of teacher-led, peer-assisted, and independent learning stations.

Parallel Teaching: This is when both teachers present identical information to two groups of students using different instructional strategies.  For example, one teacher may present to a strong audio-visual group using pictures and discussion techniques while the other teacher focuses on the kinesthetic students and teaches through movement  This can also be an opportunity to work intensely with your less-proficient students while the other teacher focuses on the rest of the class.  I've found this to be most successful in a larger classroom as it requires additional space.

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