1. Be supportive – While one teacher has the primary responsibility for planning and teaching, the other teacher can circulate
in the room and provide individual assistance to students. In this approach to co- teaching, students are able to be in the general classroom while still having the option of receiving individual support.
2. Ask questions – Many students are reluctant to ask questions because they are afraid of sounding silly or being ridiculed, yet it is important to make sure their questions are answered. While one teacher in presenting a lesson, the other teacher could be listening and asking questions that students may be too nervous to ask.
3. Make a plan – While one teacher is presenting a lesson, the other teacher can be planning a way to reinforce the lesson later. By watching students’ reactions to the information they receive, the second teacher can help determine which areas of the lesson are most difficult to understand and come up with creative ways to reinforce the material.
4. Try parallel teaching – This approach allows teachers to split the class in half. Group size is smaller, allowing greater supervision by the teacher. While teachers are teaching the same information with this approach, working with a smaller group allows them to identify students who may be having difficulty understanding. With this approach, planning to ensure consistency between the two groups is essential.
5. Alternative teaching is another way to best utilize both teachers’ professional skills – Divide the class into two groups, one advanced and one at class level, or one large and one small, or divide the class in half and teach two different concepts – Each teacher leads one of the two groups. After the lesson or mini- lesson, the students switch teachers to learn the concepts that the other teacher is teaching. This allows for differentiated and focused instruction and uses both teachers’ strengths to best meet the students’ needs.
6. Try station teaching – Create a ‘station’ or Fitzell Acceleration Center™ focusing on one specific topic. For example, a standard in which students did not do well on the state test last year or an aspect of the curriculum that needs to be reinforced with students who struggle. Have one teacher run the station while the other teacher facilitates a coaching group with an intervention or extension activity.
7. Create flexible groups – These are essentially multiple learning stations in the classroom. These groups can be based on ability or style of learning and students can move from group to group as necessary. Groups are flexible because they never track students at the same level repeatedly. Teachers too, can move between the groups as necessary.
8. Debate – Co-teachers can help students understand various sides of an issue or historical event by debating amongst themselves in front of the class. Each teacher takes one side of an issue and discusses the pros and cons of each side. Students will not only benefit from hearing both sides, they will also learn to work through disagreements in an appropriate way.
9. Take advantage of both teacher’s knowledge of a subject – If both teachers are equally knowledgeable in a subject area, they can work together to teach the class. Each teacher can teach the part of the lesson that they are most comfortable with and the other teacher can ask questions and identify areas students may have misunderstood.
10. Manage behavior – While one teacher presents a lesson, the other teacher can walk around the classroom and support classroom management. Many times, especially in large classes, just having a second teacher in the classroom with the students is enough to prevent behavior problems.
11. Identify struggling students – In this approach, one teacher teaches the entire classroom while the second teacher walks among the students to determine which, if any, are struggling to understand the material. If a student is struggling, the second teacher can then spend time with that student and try different approaches to teaching the material.
12. Modify the curriculum – In a general classroom that contains students with special needs, one co-teacher can work to modify the lesson plans, assignments, and tests to fit the needs of those students who may not be reached by the general classroom teacher.
For more information on co-teaching and co-teaching models, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Co-teaching and Collaboration in the Classroom. Available in both print and electronic versions!
We also offer a Professional Development Kit for Co-teachers, with a Graduate Credit Option!
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