In co-teaching, the “one teach, one support” co-teaching model is pretty familiar. Yet, the same teacher tends to take on one of those roles permanently, while the other teacher takes the other role. Often, the subject matter expert or general education teacher handles “one teach” while the support teacher who is working with the students who are on an IEP handles “one support.”

This is fine, but why not change it up sometimes?

To make this work, try a slightly different model I call “one lead, one student support.” Unlike one teach, one support, this allows any of the adults in the room to lead the instruction for a chunk of the class — whether the general education teacher, the content specialist, the paraprofessional or the specialist.

I’ve even worked with teachers who made a good case for the lead to be another student! By switching the verbiage from “one teach” to “one lead” we expand our thinking into other options for leading instruction in the classroom, and we don’t get locked into the “one teach, one support” model with the same teachers always taking on the same roles.

When we vary the person who is leading instruction, we can also vary which students need support. It’s possible that support is being provided to students who are working on enrichment projects. Possibly, the students who need support are students who do not understand the instructional language and need an interpreter. Of course, it could also be the students who are struggling, yet that group might include students who are not on an individual education plan, but simply having difficulty with that day’s learning objective.

Co-teachers will want to plan this method ahead of time, especially if it’s the first time you’re trying it. Who will lead, and who will support? During which chunk of class time will you implement it? Determine afterward how effective this new teaching method is, and what changes you can make the next time you do it.

The goal for the “one lead and one student support” co-teaching implementation is to break out of rigid mindsets that cause us to believe that the lead is always the content area specialist or the general classroom teacher and the one providing student support is always the specialist.
Expanding our language to be more inclusive of a variety of roles increases our ability to view co-teaching as an opportunity to reach all learners in a manner that is highly effective for a variety of goals and learning styles present in the classroom.

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