A specific co-teaching challenge—one that many see all too often—is in science classes where having the lab materials needed for effective learning are constricted by ever-tightening school budgets. Science teachers often find it difficult to replace consumables or broken lab equipment. They may be forced to do demos instead of running a proper hands-on lab during class because they don’t have what they need for the lesson.

Group process group work

Ella and Manny, a co-teaching team at a middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, found themselves in just this situation. I brainstormed with them and we came up with a variation on “Teach Half, Then Switch” called “One Review, One Run Lab.”

During the class period, Manny took half the students and reviewed a topic that was essential to the curriculum but that did not need lab time to understand. This could be a direct-teach type of review. Sometimes, Manny would play a PowerPoint version of Jeopardy to go over the forensic techniques they were learning.

At the same time, Ella took the other half of the students and ran the lab. To make sure enough stations and materials were available, she had the students group in triads rather than in pairs.

The next day, Manny’s group of students switched over to Ella and the hands-on lab portion of the lesson, while Ella’s group of students switched to Manny and the review session.

Teach Half then Switch: One Review, One Run Lab can be used not just in science classrooms but in any class where a hands-on practice is essential to understanding the lessons. Culinary arts, electronics, programming and web development are a few examples. Not only does it help manage larger class sizes and limited materials, it reduces the teacher-student ratio during an activity that requires more focus. Safety is increased as is the opportunity for deeper learning.


  • Plan ahead for this co-teaching variation: Will you need more than one classroom for this activity? How long will the split session run—one day or two, or more? Which co-teacher will handle the hands-on activity? Who will handle the review session? Make sure both activities align with the goals of the lesson and curriculum.
  • Divide the class into mixed-ability halves so everyone learns equally, but do so strategically: in the lab portion, those with lower ability can be paired with those of higher ability. Or, if two students tend to play off each other, place one in each group.

For Ella and Manny, this variation of Teach Half, Then Switch helped them to make sure all of their students got hands-on lab time with the materials available. It also gave them the opportunity to work more closely with and support their students.

Best Practices in Co-teaching & CollaborationExplore even more tips, tools, and resources for collaboration at TheHowofCo-teaching.com!

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