By Anne Beninghof, Featured Speaker at the 2019 CCIRA Conference
Kaleidoscopes are the perfect metaphor for co-teaching. A kaleidoscope is a tube of mirrors that contains loose beads or small objects that can vary in color and size. By turning the tube, an unlimited number of combinations occur to create unique designs. The colors and shapes shift easily to produce a new picture, a new blending of ingredients. The possibilities are endless. So it is with co-teaching. When two adults work closely together to teach a heterogeneous group of students, the classroom portrait will be unique and ever-changing, based on the students, the curriculum and the strengths each person contributes to the picture. Partnerships might form between the classroom teacher and a literacy specialist, a special educator, an ELL specialist, a technology teacher or even two general education teachers. The arrangements are almost endless.
Whatever your partnership, designing the best possible picture requires intentional discussions between you. The following Top 12 questions guide this conversation.
- How will we introduce ourselves to our students? To parents? How do we explain co-teaching?
- What format will we use for lesson planning?
- When and where will we meet for co-planning and reflection?
- What formative and summative assessment data will we collect? Where will we keep this information?
- Will there be a designated space (desk, storage) in the room for the second teacher?
- How will we arrange the room?
- How will sub plans reflect our co-teaching relationship?
- What classroom routines do we want to establish (restroom breaks, students late to class, missing assignments, attendance, pencil sharpening)?
- What behavior management practices will we have in place? How will we respond to inappropriate behavior?
- Which methods of communication will work best for us (email, text, wikis, phone, face-to-face, online)?
- How will we handle correspondence: parents, newsletters, emails, report cards?
- What pet peeves do we each have?
Successful co-teaching requires effective communication. As the year progresses, you may need to have courageous conversations. Perhaps a pet peeve has arisen that you didn’t think to talk about and it is starting to really annoy you. Perhaps a student’s behavior plan is not being implemented with fidelity, causing a lack of success. Perhaps you recognize a significant difference in your literacy practices. Open, honest, professional discussions are necessary to become a highly effective co-teaching team. Return to these Top 12 questions a few times throughout the year to reflect on your practices and adjust where necessary. Just as a kaleidoscope image changes with a new twist, so will your co-teaching arrangements.
Anne M. Beninghof, an internationally recognized consultant and trainer, has more than thirty 35 years of experience working with students and teachers. In her teaching, presenting and writing, Anne focuses on creative, practical solutions for more effectively including students with diverse learning needs in general education classrooms. You can follow Anne’s blog @ www.ideasforeducators.com, on Facebook @ Ideas for Educators, or on Twitter @annebeninghof.