I think the only way to really meet the Common Core Standards in inclusion classrooms is through a varied application of co-teaching models. We must stay aware of the way that we are presenting the content and assessing our students’ progress. We must stay focused and determined to make the instructional process one that guides all students to connect and construct meaning toward reaching personal and academic goals.
Now that my colleagues and I are well into the groove of the school year, I figured it was prime time to begin discussing and implementing methods to blend our Common Core instruction with various co-teaching models. I decided to start small (great advice to myself, don’t you think?).
I approached my English co-teacher to take on the Common Core inclusion challenge. I presented her with the possibility of shaking up our instruction just enough to excite, to engage, to motivate, and to deepen the learning process for each student in our class.
In the past, this co-teacher has admitted to uneasiness at the thought of shifting away from a traditional approach to teaching. In fact, she still admits to wanting to teach each day, each period, the same way. She likes to be the one who speaks to the class as the students sit in their seats, in rows, listening (perhaps) as she shares her wisdom. So when I came along and said, “Hey, it’s OK, in fact it’s necessary to teach our inclusion class with a variety of approaches,” I knew she was shuddering at the thought of this change. And so, I eased my way in—keeping her comfort level very much in mind.
We’re Making Progress
Since she and I have had a bit more time to get to know one another, she is opening up to more co-planning. We are finding time where we can, and she is more comfortable sharing, listening and brainstorming ideas for lessons.
Following a recent traditional grammar lesson, I said, “How about next time we try another model of co-teaching, so that we can engage each student to take an active role in the learning?” Her response to my inquiry, you ask? She said, “I am open to anything.”
Now that’s what I wanted to hear! And it is with this thought in mind that I am now picking up speed to make the most of meeting the Common Core Standards with a variety of co-teaching models. Here are a few ideas I’d like to try with some consistency over the next few months:
❖ Parallel Teaching
We will plan lessons with a focus on the same skill, but we would have flexibility to:
- Differentiate the complexity of text and questioning techniques to suit the needs of students;
- Differentiate the method or representation through slightly different methods (graphic organizers, guided notes, additional visual, auditory, or hands-on learning as appropriate);
- I would love to try parallel teaching as one of us teaches the grammar mini-lesson and the other reviews close reading strategies. After 10 or 15 minutes, my co-teacher and I would switch to meet with the other group.
❖ Station Teaching
I am really excited to give this one a try when my co-teacher and I plan for two separate learning targets that must be taught separately. For example, we could set up a grammar/writing station and a vocabulary/comprehension station. We could have the students rotate after fifteen or twenty minutes.
This model of co-teaching would also work wonders when we want to focus just on writing. We could set up a planning and drafting station and a proofreading and revision station, as well as an independent writing station for those who are ready to fly on their own.
This model of co-teaching requires co-planning to make it effective. Many co-teachers do not have this luxury (myself included). I work hard to get creative, try to read minds, squeeze in moments or seconds of collaboration wherever I can find them. And yet, it comes down to my co-teachers saying to me, “just jump in….”
Since our class periods are forty-one minutes, every minute counts toward precious learning time. I think the only way team teaching works is if there is a good amount of co-planning going on prior to the lesson. Without co-planning, I feel like my “jumping in” on the fly may lead to tangential learning that may steer the lesson away from my co-teacher’s plan—and this is not always OK.
As I strive to find the balance with this model, I am zooming my focus in on our English class. With careful planning, I know she and I can find the productive balance to finish each other’s sentences, to extend the thinking of students, and to hopefully push one another’s thinking along so that we create optimal learning experiences in our classroom. I know this will be a challenge because my co-teacher has told me and shown me through her daily teaching behaviors that she loves to be the sage on the stage. And yet I know that her mind is opening to new ways of doing things. I am excited to meet this challenge head on!
A Common Core/Co-Teaching Blend
These are a few of my next steps in maximizing the co-teaching experience for the students in our class as well as for my co-teacher and me. We have so much to learn from one another. It’s just a matter of opening minds at a pace and comfort level that keeps the needs of colleagues and students in mind.
I will share more specific lessons as they unravel. I am really jazzed about this shift to blend the Common Core with a variety of co-teaching models. It’s all about teaching deeply—teaching with learner variability in mind—and creating learners who know HOW to learn. Such an exciting time to be a teacher! Don’t you think?
What co-teaching models are you already incorporating? What models would you like to give a go? Here’s your challenge…think about one model you haven’t used yet—and come tell us about it!