Use This Potent Protocol for Co-Teacher Dialogue

A MiddleWeb Blog

We are now several months into the school year, and it’s the perfect time to analyze your co-teaching communication moves and see what patterns you have formed. It’s still early enough to make some bold changes to sharpen your communication and collaboration.

Ask yourselves: What’s working? What makes you frustrated at the end of the day? How are you and your co-teacher sharing your views and ideas for keeping the learning process meaningful for every learner in your shared classroom?

This post is for any co-teacher or administrator who is looking for a surefire way to open up communication between co-teachers that can lead toward effective solutions.

Thinking deeply together

There is this powerful protocol called the Four A’s Text Protocol. It structures a literacy experience so that learners may have the opportunity to think deeply about the content, beyond their own perspectives.

It’s pure brilliance! Seriously! Not only have I used the protocol with students of all ages across a variety of content areas, I recently applied it on Twitter when I moderated a #UDLchat to guide participants to think more deeply during our conversation about Universal Design for Learning. Check out the archive to that chat here. My next sentence will not surprise you…

Yes! You guessed it! I think this is a MUST DO protocol for all co-teachers. It’s one great reason to find the time to continue to cultivate relationships and meaningful instruction this year.

I have applied the protocol with co-teachers during my travels, and I have to say…you must give this a GO! It has the potential to knock down any co-teaching barriers that typically get in the way of what co-teachers really need to do. Let’s just jump in, so you can feel what I mean!

Four A’s Protocol and Co-Teaching

The premise of the protocol is to guide participants to make assumptions, state what they agree with, argue their point, and share their aspirations. I am sure by now you are feeling the potential here! Each of these steps could bring co-teachers into greater harmony.

Still not sure? Keep your minds open and continue to read. I’m sure by the time you’re done reading this post, you will be eager to share your thinking and hear what your co-teacher has to say.

Consider these four steps found in the protocol:

Step One: Assumptions

In general, what assumptions do you hold for how students learn? Then consider your assumptions for including students with disabilities into inclusive settings. What are your beliefs for co-creating these inclusive experiences?

Step Two: Agreements

What is one thing that your co-teacher does that you agree with? How can you add your voice and action steps to this?

Step Three: Arguments

What is one thing that is happening in your co-teaching experience that you would like to change? Jot down your concern and make a plan to say something—with the aim, of course, of taking action to be an agent for change. We have to remember that we are the voice for our students. What is it that one or more students need, and what can you do to make it happen?

Step Four: Aspirations

What is one aspiration for your co-teaching experience this year? Perhaps there’s a co-teaching model you are just waiting to apply—why wait? Now is the time! You will be paving the way for a more effective co-teaching experience that will lead to better student learning outcomes. Make the plan and do it! Perhaps there’s a certain instructional strategy you just know would work for a student—well, now’s the time to give it a go!

So…are you up for the challenge of the 4 A’s protocol? Make time for one or more of the steps to this protocol and see how the raised self-awareness of your personal beliefs empowers your co-teaching instructional decisions. And there’s more! Adding your co-teacher’s views to yours could be just to thing needed to expand possibilities for everyone in the room.

Remember to come back and add experiences right here in the comment section. There is so much to learn from one another!

Elizabeth Stein

Elizabeth Stein has more than 20 years teaching experience spanning grades K-8, specializing in universal design for learning and special education. She’s currently a special education/UDL instructional coach and new-teacher mentor in Long Island NY’s Smithtown Central School District. Elizabeth is National Board Certified in Literacy, and a contributor to Education Week and other publications. Her books include Comprehension Lessons for RTI (Grades 3-5) (Scholastic, 2013), Elevating Co-Teaching Through UDL (CAST, 2016) and Two Teachers in the Room: Strategies for Co-Teaching Success (Routledge, 2017). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethlstein and #coteachat

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