Guide to Co-Teaching: New Lessons & Strategies to Facilitate Learning 3rd Ed
I was fortunate to begin my teaching career by co-teaching with an experienced special education teacher. We co-taught two language arts classes each day. Through the years we have taught together in a variety of settings until we were able to work seamlessly together. This year will bring many changes to our building and staff. I will be switching from eighth grade to seventh grade language arts, and instead of co-teaching with my established partner, I will be working with two new special education teachers and a new assistant.
I hoped that reading and reviewing A Guide to Co-Teaching: New Lessons and Strategies to Facilitate Student Learning by Richard A. Villa, Jacqueline S. Thousand, and Ann I. Nevin would give me tools to build strong co-teaching relationships with these new partners.
Even though the writing can be quite dry and repetitive in places, this guide to co-teaching is packed with helpful information. I got bogged down with the repetition in Part I: Introduction to Co-Teaching, which focused on definitions, history, and research regarding co-teaching. However, I did learn useful strategies from the remaining chapters, especially those in Parts II (The Four Approaches to Co-Teaching) and III (Changing Roles and Responsibilities).
Part II introduces four different approaches to co-teaching: supportive, parallel, complementary, and team-teaching. Each approach is illustrated with a co-teaching team at an elementary, middle, and high school level. I enjoyed seeing the four approaches put into action through these vignettes.
Even though the authors insist that one approach is not better than another, you can see the progression of the co-teaching teams as they use each approach. As the general education teachers, special education teachers, and paraprofessionals established trust with each other, they were able to move from their initial uncertainty to growing confidence in each others’ strengths. In addition to presenting the teaching vignettes, the authors analyze the cooperative processes that lead to co-teaching success and answer frequently asked questions.
The remaining sections of the book address issues that can lead to success in co-teaching relationships. Even though I generally think of co-teaching as something that happens between general education teachers and special education teachers, the authors include chapters on working with paraprofessionals as co-teachers (Chapter 8) and on including students as co-teachers (Chapter 9).
I was intrigued by their suggestion to use the co-teaching model to prepare teacher candidates rather than through traditional student teaching (Chapter 11). The collaborative and reflective relationship between supervising teacher and student teacher could both reassure the supervising teacher in this era of high-stakes testing and lead to greater confidence and competence for the student teacher.
It takes a school: Planning & communications
Whether directed toward administrators (Chapter 10) or teachers (Chapters 12, 13, 14), the book’s last section emphasizes the importance of planning and communication. In an ideal school, administrators would build regular planning time for co-teachers into the daily or weekly schedule. The authors present several alternative schedules that different schools have used to facilitate planning. Since most of us don’t teach in an ideal school schedule, they also include strategies that different co-teaching teams have used “in the real world” to make time to plan, reflect, and celebrate together.
I found one of the most useful parts of the book to be the charts scattered throughout the text and collected in an appendix at the end. These charts range from discussion questions for co-teachers to checklists to evaluate your co-teaching. Other forms provide tools for planning and carrying out lessons while thinking through which co-teaching approach would be most beneficial for a particular class and lesson.
I’m glad I persevered through the dry parts of A Guide to Co-Teaching. This book contains valuable information that will help experienced co-teachers take their teaching to the next level and reassure teachers new to co-teaching that they, too, can be successful.
Kay Jernigan McGriff shares her passion for the written word with middle schoolers in southern Indiana, where she is also ELA department chair and a teacher consultant for the Indiana University Southeast Writing Project. She blogs about her reading, writing, and teaching at Mrs. McGriff’s Reading Blog. You can also find her connecting with other educators on Twitter @kaymcgriff.