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Making the Most of Time: Tips on Using Routines in Your Co-Teaching Classroom

Where does it go and how do we get more of it?

Time, where does it go and how do we get more of it? These are questions everyone, especially teachers ask themselves daily. Teachers who teach a class independently must find time during planning periods, after school and on their weekends to develop engaging and effective lessons. Usually, people outside of the teaching profession have no idea how much time is devoted to prepping for just one lesson. Now, imagine trying to coordinate the same lesson with another teacher who will be in the same class, teaching the same lesson but also providing the support many students require and sharing the responsibilities. Welcome to the world of Co-Teaching!

There are numerous benefits to Co-Teaching for both students and teachers ,but obstacles such as finding the time to plan as a team and create stellar lessons that excite, energize and motivate student learning takes time and planning (lots of it). This is often the refrain heard from veteran and novice teachers alike. As a Co-Teaching coach, I am sympathetic to their plight but also stymied on how to give them the gift of extra time.

During my own research on this topic, I came across an interesting article on using routine tasks to infuse elements of co-teaching. Lodato-Wilson, Gloria. “Revisiting Classroom Routines”. ASCD December 2015.

Carving out extra time in your day to plan may not be entirely necessary, however using limited time wisely and “routinely” is the answer. With numerous demands such as meetings, paperwork and noninstructional duties added into a teacher’s day, there is scant time left to designate planning time for co-teachers. Wilson states that Co-Teaching models can be easily embedded in daily routines such as those incorporated in a regular day, such as test and homework reviews, close reading, projects, and guided practice, all without much preplanning.

Typically, these co-teaching models include one Special Ed and one General Ed subject area teacher. During a daily “Do Now”, instructions can be given by one teacher (Gen Ed) while the Special Ed teacher clarifies instructions and provides additional support to those who need it. In a parallel model, both teachers teach simultaneously, but in smaller groups. Reviewing homework is one example of this model. I have seen it successfully implemented as routine and with little preplanning, teachers can divide the class. While one group asks and answers questions about the homework or uses the topic to make connections to previous or future learning, the teacher may be also keeping notes on which students struggled or did not complete the homework. The other group targets important ideas which may extend the learn and enrich the topic. The groups are then switched. Smaller groups give teachers an opportunity to glean additional information regarding students and their path to mastery. I have personally seen a shift in responsibility for homework from the General Ed teacher simply collecting without reviewing the homework while the Special Ed teacher takes attendance to a much more meaningful and worthwhile expenditure of time.

Station teaching can be utilized for test review. A guide to the six different types of co-teaching reveals which is best to use for your lesson on any given day

Arranging specific tasks at each station with a teacher at two stations and independent work at a third or fourth. Students can generate their own questions or respond to and review vocabulary and pertinent questions from the unit. Don’t forget a drop off station where student can leave notes comments or questions. Students and teachers may approach the station and answer those questions on the sticky notes. I found this model to maximize interaction between and among teachers and students. The teachers I coached indicated this model provided maximum engagement with content and as well as creating a sharp increase in student achievement. They also indicated this model gives students an opportunity to explore, apply and extend skills while learning new content.

A benefit of implementing “unplanned” and routine efforts toward co-teaching is finding those impromptu opportunities to identify students who need differentiation and/or scaffolding. Later, teachers can create more structured support in planned differentiated activities.

When it comes to time…. I have heard teachers say that co-teaching gives them a way to use each other’s expertise to plan more efficiently. For example, one of my teams decided to use new technology and equipment. Although one teacher was unfamiliar with the tools but willing to learn how to use these in a lesson, her co- teacher had a great deal of exposure with this equipment and was able to quickly explain and plan that portion of the lesson. Utilizing each other’s strengths reduces planning time and sharing ideas and teaching each other improved their communication and strengthened their trust necessary in Co-Teaching situations.

Wilson, states it best, “if teachers use their limited time planning to look at activities they routinely employ and to develop specific procedures for these routines…….they might dramatically increase the effectiveness of their instruction with little expenditure of time.”

Time….there is a way to find more of it in the classroom and this is welcome news!

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