Written by Kandi Henriott

Are you wondering how to implement a co-teaching model and make it successful for teachers and students at your school?  Co-teaching can be a rewarding experience when planning and communication are in place from the beginning. Here are five practical tips you can use to get started.

Communication

Just as with any relationship, communication is the key to an effective co-teaching partnership.  You can avoid confusion and conflict by simply sitting down together at the beginning of the year to talk.  This is a great time to share ideas, define goals, and establish responsibilities so that each teacher is on the same page.  It’s also a great time to set up systems of communication for those days and weeks when you simply don’t have time for a face-to-face meeting.

It’s equally important to take time throughout the year to discuss how things are going.  How are you feeling about the initial goals and responsibilities? How are students responding to the teaching models?  Are there changes that need to be made in order to be more effective? Don’t be afraid to be open and honest. In the long run, it saves time and energy!   

Co-Planning

You’ve probably seen it, or maybe it’s even happened with you- the special education teacher who simply shows up to the inclusion classroom and waits to be told what to do.  Most teachers agree this method of co-teaching is the least effective in terms of building relationships and making a difference for students.

In order to build an effective co-taught classroom, finding time to plan together is critical. Strong teaching partners co-plan lessons, instruction, and assessment to ensure shared responsibility for the classroom.  But carving out time in the school schedule to meet isn’t always a possibility. You may have to get creative to find a pocket of time to plan. Work with your teacher and ask what might work best. For the more technologically savvy individuals, consider using Google Hangouts or Google Drive where you can collaborate together, in real time or when you have a few minutes to spare individually.  Regardless of how you do it, the benefits of planning together will pay off! For more ideas on how to make co-planning work for you, contact us.

Sharing Students

The co-teaching partnership brings together two teachers with unique sets of expertise and experiences.  Special educators are skilled in individualizing curriculum to individual students according to their needs while general educators have broad knowledge of the curriculum and standards.  It’s the perfect blend of teaching skills to meet the needs of ALL students in the classroom. When co-teachers share their students, great things can happen including increased student engagement and involvement in their own learning, higher expectations for student achievement, as well as improved positive social experiences and improved self-esteem.   

It’s important for you and your co-teacher to share information about special education, as well as regular education students.  IEP goals, special accommodation and modification requirements, as well as grade level standards for all students should be regularly discussed.  When you both approach students as “ours” instead of the “yours versus mine”, great things can happen! For more ideas on how to share students, contact us.  

Be United

In a great co-teaching partnership, both teachers should be viewed by students as equal in the classroom.  No one should think of the general educator as the main teacher and the special educator as the “helper” teacher.  It’s important to take time at the beginning of the year to develop classroom procedures, expectations for behavior and consequences, and how communication between home and school will occur.  Situations arise constantly throughout the year and you need to be a united team for students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.

Other items to consider when establishing beginning-of-the-year action plans can include teacher absence protocol, grading duties, and foreseeable schedule changes.  It’s always best to know your roles ahead of time to maintain a positive working relationship. For more ideas on how to be united, contact us.

Flexibility

Flexibility in the co-taught classroom takes on many different meanings.  First and foremost, teachers need to be able to see each other’s perspective and trust one another.  You each bring a highly specific skill set to the classroom and it’s important to be open-minded in order to learn new things.  Second, situations occur inside and outside the classroom that interfere with even the best made plans. Students may not understand a specific skill and need to stop and review.  Another student may be having a bad morning and disrupting his or her small group. Regardless of the situation, you need to be flexible enough to signal your partner and indicate a change is needed.  

Lastly, you must have co-teaching model flexibility.  Depending on the lesson at hand and the need of students, one model may be more useful than another.  It will also change from lesson to lesson so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the six co-teaching models in order to ensure you meet the ever changing needs of your students. For more ideas on flexibility, contact us.

Conclusion

Co-teaching can be an amazing experience for both the teachers and students when done right. By following these five tips, you can experience success and avoid the pitfalls that so many co-teaching teams fall into. To learn more on how to establish co-teaching practices in your school or how to improve your current co-teaching model, contact us.

About Kandi Henriott

Kandi Henriott holds a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology as well as a Director of Exceptional Needs Learners license.  She has 13 years experience working as a collaborative school team member to meet the varied needs of special education students in grades K-12.  Kandi specializes in the development of social-emotional skills programming for students who struggle in these areas, including those with autism and emotional disability. She is certified as an Autism Specialist through IBCCES and is a member of her school district’s Transitional Autism Classroom where students learn the skills needed for successful transition back to the general education classroom.  She also serves as the building PBIS chair coordinating the development of weekly school-wide instructional material for grades K-5. In addition to social skills training, Kandi is passionate about ensuring students with significant cognitive needs have equal access to the general education curriculum. She provides district training in curriculum material adaptation through use of visuals, aided language input, as well as augmentative and alternative communication systems.


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