Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Co-Teaching ELLs

Andrea Honigfeld and Maria G. Dove wrote Co-Teaching ELLs: Riding a Tandem Bike for the December/January 2016 edition of Educational Leadership. In it they describe their three step approach to co-planning, an often overlooked part of the co-teaching process.

Many reasons exist for a lack of co-planning, but most of them revolve around time and trust in the process. Among other things, classroom teachers need to be able to trust the professional coming into her classroom will a) respect her expertise, b) assist with the students who need help and c) be able to provide instruction in areas that the class needs to cover. Trust is a process built on contact over time. You cannot expect that throwing two professionals together will automatically gel and create a good partnership. Administrators need to facilitate co-teaching by providing time. When inclusion was first being implemented, one reason some districts embraced it was to save money. Inclusion, done well, costs more not less, than pull out programs because of the requirement for common planning. Many co-taught and inclusion programs do not include adequate time for planning so the programs do not meet the high expectations of participants.

So what are the steps of co-planning? The authors suggest three steps:
  1. pre-planning- individually professionals examine curriculum, identify the goals of the upcoming lessons, set content and language goals for them, determine activities and materials to reach the goals, and the identify the required background knowledge
  2. collaborative planning- together, either face to face or virtually over the phone or an internet platform, the teachers share their ideas. Objectives are negotiated, activities are selected, and configurations for instruction are  determined.
  3. post-planning- teachers individually complete lesson planning activities- such as creating centers, power point presentations, or adapted readings/worksheets/assessments.
While I am sure this process produces excellent results, I am concerned about the time investment for the partners. In every co-teaching experience I have had, the general ed teacher plans the activities and objectives and the co-teacher, if lucky gets to provide some input. I found a useful lesson plan design that helps identify the required components of the lesson and roles of each professional. It is sampled below.

Subject _______________________________________                    
Target students ________________________________

Class _________________________________________               ______________________________________________

co-teaching structures: 1 lead, 1 support (L), station teaching (S), parallel teaching (P), team teaching (T), 1:1 (O)

big ideas/goals
lesson activities
co-teach structure
behavioral & academic adaptations
(based on IEP)
materials needed
Printed landscape style, there is room for writing in the details. Needs of individual students can be highlighted in the behavior and academic adaptation section. After a couple rounds of this sort of planning it should get easier for teachers to implement. Plans like this one can be shared and highlight how professionals will be utilized. It does require training in structures of co-teaching. Districts need to continually offer this as teachers move in and out of co-teaching structures.

Whenever an increase in planning has occurred, an increase in results has also occurred. It behooves professionals in these circumstances to strongly advocate with their administration for co-planning time. It also is essential for the professionals to build relationships in order to build trust. Whenever possible co-teachers should choose to work together rather than be thrown together in scheduling roulette.

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