Co-Teaching: How To Make It Work From Day 1

Monday, June 27, 2022

Blending two different teaching styles to create one cohesive classroom can be tricky (to say the least!). But - cultivating a positive, productive, and comfortable relationship with your co teacher or resource teacher will not only make your life more enjoyable - your students will also benefit from the learning experiences created by a high functioning team.

Building this partnership does take time, dedication, flexibility, and consistency - but it is well worth the extra effort! Here are some real tips on how you and your co teacher can make it work (and thrive) from day 1.

Co-Teaching in Special Education Classrooms

How Does Co-Teaching Work?

In a co-teaching partnership, a specialist or special education teacher is paired with a general education teacher to provide extra support to students with learning disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs) and other groups of students who may require additional accommodations. Unlike other special education teacher jobs, these students are not pulled out to receive services. Instead, the special education teacher provides support along side their gen-ed partner.

What Are The Different Co-Teaching Models?

Fortunately, you have options! There are several different ways that you can structure your co-teaching relationship so that both students and teachers are comfortable, organized, and productive.

- One Teaches, One Observes - In this co-teaching model, one teacher is directly instructing students and teaching the lesson - while the other observes students and assesses their understanding of the content.

- One Teaches, One Assists - This model is extremely common. Instead of observing student learning, the other teacher supports individual students in understanding lesson content.

- Parallel Teaching - Students are divided into two groups and lessons are facilitated simultaneously by both teachers. In this model, the co-teachers are delivering the same material - but may adjust the lesson to fit the needs of their group.

- Station Teaching - Students are split into small groups and rotate stations throughout the class period. During this time, both teachers are delivering content and actively supporting students at each station.

- Alternative Teaching - In an alternative model, one teacher (typically the general educator) instructs the bulk of the students - while the other teaches and supports a smaller group of students based on their individual needs and learning level.

How Does Co-Teaching Affect Special Education Lesson Plans?

No matter what co-teaching model you choose, having another teacher in the classroom does impact your lesson planning process. But - this can be a valuable asset! Co-teacher teams are typically given time during the week to plan their lessons together to ensure that both parties are on the same page. Often, the general educator provides an outline of the lesson - while the special educator adjusts and adds support for specific students.

How To Cultivate a Successful Co-Teaching Partnership

It’s not impossible! Here are some real ways you can build a functional, friendly, and efficient relationship with your special education co teacher.

Get To Know Each Other - Personally & Professionally

Respect is critical for any type of partnership - and that starts with getting to know your counterpart on a deeper level. Understanding your co-teacher’s goals, habits, and personal preferences will ensure that you can both effectively communicate if difficult situations arise. To start, invite your partner to lunch and inquire about their hobbies, why they got into teaching, and what they want to accomplish in the next few years. Who knows? You might just make a new friend!

Map Out Individual Roles & Responsibilities

Much like your students, your co-teaching partnership will thrive if both parties are clear on expectations! At the beginning of the school year, take time to clearly define who does what, how they do it, and when they do it. By clearly defining these responsibilities, you can prevent future miscommunications and frustrations that may arise from overstepping boundaries. Even better? Create a weekly checklist or use a task manager tool to schedule and track important to-dos.

Did you know? TARA has a built-in task manager and meeting tracker designed specifically for Special Educators! Sign-up for a 30-day free trial today.

Plan As A Team

Two brains are better than one! In a co-teaching partnership, you have the unique opportunity to share planning responsibilities - and learn from each other’s expertise and past experiences. General educators tend to have a vast knowledge of curriculum and standards - while Special Educators bring individualized instruction to the table. Truly a dynamic duo! One study found that co-teachers will yield the best results by spending at least 15 minutes per day on co-planning (Dieker & Murawski, 2003).

Collaborate on lesson plans and stay on top of pacing with TARA - Sign up for a free trial today!

Communicate & Collaborate Often

Planning is a small piece to the puzzle - but there is much more to discuss! Creating a less formal way to chat about important topics (i.e., student behavior, upcoming school events) will ensure that you and your co-teacher are in sync and that nothing gets lost in translation. Some teacher teams communicate via text while others utilize tools like Voxer - a walkie-talkie app that sends real time voice recordings!

At the end of the day, you will be sharing a room with your co-teacher for an entire school year… so you might as well make the best of it! Cultivating this relationship may require extra time and energy, but you will find that you, your co teacher, and your students will benefit from your efforts.

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