I have heard about the power of co teaching for some time now, but I have only had the opportunity to experience co teaching first hand in recent weeks. I am sold! Co teaching mathematics with my teaching partner and Family of Schools Math Coach challenges me and engages me in authentic context based professional learning. For those who are not familiar with co teaching, co teaching is not synonymous with team teaching. In team teaching, the students basically have two teachers teaching them a lesson. Each teacher takes a turn leading a specific part of the lesson. When co teaching, one teacher is the Lead Teacher and the other is the Co-teacher. The Lead Teacher teaches all parts of the lesson and the co-teacher is the “kid watcher” as well as “teacher watcher”. For example, today I was the co teacher for a third grade number sense lesson. In addition to paying close attention to the strategies my students were using to solve an addition word problem that required them to add two large numbers, I was also paying close attention to the probing questions the Lead Teacher asked the students.
Valuable learning occurs at a number of levels. First, I value the opportunity to observe my students closely, recording every noteworthy observation, what challenged them, student “aha” moments, and evidence of understanding or confusion. I am free to concentrate fully on my formative assessment. On another level, I am also gathering data on the questions and instructional strategies the Lead Teacher used while teaching the lesson. During the debrief (which usually occurs during lunch or a common planning time) we first focus on what the students were doing. We assess the problem we presented to students, analyze the different types of responses students provided and we determine where we are going to go next. For example today, we concluded that our students are ready to move on to adding and subtracting larger numbers. We also noticed that many students use place value algorithms to solve addition math problems, but they don’t understand why they are “carrying a 1 over.” We decide that we need to review grouping and tens and ones with my class.
After we have decided on our next instructional steps. We then reflect on the Lead Teacher’s instruction. How were the questions? Is there a different way we could ask students a particular question? How might we phrase questions in our next lesson? On the days that I am part of a co teaching experience, I leave for home feeling confident about where I am headed in my math instruction and committed to following through on the next steps that were collaboratively planned. For the next co teaching lesson, teaching roles will be reversed and I will be the Lead Teacher.
My teaching partner and I both value this professional learning and instructional strategy. We are now looking for creative timetabling ways to make co teaching part of our literacy program as well. If you have an opportunity to participate in a co teaching experience, I strongly encourage you to go for it!