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Five Tips for Collaboration

By Beth Kelly and Kathryn Caprino
 | Feb 09, 2016

91459381_x300Many language arts teachers are not fully prepared for the type of collaboration expected of them in their first years of teaching. Though teacher education programs may have discussed collaboration or teachers may have encountered it during their student teaching, learning how to collaborate with an educator with whom instructional responsibilities are shared can be quite a process for novice language arts teachers. In this article, we, former coworkers and collaborators, share five tips for collaboration. We created these tips based on what we learned during one fantastic collaborative year in a co-taught inclusion sixth grade language arts classroom.

  1. Get to know one another professionally. It can be intimidating or stressful to share a classroom with someone you do not know, but remember your coteacher might be just as intimidated as you are. Find time to sit down and talk before the year begins. Although knowing your coteacher on a personal level is ideal, you must develop a professional relationship with him or her. Share a little about yourselves and figure out teaching styles and preferred in-class and out-of-class communication methods. Remain open to continuing to develop a communicative, working relationship with your coteacher as the year progresses.
  2. Look at students’ accommodations together. After getting to know your collaborator, it is important to take some time to examine and review students’ IEPs. This ensures both of you will be familiar with not only the specific accommodations but how they relate to the language arts content and the effect particular disabilities may have on students’ progress in the curriculum. Talk about how upcoming classroom activities or assignments can be adapted for student needs.
  3. Plan together, with the end in mind, during weekly planning meetings. You and your coteacher should have shared responsibility for not only course planning but also its instructional design and implementation. Universal design or backward design of lessons and units helps both teachers meet all student needs and makes sure students are not left out. Both teachers’ formative assessments will allow for planning adjustments to be made. Be flexible with the instruction. Meeting at least once a week is vital to effective collaboration and student outcomes.
  4. Share teaching responsibilities. You and your coteacher should both be responsible for portions of lesson delivery. What you and your coteacher will teach may be fixed or change from week to week based on teaching styles and strengths. Whereas shared planning helps embed accommodations naturally within lessons, shared teaching sends students the message they have two equal teachers who care about their success. When each teacher assumes the role of teacher, the collaborators and the students win. Each collaborator feels a shared responsibility for teaching, which allows for more effective discussions around planning and teaching. Students then receive accommodations in an organic way.
  5. Think about how accommodations can help all students. Sometimes language arts teachers are not aware that accommodations can help students with and without exceptionalities. There is no rule against using the accommodations with any student in the classroom. They may be used to support, differentiate, and meet the needs of all students in the classroom. This is just another example of why planning and implementing instruction together as a team are important parts of co-teaching. Collaboration genuinely seeks to help and support all student learning. That’s the true magic of collaboration!

These tips can help your next collaborative teaching experience. Our experiences revealed that collaboration in the language arts classroom decreases the chance students—with or without IEPs—feel marginalized. Each of us felt a shared responsibility for the planning and teaching of our co-taught language arts course and grew as teachers because of this. But, more important, our students benefitted from our commitment to true collaboration in the language arts classroom.  

Beth Kelly Beth Kelly is currently serving as Program/Compliance Specialist for Dare County Schools in North Carolina, and she continues to teach math part time to children with various degrees and types of disabilities in middle grades. Beth earned her Maed from East Carolina University in Learning Disabilities in 2005 and is certified as a National Board Exceptional Needs Specialist/Early Childhood through Young Adult. Kathryn Caprino is a clinical assistant professor in English education at the University of Florida. She teaches children’s literature and English education methods courses and observes student teachers. Kathryn was a middle and high school English teacher.

 

3 comments

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  1. <a href="http://yanasurya.com/">pallet plastik</a> | May 09, 2016
    The article you have shared here very awesome. I really like and appreciated your work. I read deeply your article, the points you have mentioned in this article are useful. I must try to follow these points and also share others. Mate this is a very nice blog here. I wanted to comment & say that I enjoyed reading your posts & they are all very well written out. You make blogging look easy lol I’ll attemp to start a blog later today and I hope it’s half as good as your blog! Much success to you!
  2. Kathryn C | Apr 02, 2016
    Thank you, Marry. I appreciate your kind remarks! I hope to take a look at your article, too. 
  3. Marry James | Mar 30, 2016
    Thank you for your advice. If to follow them, collaboration should be successful.  I find any tips to be useful and necessary that is why I write some tips for students as a Former Admissions Board member on, for example, What Matters Most in MBA Admissions. This will definitely help students to revise for MBA Admissions rules.

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