Over the last two years, Richards School staff, and the district as a whole, have focused on creating inclusive practices through the introduction of co-teaching classrooms. Currently at Richards, we would like to highlight two collaborative education teams in which the regular education teachers, speech therapists, and special education teachers collaborate in planning, teaching, and evaluating student performance in the area of English Language Arts. Working in conjunction with an external coach, these teachers explore different teaching approaches in meeting a variety of student needs within the general education classroom. Throughout the week, pairs of teachers are in the classroom actively teaching and available to all students.
The following includes observations by teachers who are implementing the co-teaching model this year:
- In co-teaching classrooms, we have been able to provide a variety of groupings based on the students' current level of learning, potential gaps and learner characteristics. Our groupings are flexible based on this information. Through the co-teaching model, all students in the classroom view adults as teachers, rather than helpers.
- At times, the class is split in half and the same lesson is taught to each group. Having a smaller group allows us to give more individual attention and afford students a greater opportunity to participate.
Other times, the groups are individualized to meet the children's diverse needs. For students who have already mastered a skill, we extend their learning. Another group may require more guided practice in order to do the skill. A third group may need direct instruction in order to learn the skill.
- At times, students receive one-to-one instruction while others are doing independent work. With having two teachers in the room, many more students are receiving the one-to-one attention moving them individually to the next level.
These are a few examples of the groupings we are using in the classroom. The flexibility that co-teaching offers allows us to provide specially designed instruction and meet a variety of learner needs. Student needs met by a speech therapist are also addressed in the use of flexible groups and carefully designed instruction.
Collaboration between teachers has allowed special education and speech teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum. Likewise, the regular education teachers state they are better able to recognize, understand, and meet individual student needs.
Students have shared some of these thoughts on co-teachers in the classroom:
“I think co-teaching benefits me because if I did not understand what one teacher was saying, the other teacher would have another explanation.”
“I like alternative teaching (one of the models used in co-teaching) because you learn what’s your skill level and you learn better.”
“With co-teaching there are some fun activities that you could not do with one teacher. This kept me focused!”
“This combines two teachers’ knowledge to help us learn. We also get some more 1-1 time with the teacher.”