What is Co-Teaching?
Co-teaching is basically when more than one educator works to organize instruction, implement lessons, and assess the same group of students, sharing the same classroom. This can take many forms, such as student teachers and supervising teachers.
According to resources from the Curry School for Education, there are five different formats for co-teaching:
- One Teach/One Support (one teacher teaches, another teacher supports the instruction)
- Station Teaching (students work at stations with a different teacher leading different small groups)
- Team Teaching (teachers share the role of instructor)
- Alternative Teaching (one teacher instructs whole group while another works with a small group on related content)
- Parallel Teaching (class is split into two groups, each teacher implements same lesson to groups)
If you are teaching in the 21st century, you have most likely experienced one or more of these scenarios.
Let’s Examine How These Might Look for Arts Integration and STEAM
In the context of arts-integrated and STEAM learning co-teaching could be that an arts teacher and a teacher of another content area are working together.
Perhaps the arts teacher is modeling the artistic process for the students and the other teacher is there to support by helping students stay focused or by passing out supplies. This would be a wonderful way for the arts teacher to help the other teacher become more confident in using the art form for that lesson. Think of this One Teacher/One Support example as a model lesson being performed by the art teacher in a real classroom with real kids. That is embedded professional development! Talk about working smarter not harder!
Another example could be that a class is working on a very specific arts-integrated lesson. They are broken into three groups. One group is working with the arts teacher on understanding the artistic process while another group is working with the other teacher on the other content. There might be a station where students are working independently on the art project, implementing their learning from the teacher stations.
Team teachers could be teaching a math concept alongside an arts concept. Think of both teachers using an art print to teach. They play off of each other’s teaching to show that the art print demonstrates both mathematical concepts and artistic concepts.
Imagine two teachers sharing a classroom where the art teacher is pulling small groups of students to give feedback, to differentiate, and to reteach the art skills that students are using in whole group. The other teacher would be monitoring and directing the whole group, ensuring the other content wasn’t getting lost in the creative process. This is a strong example of alternative teaching.
Finally, and this might be my favorite form of co-teaching for arts integration, the art teacher takes one half of the class and teaches the art skills students will need for the creation of artwork for a specific lesson while the other teacher works on the other content. Then, they swap groups. Each teacher teaches the same lesson to each half of the class. This allows each student the opportunity to benefit from a lower ratio of teacher to students. Parallel teaching could also take the form of both teachers teaching the same exact lesson to only one half of the class without switching. In that case, each teacher would teach both the art and other content to only one group.
3 Tips for Success in Co-Teaching
1- Be creative in planning.
Yes, it would be wonderful if you and your partner teacher could have a whole day to plan the perfect lesson. Imagine coffee and zero interruptions.
That was nice. Now, back to reality. You will probably never have that kind of time for planning. So, get creative. Google Docs is a great place to collaborate on a lesson plan. Both of you can type into the document as well as make suggestions for edits and comment. I have used this with a lot of teachers. We use the suggestions feature to correct the little things about our plan. Then, we use the comments feature to tell each other what we like or think could be better.
2- Keep your eyes on the prize.
Even if planning is difficult considering how little time is in a teacher’s day, don’t let your desire to co-teach an arts-integrated or STEAM lesson get lost.
Stay focused. Text your co-teacher, talk about it at lunch or in the hallways after you walk the bus riders to their afternoon pick up spot. Just keep the conversation going however you can. It is easy to sigh and throw your hands up if the beginning stages of planning are difficult, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, you will be so thankful you did. Your students will reap massive benefits!
3- Pool your resources.
If one teacher has only a few pairs of scissors, and the other has several extra. Share! Don’t be afraid to ask to borrow materials, and don’t be afraid to share what you have.
Schools are supposed to be communities. Every teacher should be in the business of doing what is best for every student in the school. If you waited until you had millions of dollars to buy materials for arts integration and STEAM, you’d be waiting forever. Additionally, pool your resources of knowledge. Learn from each other. Arts integration and STEAM are both models for teacher growth as well as student growth. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about what you need and seek creative ways to get it. That goes for tangible resources as well as professional growth.
What are your thoughts on co-teaching? Have you had any experiences co-teaching with the arts? Let’s chat! Leave me a comment. I’ll be checking in regularly.
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Here is another post from Education Closet about co-teaching where Amy Traggianese shares about working in a HOT School.
Amanda Koonlaba, Ed. S. is an educator and educational consultant with over 12 years of experience teaching both visual art and regular education. Her career has been driven by the power of the arts to reach all learners. She is a published author and frequent speaker/presenter at education conferences. Amanda was named the Elementary Art Teacher of the Year for the state of Mississippi in 2016 and received the Arts Integration Service Award from the Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative (Mississippi Arts Commission) in 2015. She holds an Elementary and Middle Childhood Art certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Amanda is on a mission to ensure every student in America has access to a high-quality arts-based education. She blogs at SimpleArtClass.com