My favorite part of being a Literacy Coach is that I get to work side by side teachers in their classrooms. Recently, a vocabulary lesson reminded me of the power of co-teaching. Before launching a unit on character study, my colleague and I decided to create opportunities to expand her students’ character trait vocabulary. So, I took an old favorite lesson of mine and brought it to her classroom.
The lesson goes like this: we take a word like “nice” and “crack it open” or brainstorm synonyms. We then arrange the synonyms in a linear array. Students work in groups to decide where the words fit on a continuum from polite to loving (in this case). The teacher and I throw out scenarios such as “How would you describe a person who gives someone a hug when he is crying?” to help students consider the nuances of the word.
While I may have started teaching the lesson, the classroom teacher and I quickly fell into a rhythm of collaboration. We continuously listened in on student groups, guided them, checked in, conferred with one another and made adjustments along the way. The lesson was very fluid and flexible and felt like a lab or studio where we were working together to try out instructional approaches and adjust as we went along.
When it came time for students to share their word lists and discuss their decisions about their placement and understanding of the word, the classroom teacher suggested using Seesaw. This idea opened up a whole new way of sharing student work that I hadn’t considered. The teacher and I worked together to consider how to have students record their thinking and create folders in Seesaw allowing them to reference these lists in the future. While I had had some experience with Seesaw, working with the app in this way gave me the confidence to learn more and become a Seesaw Ambassador.
This experience reminds me that I am constantly learning from my teaching colleagues. While masters such as Janet Allen, Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown have helped me to develop my craft, the teachers I work with now equally have an impact.
Not only does collaboration increase our professional knowledge and therefore, positively impact the students we teach, it also has the potential to build our confidence and inspire us to try new instructional formats that we might not try alone.