Monday, November 2, 2015

Collaborative Teaching

I have this idea, but it requires my district to spend money.  Like hiring-an-additional-math-teacher kind of money.  So, I had better come up with a convincing argument to see my idea come to fruition.

My idea:
I have this idea to change the way we schedule and group students in math class.  I would like to try a pilot program with CP Algebra 1 (they are the students who have to take our state exams).  The students would have their Algebra class all scheduled at the same time.  This way we could easily switch up classes, groups, activities, lessons, etc.

For example, all the CP Algebra 1 students take a pre-test on a certain topic.  From there the teachers can plan how to proceed.  They could regroup the students homogeneously.  One teacher could take the students who scored low on the topic and need more assistance, another teacher could take the 'middle students' and work with them, and another teacher could take the students who seem to know what they're doing and work on enrichment.  They could also regroup the students heterogeneously.  The teachers could groups students so that there is one strong student in each group.

Assuming the total amount of students isn't too large, we could hold a whole group lesson/activity in the LGI room (Large Group Instruction).  I see review games like kahoot or socrative taking place and each teacher could play a role during these activities.

We have SBG and RTI in our district and I believe this model would integrate seamlessly with these two initiatives.  Those students who are not successful on a topic could be grouped together and provided more support.  Those who are successful can work on a project or activity to gain a deeper understanding.

There's also the option for research.  Teachers could regroup students as evenly as possible and complete different lessons/activities on the topic and compare results to see which method was most successful.

We know that students are more engaged in their education when they have more control over it.  The teacher could create lessons/activities and allow students to pick which one(s) that want to participate in.

Why an Additional Math Teacher?

If this were to be done correctly, the teachers involved would need time to collaborate.  Usually, when we ask for something like this we are told that we could be scheduled the same prep period.  It sound greedy when we say that we can't give up our prep period every day to collaborate with each other, but it's true that we some individual time too.  We need our prep periods to call parents, make copies, talk with other colleagues, attend meetings, grade papers, create lessons for our other classes, and attend to other paperwork.  I also use my prep period to stay connected to other teachers online through twitter, blogs, and other online PD.

In my district, we teach 6 classes and have 1 prep.  I'm proposing 5 classes, 1 prep, and 1 collaborative period for the teachers involved in this program.  Out of those 5 classes, 1 is the collaborative class.  Then of course, since there are multiple teachers teaching 1 less class, there is a need for another teacher to pick up those classes.

The question begs, "What will the teachers do during this collaborative period?"
The teachers will create lesson plans, activities, and projects.  They will review benchmark exams, pre-tests, exams, and other formative assessments.  They will share successes and failures in order to move forward.  They will work together to create dynamic students groups.  They will hold parent-teacher conferences together.  Notice the common denominator here: TOGETHER!!

Have any of you participated in something like this?  Can you poke some holes for me?


  1. A colleague and I did something similar. We had Algebra students who were low performing and had an extra period of math. We would plan together, and switch off kids depending on what skills they were struggling with, to allow differentiation with lessons and so kids could see different ways of teaching.

    It worked well for us, I love the idea of doing this with the entire CP Algebra group.

  2. My former school was a middle school on a block schedule with 85 minutes of common planning for all teachers in one grade level. 45 minutes are individual time; the rest can be mandated by admin for meetings etc. We were expected to engage in collaborative planning with the additional time, at least a few days per week. This model was/is incredibly useful for teachers to plan together but also carve out time for the individual tasks you mention. One grade level did the kind of regrouping you mention. There are definitely some challenges as it comes to the logistics of taking attendance, grading assignments, and the like if students are moving fluidly between classrooms, but it can be worked out with open communication and a plan.

    The high school where I student taught a decade ago assigned a second math teacher to each Algebra I class. The Algebra I test used to be my state's graduation requirement, so it was important for students to be supported in that course. Some of the Algebra I classes also had a special educator, so when I student taught there were 3-4 adults in every Algebra room: the teacher assigned to the class, the supporting math teacher, the special educator, and me as a student teacher who took over for the teacher assigned to the class. That school had phenomenal results, something like 92% pass rate just a few years after the test was brought in. The coteaching allowed a knowledgeable math teacher to catch up students who were absent, provide reteaching to those who were not mastering content, or offer an alternate approach during the lesson.

    How much bigger would your class sizes be if you had the structure you want without hiring the extra teacher? (Just a thought!)

  3. When I taught sixth grade in Catholic School, the two sixth grades and the fifth grade all taught math at the same time. We swapped out kiddos who would fit better into a different grade, so a couple of fifth graders came my way and a couple of mine slipped over to fifth grade.
    We had a pretty darned strong culture of "everybody's a learner" and we worked on it... otherwise "eww, you're going to the stupid class!" and the other issues with any kind of "ability" grouping would be coming into play. We really liked it.
    Yesterday somebody on my twitter feed linked to an Edutopia article about the same kind of thing and it was reaping benefits.
    I do think you have to be mindful of the issues true to any kind of "grouping" but I have *always* felt like it was totally worth making sure you were working with a kiddo *where they were* with math, and I just couldn't always find that perfect "everybody will learn no matter where they're starting from" lesson.

  4. This sounds a lot like the PLC cycle. Our teachers have a PLC meeting once every 8 school days (we're on a 4 day schedule, they meet every other day 3) to go over student data.

    We also have a school wide intervention period (45 minutes) that are math interventions. Students are mostly grouped within their grade level, into three or four groups, but sometimes they move between grade levels. Our math and ELA curriculum's are accelerated, so the intervention period is usually grade level standards (because they take their grade level state tests).

    It's worked out well for us! We've also sent at least one person from each grade level to PLC training (through Solution Tree).

  5. We're moving to a similar model for this semester and I agree with what was written above re being careful with groupings that can be interpreted by students as being due to ability. My hope is that the groupings will be switched up frequently enough and that students will be grouped by such a large variety of criteria that there won't be a stigma for any grouping. I also worry about culture - when you have your own class and it's just you and them all year, it's a little community that has its inside jokes, trust, and growth together. I worry how to make sure that happens when there are larger numbers of students, two teachers, and frequent reshuffling. Any ideas on how to create and support classroom culture in this more dynamic environment? Good luck and keep us posted!