and Conquer: How to use any extra help you can get
A unique relationship exists in collaborative teaching classrooms,
and I am fortunate to work in one at P.S. 126 in Manhattan. My colleague
Sandra Weisel, a certified special education teacher, and I share
a second grade inclusion classroom. We share the teaching of short
whole class lessons and then break into small groups for workshop
periods in reading, writing and math each day. Sandra and I also
work with two paraprofessionals, and often have a student teacher
in our classroom. We are the living, breathing example of Senator
Clinton's book, It Takes a Village.
I'm writing this how-to for all the collaborative team teachers
who can't seem to organize and use all the adults in their classrooms
to their full potential. I hope that I can share a few tips to help
you stay organized and ultimately see rapid and steady growth in
your students' achievement.
1. Get to know each of the students in your classroom.
Understand their strengths in reading, writing and math. Chart them
and group them according to needs. You can find further information
on this subject in my two previous articles:
the Talk: How to look at and learn from student writing work
the Walk: How to look at and learn from student writing work.
Another resource is Lisa Peterson's articles on assessment,
Your Students as Learners.
2. Get to know the adults in your classroom. Whether it is reading
aloud to struggling readers, organizing the grade level book closet,
calming down a distressed student, or tutoring one on one, you need
to know each person's unique strengths as well as situations in
which s/he does not feel comfortable. For example, if one of your
teaching assistants speaks a second language, s/he might be able
to assist a small group of students who are learning English. S/he
may also want to help translate parent newsletters or conferences.
3. After you make small groups for reading, writing and/or math,
match up each group's strengths and weaknesses with the adult that
best suits the children's needs. Although there will be some initial
shifting based on group dynamics, try to keep the groups and teaching
assignments consistent. The teachers and the children appreciate
this kind of stability.
4. Arrange a common planning time where everyone who works in the
classroom can get together to go over a weekly plan. This communication
is key to the success of your classroom. Spending some time in advance
will save you time later. The more you communicate and explain during
the planning meeting, the less you will be interrupted to explain
during the class period.
5. Schedule a set time every two weeks or so to meet with your teaching
assistants individually and ask them how they feel about their current
role in the classroom. Check in to make sure they feel like they
have enough responsibility, or if they feel like they cannot do
something that you have planned. I have found these check-in sessions
to be extremely effective in our classroom. If we are all on the
same page, that confidence and consistency has a positive affect
on the children.
Please feel free to e-mail
with any additional questions!