What is Co-teaching and how do we implement it at SISD?

SISD is constantly on the bleeding edge of innovation when it comes to education. We’re proud of how we’re always ready to adapt and enhance new ways of learning to our repertoire, and recently, we’ve decided to extend  the co-teaching model to our KG1 and Grades 1 and 2 classes.

Earlier this month, SISD School leadership and language coordinators had a video conference with Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld of Molloy College, Rockville Centre, New York City. Dr. Honigsfeld teaches graduate courses in linguistics, ESL methodology, and cultural and linguistic diversity among others, and she co-authored an award-winning textbook called Collaboration and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners. Co-teaching is a powerful model for bilingual instruction that we have already adopted KG2 and SISD is looking forward to extend it.

What is co-teaching?

In co-teaching, every class has two teachers present at all times, working together to teach and guide the students. Teachers will collaborate and communicate to plan lessons that fit students’ needs, especially given that many students will have more exposure to one language than another. Based on our experience with co-teaching in the KG2 environment, co-teaching creates a unified classroom community where everyone has consistent input and teachers work together 100% of the time to ensure flow of learning.

In addition, Language Support will be provided for students using a personalised approach within the classroom, which has been proven to be more effective than simply pulling out students who need support. The dedicated language support team will continue to support the teachers and provide guidance.

What does it look like in the classroom?

In SISD, Language Arts classes will continue to be taught using the Week A/B rotation, with a highly personalised Targeted Teaching approach. One example is a French/German teacher working with the class, while the other teacher works with  some students to provide language support, by giving them targeted work in English.

In other classes, however, such as Math, Science, Social Sciences, and Moral Education, there are three approaches available to teachers.

The first is station teaching. Here, teachers break down the classroom into small groups, each identified by the language skills they’re targeting. Students are grouped by next steps and provided with different content accordingly.

The second is circuit teaching. This is a more student-led approach, which gives pupils more agency and direction over their learning. Students are grouped by next steps, and work collaboratively to achieve learning goals. Teachers rotate around the different groups to monitor understanding and engagement, as well as completion of tasks.

The third is parallel teaching. This method uses small groups that are based on language level. Here, both teachers provide the same content, but targeted towards their students’ needs.

The role of translanguaging

Through translanguaging, multilingual students employ all of their learned languages whenever they need to, smoothly flowing between two or more languages and using them in social settings. Here, students use their skills in one language to support another language, and the process happens seamlessly.

Because co-teaching employs both languages in a classroom, students who are taught with this methodology have a better understanding of meaning and content in each language that is learned.

What does this mean for teachers?

“Teacher collaboration is not an option: It’s a must!” begins Dr. Honigsfeld in Collaboration and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners. The principle indicates that when it comes to bilingual instruction, teachers can’t just be isolated into the languages and classes they teach.  Teachers work together to build conceptual understanding of language and build on each other’s strengths.

Co-teaching is a collaborative process, and as such, teachers will have to build professional relationships with each other, and must be equipped with professional reading material to help guide them along the process.

Some proposed changes that will help us adopt co-teaching include the implementation of “lab” classrooms, where teachers can learn from more experienced staff through peer observation. The leadership team plans to also work closely with teachers, parents, and students, to ensure that teachers and the community are equipped with knowledge and experience to implement this model effectively.

Dr. Honigsfeld herself suggested practical methods based on purposeful and thoughtful collaboration. Every teacher has their own strengths, their own language proficiencies and preferences. By encouraging these close collaborative relationships between teachers, they can support each other mutually, building on strengths and capitalizing on shared opportunities.

Next steps

SISD Leadership team has been working on the implementation of co-teaching, as well as programmes that will help current staff enter a collaborative mindset in the next school year. We aim for our students to develop their emotional well-being, their sense of belonging to the SISD community, and to acquire transferable language skills across both of their learned languages throughout the educational continuum. In turn, teachers will be able to learn from each other, and grow as educators together.

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