Grade 7 students embarked on a novel study in their English class earlier this year - and they had not one, not two, but FOUR books to choose from.
“Co-teaching allows us to offer more choice for the novels,” says Grade 7 English teacher Laura Webster. “There’s no way I could read and know four books, but in a co-taught classroom I only have to worry about two.” With four book options, every student finds something that interests them - and that leads to more engagement.
This theme carries all the way up to Grade 12 English, where students have the choice to do an in-depth study of The Great Gatsby or The Handmaid’s Tale. “Students group themselves by interest, which makes for great conversations,” says teacher Heather Wright. “We’ve had some really interesting seminar discussions with this setup.”
Many students in Heather’s class, which she co-teaches with Stephanie Martino, are also completing AP coursework in preparation for writing their AP English exam. But with two teachers in the classroom, students who are not preparing for the exam can still benefit from the AP course material.
“Students can ‘opt in’ to the units that interest them,” Stephanie says. “In a co-taught class, they have the chance to go back and forth.”
With two teachers in the room, there’s also more opportunity to group students by readiness. For any given lesson, the class may start in a whole-group lecture, then divide into smaller subgroups based on their understanding of the concepts. One teacher can work with individuals or small groups that need support and reinforcement, while the other circulates between groups of students working independently.
For teachers, co-teaching has additional benefits. “We can make more efficient use of class time,” Heather says. “While I’m taking care of attendance and other administrative details, Stephanie can get the class started.”
Working directly with another teacher also provides valuable professional development opportunities. “I learn a lot from watching another teacher work,” says Laura Vlahos. “Laura [Webster] will use a teaching approach or classroom management strategy and I’ll think ‘I’ve never thought of that!’”