Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vertical Demonstration Day

Observation of colleagues and their best practices, in my opinion, is one of the best ways for teachers to reflect on their own classroom instruction and gain valuable insight into ways they can grow and deepen their own practices. This was reaffirmed for me, again, last week during our fourth Vertical Demonstration Day.

Several weeks ago, I sent an evite out to teachers to join me in observing in two co-teach classrooms with a focus on small group instructional practices. We had fifteen subs available to cover classrooms, and within 24 hours I had thirty teacher request to participate. I filled the slots first come first serve, however kept a list of others who showed interest. Those teachers will have first dibs on the next round of Vertical Demonstrations five weeks from now.

The topic selection, co-teach/small groups, was selected because our school currently has eighteen co-teach classrooms. The teachers have participated at the district level in co-teach training as mandated by the state of Florida, and have participated in a co-teach training with a pair of our own experienced co-teach duos.

As part of our training, teachers learned about many co-teach strategies, and discussed the strategies that would provide the best student results and smallest student to teacher ratios. They discussed circumstances in which the five different co-teach models would be utilized successfully. They also learned some advantages to co-teaching and discussed some things that might stand in the way of a favorable experience. Working through a set of guiding questions, they learned that communication between partners is one key to success.

At Chets Creek, we've had some very successful co-teach matches, and some that simply put-weren't perfect. As I talk to co-teachers and walk classrooms, I can see that in some areas they shine and in others they are still grappling with the implementation. In particular, I pay attention to whether or not small group instruction is being utilized consistently. Though, most of the time our teachers do well co-teaching, there are times when I've witnessed tag team teaching. Co-teaching is not the opportunity to teach half day, rather an opportunity for two adults to flexibly teach all day with one of the five models.
Regardless of how long some of our teachers have co-taught, I know some still wonder, "When should we co-teach in tandem?" "When should we split the children into two groups?" "When should one teach and the other pull small groups?" "How can we best maximize our planning time together?" "Is it best for us to co-teach with a teacher in our content area or best to teach with someone in the opposite content area?"

To help answer the teachers' questions and knowing that our school capacity will likely raise beyond 139%, and we will continue to add co-teach classrooms, I found this the most pressing issue for a demonstration day. To make sure student achievement is maximized, we must continue to discuss what is best practice in a co-teach classroom, and ensure that proven practices are in place. I believe that co-teaching done well raises student achievement and brings deepened teacher satisfaction.

Therefore, when selecting co-teach models for our 10 am to 2 pm Vertical Demonstration Day, I knew I had to take observers to see Vicky Cole and Christy Constande in their third grade ELA classroom, and to Ashley Russell and Melissa Ross' second grade classroom to observe an EDC and Math Investigations lesson. These two classrooms offer a model of co-teaching that is systematic and balances tandem co-teaching with the pulling of small strategic groups. They are a model that exudes planning and communication, one that others would be inspired by.
As we debriefed the lessons, it became very apparent that my CCE colleagues felt the same way I do. The classrooms provided the perfect learning opportunity for others and the springboard for deepened collegial dialogue on co-teaching and small group instruction.

1 comment:

dayle timmons said...

This was such a good day. You could easily see the advantage of two teachers in a classroom. It would be interesting to go into each classroom of the teachers that observed and see what changes have actually been made because of the day as they have reflected on their learning! My guess is that this type of professional development provides the MOST learning for teachers and eventual change.