Co-Teaching: Sharing is Caring

Today I want to talk a bit about co-teaching. I have already tweeted about it, and it seems like different teachers have a different understanding of what co-teaching is, so I decided to expand on it.

Classification
Based on my personal experience and some comments from other teachers on Twitter, I came up with this basic classification based on the nature of the actual teaching process (feel free to add more):
1. Independent
Two or more teachers share the same class/course, but teach different parts of it on different days. Quite popular in universities across the world. I had some courses like that (e.g., Scandinavian Historical and Cultural Topics or Scandinavian Literature) in the UoE. I guess the planning should be done collaboratively, but teaching is more or less independent, so that is why I called it that.
2. Passive
Two or more teachers share the same class/course, one is teaching, others are observing and probably making comments if asked. Never experienced it as a learner but did do it as a teacher. Even though the other co-teachers are present in the classroom, their roles are minimised; therefore, they are passive.
3. Symbiotic
Two or more teachers are sharing the same lesson. It means they teach the same lesson together swapping or sharing the stages. Experienced it as a learner during CELTA course and did it as a teacher last August and this week. This one is my ultimate favourite, so this entry will focus on it rather than the previous two.

Teaching Context
I am teaching within a unified curriculum which means that forty teachers are teaching the same lesson at the same time but in different classrooms to different students. Therefore, it is relatively easy to implement symbiotic co-teaching. While there is no opportunity for it during the semester, the so-called Repeating Course (RC) (a special course offered during holidays for those students who failed the regular course in the previous year) often involves classes being combined (due to low attendance) so teachers end up being assigned to the same – newly combined – class. While most teachers choose to implement passive co-teaching and teach every other lesson, my co-teacher and I went for symbiotic co-teaching and enjoyed it a lot.

What We Did
We had to teach the last part of the RC, i.e., five lessons. The first lesson was a review lesson, and since we were new to the students (the previous parts were taught by different instructors), we had to include a getting-to-know-you stage. The review lesson was followed by two regular lessons, one review lesson, and one final test lesson. We decided to do symbiotic co-teaching for the first review lesson, second review lesson, and final test lesson. Two regular lessons were co-taught passively (the main reason behind that decision was that we wanted to observe each other teaching a regular lesson from beginning till the end). Here is how our lesson outlines looked:

co-teaching

Review in a form of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was our tech innovation. My co-teacher had a template with sound and animation, and we decided to try it out. I came up with some questions related to the skills we were teaching, and my co-teacher added some extra questions and inserted them into the template. For the activity, students were divided into two groups; each group had a small whiteboard, a marker, and a tissue. They would write the answers on the board trying to meet the time limit (5 seconds for easy questions, then 8, 10, and 15 upon achieving the threshold, i.e., the amount in white).
Fishbowl in Lesson 12 is an activity in which student observe each other and then give feedback to their peers.

Reflection
For symbiotically co-taught lessons, we literally shared the stages and were giving instructions together. While students were doing the tasks, we were monitoring and then giving feedback adding to each other’s words. Together, we were able to give more accurate and detailed feedback.
Although our approaches to teaching skills were somewhat different, we did not have any conflicts or misunderstandings; instead, we managed to combine our strengths and techniques and deliver more effective lessons.
An important thing for co-teaching is for teachers to get along with each other both on a personal and professional level. It does not mean they have to share the same teaching beliefs and teaching principles, but they have to be ready to try new things and learn from each other. Only in this case, I believe, co-teaching will be beneficial for both teachers and students.

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The Things Nobody Teaches You

This post is inspired by Sandy Millin’s and Mark’s posts here and here on the same topic.

Here it is, my own list of things I wish I were taught before starting my job.

Manual double-sided printing
In some cases, like when your office printer is not smart and modern enough, you might need to do double-sided printing manually. It’s not as difficult as it seems. I just had to mess up once or twice before I figured out how to put the sheet back into the paper tray so that the other side print was situated the way I wanted. Easy-peasy!
I wish I did not have to waste the paper though.

Feel free to break the rules
The one rule you remember best after doing your CELTA is not to do things any other way apart from that way you’ve been taught. A year and a half after finishing my CELTA I was still using those massive and detailed lesson plans for every single lesson I taught. It only happened by accident that two weeks ago I realised I didn’t need them anymore. I forgot to print out my lesson plan and had to teach without it. It was much easier than I expected (I should thank the unified curriculum with prescribed lesson structure for this). Now my lesson plans are as minimalistic as possible:

LP_after_edI still have no idea why I haven’t tried it earlier. Habit is second nature indeed…

Frist aid kit
Always bring a bottle of water and painkillers with you into the classroom. Ladies will understand.

In the office
Make sure to get tissues. You might also want to have an infinite stock of plastic folders, sticky notes and paper clips. Oh, and rubber bands!

4-colour pen
IT’S A MUST! If it also has a pencil and eraser in it, it becomes invaluable. Luckily, Japan has them everywhere 🙂

Teaching university students
University students are unique learners that have both teenager and young adults characteristics combined, which means that while you can expect a generally more mature attitude, it’s still worth adding some funny pictures and game elements (like o-hajiki, for example).

Magic in the Classroom

This post is inspired by Zhenya’s post on livening up the classroom’s standard routines.

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  1. Post-it notes: The way I use them is not different from the ways described by other teachers. For example, when I want my students to write a possible topic for a discussion, I use these sticky notes. Then we stick them to the desk, and students are able to draw a circle on them voting for the topic they like the most. I also use them as a seta arrangement tool: by writing numbers (1 and 2) and letters (A and B) it’s possible to multiply the number of different seat arrangement combinations.
  2. Dices: I love board games, and I wish I could let my students play it more often… The last lesson of our course is a good opportunity to have some fun, so there’s always a board game at the end, and these colourful wooden dices are irreplaceable!
  3. The Bomb: It’s my ultimate favourite muhaha. I LOVE how students react when they realise it ACTUALLY makes the ticking sound. I remember one student dropped it when it ‘exploded’ in her hands. However, despite this incident, they all laughed and seemed to enjoy (especially boys). For those who don’t recognise where this beauty comes from, check Pass the Bomb board game 🙂 The bomb is an amazing tool to liven up any review activity (e.g., vocabulary, FL, grammar, etc.).
  4. Masking tape: Every lesson, my students fill in self-reflective check-sheets and set a goal for the second discussion. After the second discussion, they check if they achieved their goals or not and then stick the check-sheets into their textbooks. To make this process a bit more exciting (and to reward my students for the work they’ve done) I give them some cute masking tapes like these two. Sometimes I bring thematic stickers like Christmas stickers, etc.
  5. Some strange tiny objects: What are they??! Technically, these are the rubbers but in my classroom, they become chips that my students use when they play board games. I usually let students choose which ‘chip’ they want to use, and these three are the ultimate favourites (the fish-looking one is actually taiyaki, Japanese pastry snack). The others are mochi, onigiri, bamboo, tomato, melon, and aubergine.
  6. Timer: I use it so that I don’t have to depend on watch / clock. First of all, I HATE having anything on my wrists. Second, I don’t like the necessity of constantly checking my phone to end an activity on time. The timer is the easiest solution to these problems 🙂 Just don’t forget to change the battery when the time comes! And the beeping sound it makes when the time is up helps you to catch your students’ attention quickly.
  7. O-hajiki: All Japanese kids used to play this game where they have to hit one glass stone with the other, and whoever gets closest to the ‘main’ stone gets more points (or something like that). Whenever I take the bags with these stones out, students get excited and say ‘nostalgic!’. I use them as chips to cover some phrases in the check-sheets so that students (and I) could keep track on their FL use. The only drawback is that some students (usually boys) try to use o-hajiki the way they used it when they were children so make sure to keep an eye on those students who get too nostalgic and excited.

 

This is it! I hope to see your lists as well 😉