6 Co-Teaching Models That Can Positively Impact Your ClassroomAll Posts
Reviewed by Joshua Prieur, Ed.D.,
Written by Maria Kampen
Teachers! Prodigy's brand-new co-teaching tool is now available. Sign up for your free teacher account today to get started.
- Teaching Strategies
There’s a lot going on in your classroom — worksheets to grade, questions to answer and students working at different levels of understanding.
Having another educator standing next to you can help ease the burden and meet the unique challenges present in your group of students.
No matter what instructional strategies you use, there are lots of ways co-teaching can help you build an equitable and inclusive classroom. Keep reading to find the six ways you can use co-teaching to benefit you and your students.
Psst — Want an engaging learning tool that supports co-teaching in your elementary or middle school classroom? Check out Prodigy Math and Prodigy English for game-based skill practice. Plus, it’s free for teachers!
What is co-teaching?
Co-teaching is a classroom with two teachers who work together to plan lessons, deliver instruction and assess student learning.
Co-teaching is important for three reasons:
- It helps design inclusive classrooms, where students with disabilities and diverse learning needs can learn with their peers.
- Experienced teachers can mentor and train newer teachers, passing on their years of hard-earned wisdom in a way that benefits everyone.
- It allows teachers to spend more time with individual students, understand what they need to be successful and build positive relationships.
While co-teaching isn’t designed for every single situation, many educators have seen it improve their teaching and benefit their students.
The 6 co-teaching models for your classroom
Wondering what co-teaching could look like in your classroom? Let’s run through the six most popular methods, plus each model’s:
- Practical classroom application
As you’re reading, think of your classroom — the unique challenges, your students, and your co-teacher. Which one would work best for you?
1. Parallel teaching
Big classrooms can make it hard to effectively reach every student.
When done properly, parallel teaching divides the class into two smaller groups that are maximized for the success of every student.
Don’t use it to target high-achieving students versus those who need further instruction to reach mastery — that’s counterproductive for your teaching and for student morale. Design both groups to have a mix of learning levels in a way that supports students across the classroom.
- Differentiation for students who need it
- Easier to provide classroom and behavioral support
- Students receive more attention and enrichment in a smaller group
- Takes more time to plan collaboratively
- Needs intentional planning to make sure students in both groups get equal instruction
Both you and your co-teacher feel equally comfortable delivering a lesson on exponent rules, but you’re not sure you can get through all the content you need to cover in one lesson with such a large group of students.
Divide the class into groups of two and evenly distribute students at all levels of ability across both groups. During your lesson planning, agree on:
- How you’ll deliver the lesson
- How you’ll assess student progress
- What content you’re going to cover
- What time you’re going to end the lesson
- What activities you’ll use to reinforce key concepts
Deliver the lesson to your group, then debrief with your co-teacher to make sure every student has been able to achieve mastery. If there are still some struggling students, consider using station teaching or alternative teaching methods.
2. Station teaching
Station rotations are a classroom classic no matter what subject you’re teaching. And with co-teachers, it provides more opportunities for students to get small group instruction from both classroom teachers.
Set up multiple stations around the room — at least two — where each teacher can spend a set amount of time helping students complete tasks or providing small group instruction.
- Keeps students engaged with shorter, rotating tasks
- Allows teachers to cover more material in flexible groups
- Focuses instruction on smaller, more specific parts of the lesson
- Gives students small group instruction and more opportunities to practice skills
- Takes time to plan
- Requires student cooperation and behavior management
- Can make the classroom noisy, which could distract some learners
- Both teachers need to be content experts on what they’re teaching
You’re teaching a lesson to help kids practice phonemic awareness.
As you plan the activity, work with your co-teacher to determine:
- How success will be measured
- Which co-teacher will lead which station
- The exact skills and activities you want to cover in each station
After your lesson, set up three stations around the classroom with your co-teacher:
- A station where your co-teacher teacher delivers a small-group lesson that addresses a common trouble spot
- A station where students can log on to Prodigy English and independently play through an Assignment you set in your teacher dashboard
- A space for students to practice phoneme isolation and blending with flashcards, chart paper or other activities together with you
Need a refresher on how to send students an Assignment in Prodigy? Check out this video tutorial.
3. Team teaching
Two teachers at the front of the room makes learning twice as effective! At least, that’s the premise behind this model.
In team teaching, you and another teacher take turns presenting the lesson and interacting with students.
Although it can be tricky to coordinate at the start, it’s a great way to keep students engaged. It also plays to the skills of each instructor —whether they’re an experienced educator, new teacher, special education instructor or paraprofessional.
- Gives teachers an active role in classroom instruction
- Helps teachers receive feedback and learn from each other’s strategies
- Shows students how to collaborate and learn from different teaching styles
- Empowers both teachers to share their expertise and use different instructional strategies
- Requires more planning
- Can be tricky to get into the rhythm of teaching with someone else, especially if you’re used to teaching on your own
- Requires equal involvement from each teacher at all stages of the learning process — planning, instructing, checking for understanding and delivering assessments.
You’re planning an interdisciplinary lesson that connects a famous novel, like Pride and Prejudice, with a contemporary historical event like the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution. Each teacher should take the subject they have more expertise in.
Using a PowerPoint, multimedia presentation or lecture, take turns presenting. Focusing on a specific passage, draw out key aspects of the text, and your co-teacher can jump in to start student discussion on the text’s connection to the historical events they’ve been learning about.
Agree on a quick method to check understanding at the end of the lesson and measure success. Afterward, debrief about what went well and where you think you could both work better together.
4. Alternative teaching
Not every student learns at the same pace. Alternative teaching can help you and your co-teacher meet the needs of struggling or excelling students in a positive way.
Split the class into two groups — one larger group with students receiving general instruction, and a smaller group for more targeted practice.
While one teacher works with the larger group, circulating as necessary and delivering a lesson or completing a task, the other instructor works with the smaller group in a separate space to fill learning gaps.
- Students get small group support without being singled out
- Useful at different points in the lesson, from pre-teaching to assessment
- Teachers can use response to intervention techniques and provide enrichment
- Lets teachers focus their energy and resources on the students who need it most
- Need separate spaces for each group
- More planning required to make sure students don’t miss any vital instruction while they’re learning separately
List a small group of students who would benefit from a refresher on prerequisite skills. While one teacher goes through fraction activities with the larger group of students to reinforce what they’ve learned, the other teacher works with the small group to explain concepts they still struggle with.
After the lesson, debrief to make sure:
- Every student is ready to move on to the next topic
- Both of you accomplished what you needed to in your respective groups
- Any students who still need support are provided with one-on-one instruction
5. One teach, one observe
Sometimes an extra pair of eyes is exactly what you need in the classroom. And if you’re a new teacher, observing a more experienced instructor can be a useful way to learn about teaching strategies and classroom management.
In this model, one teacher delivers instruction and moves around the classroom while the other observes the lesson and student behavior. While the instructing teacher goes through the lesson, the observing teacher makes notes and gathers data to use in upcoming lessons.
- Easier to plan with fewer logistical details
- Gives teachers an objective view of what’s happening while they teach
- Can build teacher hierarchies in the eyes of students
- Doesn’t make full use of the co-teacher’s range of expertise
- Needs to be an intentional decision to collect focused data that informs future lesson planning
You’re trying out a new teaching method in your classroom, like gamification, and want to see how students respond to it. While one teacher leads the lesson, the other observes.
The observing teachers should be looking for:
- Student comprehension, particularly from students on a 504 or IEP
- Student engagement and behavior. Were students focused on the lesson? Did they seem confused? Were they bored?
- How well students understood the topic, how quickly they finished assignments and how many questions they had
6. One teach, one assist
Similar to the method above, this co-teaching model leverages the expertise and direct instruction skills of just one teacher. But instead of observing, the other teacher rotates through the classroom and helps students struggling with the material.
This technique works great in a general education classroom and shouldn’t just be used to target special education students. The assisting teacher should be available to all students who need them.
- Makes many classroom management techniques easier to implement
- Allows the assisting teacher to provide one-on-one support to students who need it
- Educates new teachers who are qualified to help in the classroom but want to learn more about specific teaching methods
- Can create an uneven hierarchy of teachers in the eyes of students
- Can be disruptive to the rest of the class if not used appropriately
- Requires advanced planning to make sure the assisting teacher is as effective as possible
You’re starting a new unit about story structure. After a read-aloud of a new short story, the lead teacher works with the whole class to fill out a graphic organizer with different elements of the story.
As the lead teacher engages the class in instruction, the assisting teacher can:
- Explain concepts to struggling students
- Keep students engaged and focused on the lesson
- Go around the classroom and provide one on one support
Throughout the course of the unit, switch the teaching and assisting teacher to keep each role even.
How to choose the right co-teaching model for your classroom
Not every co-teaching model is going to be right for every classroom. For example, classrooms with a student teacher function differently than classrooms with a dedicated special education teacher.
Depending on your individual students and lesson plans, you and your co-teacher should use prep time to answer some key questions:
- What resources do we have available?
- What are the unique needs of our students?
- How compatible are our teaching styles and strategies?
- What subject are we teaching, and does it suit co-teaching?
- How can co-teaching help promote equity in our classroom?
- Does one of us have more content expertise in a particular subject?
Identifying the need for remediation or instruction with a small group of students can also help you decide which co-teaching model to use.
Remember, you don’t have to pick just one! Mix and match different co-teaching styles to meet the day-to-day needs of your classroom.
How to co-teach with Prodigy in the classroom
Whether you’re teaching math or English, Prodigy’s new Co-Teaching feature can help you and your teaching partner set the whole class up for success!
When you add a co-teacher to your Prodigy classroom, both of you can:
- Roster students, remove students and connect with parents
- See student data and track progress with one of eight reports
- Set assessments for differentiated in-game skill practice or test prep
1. Log in to your Prodigy teacher dashboard. If your co-teacher doesn’t have a Prodigy account yet, get them to create one.
2. Select Classrooms, then Co-Teaching. Enter your co-teacher’s email address under the classroom you want to add them to.
3. Your co-teacher will receive an email notifying them of their addition to your classroom. They’ll have the same account permissions as you, and can view their classrooms by navigating to the Classrooms tab in their teacher dashboard and selecting Co-Teaching.
4. Get started in the classroom! Prodigy’s co-teaching tools work best in a station rotation or alternative teaching model, but be sure to use all of Prodigy’s powerful teacher tools to make it as effective as possible for your teaching practices.
Not using Prodigy yet? No problem! Create your free teacher account today to access tools for:
- Test Prep
How can you use game-based learning in your co-teaching setup to help your whole class succeed?