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Monday, May 25, 2015

Grade Level Team: Proposing a New Model

This model is a stepping stone to models of greater student response and service. The schedule above reflects a typical student schedule. The specific model mentioned below is more tailored to our teaching/learning context. 
Our fifth grade level team has employed a successful team teaching model this year. Two teams of two teachers worked together to lead a team of 44-students each. We divided up the curriculum and worked to target the teaching in dynamic ways. We deemed the model successful since students' scores were strong; students and families were happy, and educators felt supported with the collaborative model rather than the old-time one-teacher-one-classroom model. What also made this model successful was that all four teachers, in concert with special educators and teaching assistants, collaborated with Response to Intervention (RTI) efforts to better personalize and target the program to meet every child's essential learning goals.

This symbol captures the focus of the model.
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This year, due to a school reconfiguration, we will only have three fifth grades and we want to continue the team approach to teaching. That meant we had to make a proposal that proved we would successfully teach all of the core curriculum with attention to time and every child's needs. The three classroom teachers worked together to create a model program. The program created times for teacher specialty and times for collaborative approach. For example, one teacher will take charge of the overall math program and teach the core curriculum, but all teachers will be involved in math teaching since another teacher will manage the weekly math skills lab, and every teacher will be involved in approximately two hours of Math RTI each week. Similarly one teacher will take charge of social studies/writing and another will lead reading/science research, but all teachers will lead groups during RTI literacy times each week. Further, each week students will engage in a social studies and STEAM lab activities, multiple specials, and some differentiated study/tier three time.

There are many reasons why the team is excited about this model.

First, this model creates a strong team at fifth grade. Rather than looking at one teacher versus another, parents, students, leaders, and colleagues will work with the entire team. We'll maximize our individual strengths and complement each others' challenges to present a strong grade-level program.

Next, the fact that each of us is not teaching all subjects means we will have the time to dive deep into a couple of subjects and lead the team in that realm. For example, as the math teacher, I would target my professional learning on math study, and share what I learn with the team. Similarly the writing and reading teachers will lead my work in writing and reading. This is a good fit for the way research, resources, and pedagogy quickly change and evolve today.

Further, rather than host all curriculum materials in one room, we'll focus our rooms to match the learning. For example, the writing/social studies teacher will host laptops, writing tools, atlases, globes, and multimedia composition tools/spaces. The math room will store the math manipulatives and STEAM materials, and the reading room will house book sets. At our school, students are used to moving fluidly from one room to another so I imagine our materials will move in and out of rooms as we integrate our studies within and amongst the target areas. In addition, the reading classroom happens to be right next door to the library and the writing and math rooms are across the hall from tech labs. This is advantageous to the focus of each space.

Also, students will have the benefit of learning from many diverse teachers which will be a good match to our students' multiple styles, interests, needs, and personalities.

The teachers are committed to working as a team and presenting a team approach beginning with move-up day letters and transition meetings. Together we want to establish a model that supports all students and families well.

The proposal has been presented and now we await approval. We're excited and hope that our enthusiasm and planned investment are supported. Let's see.