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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Shared Teaching Model: Initial Strengths and Challenges

Throughout the year, I'll blog about our new shared teaching model. It is a model where three grade five classrooms share all students at the grade level with a mix of learning/teaching structures:
  • Students will rotate as a class to math/STEAM, reading/science reading and research, and writing/social studies classes. There are three main rooms and each room is dedicated to one of those teaching/learning areas. During these class times, the learning will include a mix of differentiated, small group/individual learning and whole class instruction. 
  • Students will learn in flexible RTI groups led by a large team of classroom teachers, specialists, assistant teachers, teacher candidates, and possibly coaches, volunteers, and others. Flexible grouping will be determined by student needs and interests. The groups will be revised about every six weeks. 
  • Students will learn as a grade level group during PBL, theme days, field experiences, and other whole grade learning activities. 
To date, there have already been some strengths and challenges. One great strength is the amount of sharing that is happening amongst the educators involved. Many, many good ideas have been shared and developed to start the year with strength. 

Another strength is the ability to go deep with regard to the planning for a couple of content areas rather than four or five subject areas. This has streamlined and deepened the teaching/learning related to content standards and practice.

One more strength is that fifth graders won't likely compare teachers as much since every student has every teacher. 

A challenge has been scheduling. Thanks to the support of the school principal and others, efforts were made to make the schedule work so that every child on the 80+ fifth grade team gets a similar program with regard to time-on-task for specific subjects and learning modules. The scheduling took quite a bit of effort and we had to give up some teacher recess, lunch, and planning minutes to make it work. Ideally this would not have happened, but our commitment to the model and desire to make it work led us in that direction.

Another challenge, for some including me, is keeping one's stamina up for the challenge and debate that occurs when you're forging a new model. There's a temptation to get worn out or cranky when you're faced with one challenge after another. Yet, some on the team, take the challenges with stride, and see them for what they can be which is a chance to strengthen and deepen the model even more. I'm taking their positive lead in this regard.

The next steps for the model roll-out include the following:
  • Final room set-up.
  • Scheduling and sharing important information with specialist teachers and last year's teachers.
  • Introducing the model with students. We've created schedules for each homeroom which students will color code as they learn about the new model. We've also created protocols, a team symbol, and other introductory activities/information to lead students.
  • Curriculum Night: An opportunity to introduce the shared model to adult family members. There will be time for questions too.
It's exciting to embark on a new teaching/learning adventure this year--one that we believe will teach children well. Stay tuned for more posts as the model moves forward.