One Grade-Level Team’s Teacher Collaboration Strategy in ActionAs the shuttering of schools began in March of 2020, Teacher collaboration had to evolve. Meeting face-to-face was no longer an option. Now Teachers need to find instructional tools to help them move to online teaching quickly.
The Divide and Conquer ApproachOne particular third-grade team in Massachusetts took a “divide and conquer” approach. There were seven classroom Teachers and one special education Teacher who were used to meeting a couple of times in a marking period to share strategies and coordinate on the grade level pacing guide. Now they had to work together to re-cast instruction for their students in one short week!
Each Teacher took one area. Though they shared numerous tasks, each Teacher was solely responsible for producing what was needed within their area. The roles of the eight Teachers were broken up as follows:
- Teacher 1: Reading, grammar, and writing lessons
- Teacher 2: Daily math lessons and student follow-up
- Teacher 3: Curriculum, worksheets and assessments for math
- Teacher 4: Social Studies
- Teacher 5: Science
- Teacher 6: (Special Ed) Modified curriculum and lessons for student IEPs
- Teacher 7: Handled creating the daily teaching schedules, resource libraries, and weekly agendas
- Teacher 8: Intervention activities and responses, seasonal activities, and floater to help other Teachers as needed.
Teacher) would normally do for their students. Then each shared their work with the other seven Teachers so they might collectively conquer the new challenges presented by teaching via computer screen to their little eight-year-old students.
Using Google Meet for Teacher Collaboration Strategy SessionsThis third grade team met weekly using Google Meet. During the sessions, they discussed ideas for the upcoming week, special events, and any seasonal activities. Then they went off and each Teacher completed the work required of them for the next week.
The Divide and Conquer Approach Continues Back in the ClassroomAfter returning to the classroom now, this third grade team has found it useful to continue collaborating weekly using their Covid-induced “divide and conquer” approach. When they cannot meet in person, they share weekly agendas via email.
A Team-Level Google Classroom Setup HelpsThey’ve now set up a team-level Google Classroom which contains all of the lessons and materials organized by day. Each Teacher continues with their responsibility of creating and posting their materials in the Grade 3 Monthly Classroom. From this central online location, the other collaborating Teachers access and reuse the posts for their own Google Classroom pages. Saving posts as a draft makes it easy for Teachers to copy and paste objectives and directions into new posts. Emojis are used for identification and organizational purposes.
Pros and Cons of the Divide and Conquer Teacher Collaboration StrategyAs with any new process, Teachers found many pros and cons to collaborative teaching. Here are some of the positive take-aways of Teacher collaboration that were discovered while teaching remotely.
- By focusing on only one or two subjects, Teachers became experts in their areas. Since they did not have to come up with brand new digital activities, lessons, and assessments for all subjects, they had more time to devote efforts toward planning lessons. The result was more meaningful lessons and engaging activities for students.
- The ability to manage time more effectively was a huge benefit. When Teachers focus on only one or two subjects, they have more time both inside and outside of school hours.
- Collaborating helped strengthen relationships between the Teachers which was especially beneficial in such a trying year.
- Working together helped them think outside the box and challenged the Teachers to try new things. Colleagues had the opportunity to draw from each other’s expertise. The result is that Teachers have new instructional strategies to apply in their classrooms.
- Teachers discovered new ways to present lessons as well as new ways to adjust activities and discussion points to fit the needs of students. Simple tweaks are all that is needed.
- The formative data that’s collected makes it much easier to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not, and then to improve.
Cons of the Collaborative Effort
- If one Teacher runs late posting an assignment or materials, it can be frustrating to other team members. To avoid this, posts for the following week were to be posted by Thursday afternoon of the current week.
- If Teachers lack communication or cohesiveness, it’s a challenge to work together so closely.
- Not everyone agrees all the time and there may be some activities or lessons that one Teacher doesn’t really care for.
Why Teacher Collaboration is Important for StudentsTeacher collaboration provided value to the students of the Divide and Conquer Team because it exposed the kiddos to the ideas and approaches of many Teachers, not just one. As educators reached outside their comfort zones, they added many new tricks and strategies to their repertoire. Students received lessons designed by seven to eight different Teachers. This uniquely expanded their learning experiences and provided new and intriguing learning opportunities.
Instructional Technologies That Are Perfect for Teacher CollaborationThere are a plethora of instructional technologies available to today’s classroom Teachers. Prior to the pandemic and the remote learning environment, Teacher’s use of online and technological resources were limited. Moving to remote classrooms provided the perfect opportunity for educators to learn more about using digital programs to teach. After integrating various platforms into their classrooms, many Teachers plan to continue using them to enhance their students’ learning experiences. Some of the instructional technologies that are perfect for Teacher Collaboration include:
Google Classroom: Google Classroom provides a platform that helps streamline instructional activities. Teachers post daily assignments, lessons with objectives, resource materials, and assessments on the platform. Links are provided to additional resources or extra practice. The organizational capabilities are beneficial to the Teacher, but also help students become more accountable while providing a valuable home-school connection. Prior to the pandemic, Teachers primarily used Google Classroom for announcements and links. By using the additional features, students and parents can have a clear idea of the school day when they log on. Posting grades on the site provides 24-7 access for parents who want to watch their child’s progress more closely.
TeacherMade: This is a versatile resource for converting PDFs into interactivities. It’s great for delivering lesson materials, follow-up activities, and worksheets. It is also really useful for assessments. Teachers can easily share what they’ve created with co-Teachers, making it the perfect tool for Teacher Collaboration strategies. There are 15 different question types supported in the app. Students have access to drawing tools that allow them to show what they have learned. They can also check their work in progress, making them try harder to get higher scores. Grades are automatically imported into Google Classroom. This app saves enormous amounts of grading time for Teachers; they can also monitor student work and give feedback in real time, improving the quality of instruction. And students love doing their learning and practice online. The platform has a simple interface making it easy for both Teachers and students to use.
Quizizz: Teachers who used Quizizz sporadically in the past, tended to use it more during COVID. The platform allows Teachers to create gamified reviews and quizzes for students. When linked to Google Classroom, it provides students with instant feedback. Quizizz can be used by a group or individual students. Lessons are easy to create and can be shared with other educators.
EdPuzzle: This is another program that Teachers turned to for their remote classrooms. It allows Teachers to upload videos. The video can be paused at any point to pose questions to students. Teachers can personalize the videos and questions by adding their voices. The platform allows Teachers to check for student understanding of key concepts. It can also be linked with Google Classroom and Teachers can share their videos with other Teachers directly or via the shared library.