Collaboration

Planning and Team Teaching

        In my third year of teaching 4th grade, I am striving to be a collaborative colleague. Currently, at least two of my five weekly planning periods are used for team planning and often an additional day is added to work with interventionists or specials teachers on a project. This is undoubtedly time well spent. I prioritize these collaborative meetings over individual time in my classroom to provide students with feedback or prepare for upcoming lessons. The individual work time can happen outside of school hours and the collaboration brings my teaching and students’ learning to the next level. This focus relates to Quality Standard IV, “Teachers demonstrate professionalism through ethical conduct, reflection, and leadership” (Colorado Department of Education, 2019). My colleagues and I use our time together to reflect on student learning, our teaching successes and failures, and take turns as leaders so that everyone is best prepared to meet the changing needs of all of our students.

        To achieve the level 4 practice of Quality Standard IV, element d, “Teachers demonstrate leadership in the school, the community, and the teaching profession,” teachers must “work with colleagues to promote changes to school-wide systems to improve student learning” (Colorado Department of Education, 2019).  In the last couple years, our school has embraced push in support in the classrooms instead of pulling students out of the classrooms in small groups. This change in our system has improved student learning and also demanded that teachers and interventionists communicate effectively about weekly plans. (Artifact 1) Teachers and interventionists work together finding ways to team-teach lessons or effectively differentiate in small groups within the classroom. One way I am doing this is through a workshop style of instruction three days a week during math and two days a week during literacy. (Artifact 2)

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Artifact 1: 4th Grade Weekly Planning Document

 

My 4th grade team works together to have this completed on the Thursday before the week planned. The document is shared in Google drive as a Google sheet and is accessible to our administrators and colleagues for editing or viewing.

 

This example of our weekly planning document illustrates how we prioritize collaborative planning time over individual work time in our classrooms. It also shows the amount of push in support that we receive in our classrooms on a weekly basis. This document is a valuable tool for interventionists to use so that they know what we are working on when they arrive in our classrooms and are able to see where we are going next.

Artifact 2: Workshop Directions

This picture of my whiteboard on Friday, March 15th, illustrates my plan for math workshops and shows how I am team teaching in small groups with our Gifted and Talented teacher. I plan for math workshop stations at least three days a week. This picture shows the groups working mostly on math problems. Many times the workshops involve a game station where students apply their mathematical skills in a game with a partner. Click PDF icons for activity card and game instructions examples (McGraw-Hill, 2018).

During our literacy workshops, students are divided into mixed ability groups. Stations vary based on our current unit of instruction and include individualized daily reading, peer partner reading, vocabulary work, student portfolio work, and reading comprehension practice.

Workshop Plan.jpg

       I regularly share resources through Google with my 4th grade team and our intervention teachers. Many of these resources are developed after a lesson when one member of our teaching team identifies a need for a modified graphic organizer, re-teaching, or modified practice problems that support student growth. (Artifact 3) Using shared folders within our Google drives, we are able to seamlessly access these resources and build on each other’s wonderful ideas. We are all open to revision and often use the comment bar as a tool for collaboration on these documents. This practice exemplifies the words of Richard DuFours, an experienced teacher and consultant of Professional Learning Community (PLC) practices. DuFours declared, “Educators are professionals, and they too benefit from the insights, expertise, and collective efforts of a team of colleagues. Collaboration is not a frill: it is an essential element of professional practice” (DuFours, 2007).  A specific example of this practice is a recent email chain with my 4th grade team teachers, STEM teacher, and librarian where I reflected on the successes and failures of a PBL unit last spring and asked for their feedback on how we could improve this project this spring to maximize learning for all students. (Artifact 4) In addition to demonstrating collaboration, this example also aligns directly with the level 4 practice of Quality Standard IV, element b, “Teachers link professional growth to their professional goals,” where the teacher “reflects on and adjusts instruction resulting in student growth” (Colorado Department of Education, 2019).  

Artifact 3: Ghost Town Research Graphic Organizer for Trip to Public Library

Artifact 4: Email to team teachers, literacy interventionists, STEM teacher, librarian and special education assistants

 

        To achieve the level 5 practice of Quality Standard II, element d, “teachers work collaboratively with the families and/or significant adults for the benefit of students”, families “participate in classroom and/or school-based activities” (Colorado Department of Education, 2019). I know I am achieving this standard because I have regular parent volunteers two days a week during math (when we use the workshop style of learning stations) and one day a week during literacy. Family members also join for local field trips including a trip to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, the Old Rock Library, and the Slate River behind the school. Family members also attend holiday celebrations and project showcases including Ghost Towns of Colorado and Solving the Anticipated Problems for Human Habitation of Mars. Regular communication with family members through phone calls, weekly emails and in person events helps families support 4th grade learners. Families understand what we are studying on a weekly basis, see students demonstrate their learning, and share enthusiasm for our studies. (Artifact 5)

 

Artifact 5: Opportunities for Family Involvement in 4th Grade

        In addition to working hard to collaborate with my colleagues and my students’ families, I strive to be a model of effective collaboration for my students. I share how our teaching team works together to create meaningful lessons for all learners. I welcome teachers into our classroom and always thank them for coming. I encourage my students to thank our visiting teachers and parents at the end of any lesson. To take this one step further, I invited my book club (literacy skills group) of 12 students to break into groups based on a book of interest and work collaboratively to come up with their weekly learning plan. For two months leading up to this invitation, I modeled how to develop interesting discussion questions, identify challenging vocabulary, apply reading strategies (i.e. questioning, inferring, visualizing), and how to agree, respectfully disagree, and build on each other’s thinking during literature discussions. I selected five possible texts for their small groups and two students brought additional texts for consideration. Out of the seven texts, students chose four books for small groups study. Students then worked together to create their weekly learning plan for their group. (Artifact 6) I was in awe of how motivated my students were to work on their daily plan, support each other, hold each other accountable, and challenge each other with thoughtful discussions. They are collaborative learners just like my colleagues and me. And, just like the teachers, they are using their time together wisely. 

 

Artifact 6: Examples of Student Learning Plans

References

Colorado Department of Education. (2019). RANDA - Colorado state model performance management system. Retrieved

        March 16, 2019, from https://copms.randasolutions.com/

Colorado Department of Education (2010). Fourth grade: Reading, writing, & communicating. Colorado academic

        standards. Retrieved March 16, 2019 from http://www.cde.state.co.us/coreadingwriting/statestandards

DuFours, R. (2007, January). Why educators should be given time to collaborate. Retrieved April 13, 2019, from

        http://www.allthingsplc.info/blog/view/3/why-educators-should-be- given-time-to-collaborate

McGraw-Hill Education (2018). Everyday mathematics grade 4. Teacher's edition. New York City, NY, USA: McGraw-Hill.

Spinelli, J. (2018). Loser. New York, NY: Harper. 

White, E. B. (2002). The trumpet of the swan. New York, NY: Harper.