Collaborating Across Disciplines: Planning & Team Teaching

February 6, 2015 / by Lily Jones

Throughout my teaching career, I was lucky to have teaching partners that I loved to collaborate with. Because of our appreciation and respect for each other, we were able to enrich each others' thinking and plan rich learning experiences for our students. Best of all, we had tons of fun doing so.

Watching high school teachers Erin Gilrein and Jen Wolfe collaborate reminds me of the magic that happens when teachers gel with each other. Their joy and collaborative spirits are infectious. While watching their planning sessions, I wanted to jump right in the room with them to bounce ideas around.

At Oceanside High School in Oceanside, New York, Erin and Jen collaborate to teach a ninth grade integrated program. Jen teaches Global Studies, Erin teaches English, and together they team teach the students in the program. Jen and Erin align their curriculum closely so that students are working on similar topics and skills in both disciplines. Part of this close alignment comes from the dynamic collaborative planning sessions that Jen and Erin regularly engage in.

In this video, we get to see collaborative planning in action. Erin and Jen discuss themes to focus on and plan similar tasks for students to work on during both Global Studies and English. They consult the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), working together to address similar standards in both lessons. Jen shares how her collaboration with Erin has deepened her understanding of the CCSS. It's powerful to see not only how the teachers plan together, but also how they reflect on the benefits of learning from each other.

Both Jen and Erin decide to incorporate peer reviews into their lessons. In English and Global Studies, students share their work with each other and give each other warm and cool feedback. In Global Studies, students are working on document-based questions, while in their English class, they've drafted essays after reading Siddhartha. Using a similar protocol in both classes helps to deepen student understanding and fluency using this peer review structure.

After seeing students in each class, we get the pleasure of watching Jen and Erin come together to team teach a cross-disciplinary Socratic Seminar. In the seminar, the class discusses the role of religion in the lives of followers. Using their essays from English class and their document-based questions from Global Studies, students engage in a discussion to extend their understanding. It's lovely to see students apply their learning from both classes while participating in a rich discussion.

After the Socratic Seminar, Jen and Erin come back together to collaborate and reflect on their lesson series. After the co-taught lesson, the teachers discuss what went well and what could be improved. Jen and Erin plan next steps based on the outcomes of their lesson and look closely at student work to examine the performances of individual students.

Jen and Erin not only exemplify the benefits of teacher collaboration, but are also a model for cross-disciplinary lesson planning. Because of their close collaboration and alignment, their students receive a cohesive and rich learning experience. After watching this series, I hope you're inspired to grab a colleague to plan, learn, and reflect together.

Topics: Coaching, Co-teaching

Lily Jones

Written by Lily Jones

Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.

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