Co-Teaching at HCSS

What is Co-teaching?

At Hampden Charter School of Science, we are constantly looking for educational ideas and techniques to help improve our student success in and out of the classroom. This year, we piloted our first co-taught classroom, and hope to expand more into a co-teaching model in the new HCSS Middle School. But what is co-teaching exactly? Co-teaching, according to Anne M. Beninghof in Co-Teaching That Works, “is a coordinated instructional practice in which two or more educators simultaneously work with a heterogeneous group of students in a general education classroom.” In basic terms, co-teaching at HCSS would mean that two content area teachers would work together to support the students within the classroom. 

Co-teaching as an academic approach has many models. Beninghof describes 7 models in her book Co-Teaching That Works. Each model has pros and cons, with different levels of support from each of the two teachers in the classroom. Below is a brief description of each model as described in Co-Teaching That Works:

Co-Teaching Model Description:
Duet Both teachers share instructional processes throughout the class
Map and Navigate General Education teacher does planning. SPED teacher is fully involved in implementation and assessment.
Adding One teacher leads while the other teacher adds in other ways to enhance instruction.
Transforming Teachers adapt the lesson depending on learning preferences, student interests, etc. 
Complementing General Education teacher focuses on curriculum. The specialist teacher focuses on small-group instruction or SPED strategies. 
Readiness Groups Students are grouped according to specific levels.
Mixed-Readiness Groups Students are mixed in groups that are working at different paces which allows for peer support. 

What do we see at HCSS? 

Currently, at HCSS many classrooms have paraprofessionals and interventionists. This is supportive primarily for students with special needs or individualized learning plans. When looking at Beninhof’s models, we primarily use 

Adding and Complementing in our classrooms at HCSS. With the Adding model, our HCSS paras and Interventionists often add to the instruction and help students with specific use of language. Paras and interventionists follow along with the General Ed teacher’s instruction and then support students with the group or independent portions of class. With the Complementing strategy at HCSS, our ELL and SPED teachers are assigned to specific classes and groups and support their assigned students as needed. 

There are many positives to both systems at HCSS, mostly in that students who need extra services get them, and in many inclusion classes, there are already two staff members. Drawbacks to the system include the fact that paras can often be used for substitute teaching, and if the primary teacher is absent, then a sub-plan is used as opposed to the curriculum moving forward as initially planned. 

Summary of 8th Grade Math Pilot:

This year at HCSS East the 8th grade students experienced an early introduction to co-teaching in Math. Ms. Schmid is the regular 8th-grade math classroom teacher, and Ms. Morey was placed in her room from the start of the year as an interventionist. This started as an Adding method, with Ms. Morey providing support throughout the fall and adding another lens to classroom instruction and additional eyes for classroom management. 

After analyzing Quarter 2 student data, Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey took a further approach to intervention and moved more towards a dual-teacher/co-teaching model. To implement this practice, Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey decided on a station approach to co-teaching, which would fall under Beninghof’s Readiness Groups model. Three days a week, for twenty minutes each day, Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey would both take small groups of 4-6 students to their own side tables. The students remaining in the middle of the room would work independently on an EdPuzzle. 

To determine the groups, Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey analyzed Action Plans as well as mini-assessment data. They kept a shared spreadsheet to note who has received individualized instruction and on what topics. In talking about what they do in these small groups, Ms. Schmid noted, “How do they learn best? Going over the workbook alone it’s not enough, so you need to find something to supplement it.” In these small groups, each teacher focused on a particular skill or standard and helped students with specific problems. Students solved problems either on a whiteboard or on their Chromebooks, and the teachers were able to see clearly how each of their small group students was able to work through the problem. 

As their Curriculum Supervisor, I have observed Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey throughout the year and witnessed the support that Ms. Morey provided as an interventionist. I had the opportunity to observe them co-teach using their station activity. One thing I noted was that working with small groups allowed teachers to see those “aha” moments with students more clearly. It was evident as students solved problems on their whiteboards and had individualized feedback that they were grasping concepts more independently than they would have trying to solve it together with a large group in class. It was also evident that the group of students working independently in the middle of the room remained on task and committed to completing their work. Ms. Morey noted that strong use of GoGuardian scenes was crucial for this to work. 

Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey do note that there are some drawbacks that they’ve had to work through for co-teaching. One of the issues they’ve come across is space and room in the classroom. With two simultaneous groups being taught at the same time, it can get noisy. Another area to further consider is helping students to work through problems without someone holding their hand. Ms. Schmid recognizes that with MCAS coming up they need to do “less hand holding, [and find] more ways for them be able to independently work through problems.” Ms. Morey notes that she is taking a step back from jumping in on Do Nows and giving students that few minutes to try on their own. They will continue to use their stations to prepare for MCAS, but with a focus on helping students try on their own without relying on teacher support through each step. 

Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey agree that there are a lot of positives to co-teaching. They note that it’s great having two content area teachers in the room which allows both to know what’s going on and to be able to give attention to everybody. They meet to plan and Ms. Schmid explained that in these meetings they talk about, “we want to cover this, what’s a good way to cover it, what should we be doing in terms of activities.” She continued that it’s nice to “bounce off of somebody else. Find things that work and things that don’t.” They also agree that it’s a positive that they have different teaching styles because it allows for students to hear different methods and perspectives.  According to Ms. Schmid, “Communication is key. We’re trying to figure it out.” Ms. Schmid continued, “our styles are very different” and Ms. Morey added, ”Having different styles has its perks” Ms. Morey explained, “Bringing a different lens into it is something I do a lot.” Every student learns differently and having two different expert voices in the room allows for all students to feel supported. Ms. Morey did admit that “I do chime in a lot, sorry” but Ms. Schmid was quick to reply “No don’t feel bad, it helps the learning process.” Ms. Morey continued, “It keeps their attention too.” Furthermore, they agree that co-teaching has allowed for many of their students to learn more in a focused environment than they have in the past. 

Benefits of Co-teaching:

Anne M. Beninghof also agrees with Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey that having two content-level teachers in the room is hugely beneficial to students. “The enhanced knowledge and skills of both partners benefit all the students these professionals serve, in and outside of the co-taught classroom.” (Beninghof, 13). As Ms. Morey explained, having two different voices explain the same content can help reach different learners around the room. 

Co-teaching at the Middle School level will allow for students in Math and ELA to get more individualized instruction and focused feedback. Another benefit is that in the absence of one teacher, the lessons can continue to move forward without having to fall back on a sub plan. Furthermore, classroom management improves naturally when there are two adults in the room. This has been seen throughout the year in Ms. Schmid and Ms. Morey’s room, where students remain on task knowing that there are multiple sets of eyes on them. 

Areas to Consider:

Co-teaching is not a system that can simply be developed overnight. It will take thought and planning from the top down. Ideally, teachers should have co-planing time before the school year starts to work through the curriculum, plan out best practices, and determine roles and responsibilities in the classroom. 

Reflection is an important part of co-teaching. Teachers need to reflect on individual lessons and units to assess student understanding and the role and impact of co-teaching. Co-teachers should meet frequently to plan, create groups, and delegate as needed. “Finding adequate time to co-plan is considered by teachers to be the biggest challenge, and the biggest solution, to co-teaching.” (Beninghof, 36). Co-teachers will need time to collaborate to provide the best possible instruction to their students. On her website,, Beninghof posts helpful resources that include examples of worksheets, questions, lesson plan templates, and planning guides that co-teachers can utilize in their collaboration meetings: Free Resources – Ideas for Educators

Co-teachers themselves have to be willing to be open and work together. “Gracious professionalism refers to the blending of determination, respect, high-quality work, and valuing of others. Teachers who embody the characteristics of gracious professionalism will be most successful at co-teaching.” (Beninghof, 29). There are several ways in which teachers can do this, and again co-planning and reflection time will be key. Co-teachers may find that just because something worked in the fall doesn’t mean it will work in the spring. Co-teachers need to be flexible, and the absolute key to success is communication. Co-teachers need to be willing to work openly and adaptably with one another. Instructional coaches at HCSS could play a role in this by helping to facilitate dialogue when needed. Beninghof includes in her book and website questions and worksheets to help with these co-teaching/collaboration meetings. 

In Conclusion:

The future of co-teaching at the HCSS Middle School is bright. We look forward to the possibility of providing our students with classrooms that have not one but two fully certified teachers. 

Works Cited:

Beninghof, Anne M. Co-Teaching That Works. 2nd Edition. Jossey-Bass. 2020.