Co-teaching requires we practice what we preach. Sharing (goals, responsibilities, and resources) is caring (about positive outcomes for all students) while setting aside individual differences.
One size does not fit all when it comes to inclusive placement opportunities. Early childhood programs must work to provide a continuum of placements in order to meet the individual needs of young children with disabilities. This requires collaboration across early childhood programs within the division and often beyond, creating partnerships with community-based settings, in order to provide opportunities for children to receive services within the least restrictive environment.
Models of Inclusion
Several models (e.g. reverse inclusion, co-teaching, itinerant) exist for providing services within inclusive settings. The most common of these, including examples specific to Virginia school divisions, are described in the newly released Virginia Guidelines for Early Childhood Inclusion. Regardless of the model implemented, consensus within the field of early childhood special education is clear–programs, not children, must be ready for inclusion.
ResourcesBlended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings T-TAC Library
Assessing Young Children in Inclusive Settings T-TAC Library
Creating Inclusive Learning Environments for Young Children: What to Do on Monday Morning T-TAC Library
Co-teaching is one model very familiar to K-12 educators and increasingly implemented in early childhood settings. In order for co-teaching to be successful, early childhood educators must share the same collaborative skill set and vision for co-teaching as those working in K-12 settings. Therefore, educators are encouraged to look beyond the grade levels indicated on many of the resources referenced below to the common elements that exist across co-teaching partnerships at all levels.
Co-teaching is a model for providing services by sharing teaching responsibilities and expertise within a blended early childhood classroom (Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter, & Pretti-Frontczak, 2017). In a co-teaching model, early childhood educators (e.g. VPI, Head Start) and early childhood special educators (ECSE) collaborate to share instructional and related responsibilities (Friend, 2014). Rather than conceptualizing co-teaching as an “arranged marriage” where personalities and unique teaching styles may cause friction, Friend (2014) compares it to a business partnership, empowered by “a shared goal and strong determination to accomplish it.”
ResourcesWhat It Takes to Make Co-Teaching Work Article
The Power of 2: Making a Difference Through Co-Teaching (DVD and Facilitators Guide) T-TAC Library
Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals T-TAC Library
Critical Conversations in Co-Teaching: A Problem-solving Approach
Real Co-Teachers of Virginia: Webshop Series Online Learning
Self-Assessment of Quality Indicators of Co-Teaching for Administrators & Co-Teachers Website/Tool
Of the six well-established approaches to arranging teachers and students in co-taught classrooms (Friend & Cook, 2013), Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings details the five most commonly implemented in early childhood settings.
One Teach-One HelpOne teacher, usually the general education teacher, assumes teaching responsibilities, and the special educator provides support to individual children as needed.
Parallel TeachingTeachers teach the same or similar content in different class groups, providing smaller group learning.
Team TeachingBoth teachers share teaching responsibilities equally. Requires that the teachers work together to develop a plan to divide tasks. Sometimes called interactive teaching.
Station TeachingLearning stations are created in the classroom, and co-teachers provide individual supports as the children participate in each station.
Alternative TeachingOne teacher may take a smaller group of children to another location for specialized instruction.
(Grisham-Brown et al., 2017, p. 189)
These approaches can be viewed as instructional tools or frameworks that are selected based on their alignment to the lesson objectives, student needs, and teacher characteristics or preferences (Friend, 2014).
ResourcesHow to Choose a Co-Teaching Model Article
The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms T-TAC Library
Building Blocks for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs T-TAC Library
Small-group Times to Scaffold Early learning T-TAC Library
CARA’S KIT: Creating Adaptations for Routines and Activities T-TAC Library
Inclusive Literacy Lessons for Early Childhood T-TAC Library
Conditions for Success
Clear communication and adequate planning time are critical to the success of a co-teaching team. It is recommended co-teachers have common “big picture” planning time at least monthly (Friend, 2014). At a minimum, ECSE teachers should be provided lesson plans 3-5 days in advance to allow time for review and planning of any accommodations or modifications.
While each educator may contribute individually to the planning process, they share responsibility for providing and monitoring instruction, as well as, knowing individual student accommodations and goals.
ResourcesNeed to Know: Successful Co-Teaching Article
Co-Teaching: How to Make it Work Article Scroll to: Co-teaching Partnership
Engagement of Every Child in the Preschool Classroom T-TAC Library
The Inclusive Learning Center Book for Preschool Children with Special Needs T-TAC Library
The Inclusive Early Childhood Classroom: Easy Ways to Adapt Learning Centers for All Children T-TAC Library
When planning to implement any inclusive model, it is impossible to understate the value of starting with volunteers. Implementing a new co-teaching model with a pair of educators already willing to plan and work together offers a head start in building the relationship necessary for the model to be successful. Highlighting these positive early experiences encourages buy-in from colleagues for expansion of the model and motivation to change.
Grisham-Brown, J., Hemmeter, M.L., & Pretti-Frontczak, K. (2017). Blended
practices for teaching young children in inclusive settings (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Friend, M. (2014). Co-teach! Building and sustaining effective classroom partnerships in inclusive schools (2nd ed.). Greensboro, NC: Marilyn Friend, Inc.
Friend, M. (2014). Co-teaching: Strategies to improve student outcomes. Naples, FL: National Professional Resources Inc.
Friend, M., & Cook, L. (2013). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Richardson-Gibbs, A.M. & Klein, M.D. (2014). Making inclusion work: Strategies for supporting children, teachers, and programs. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.