Guess how long it took me to make this document, which spells out the learning objectives and activities for my next 28 seventh grade social studies lessons:

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Three hours.  That’s about six and a half minutes per lesson.  I’d already written the unit plan months ago, so it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch.  Still, I think a lot of teachers forget that backward design (I subscribe to the cult of Wiggins and McTighe) actually makes it easier to plan lessons.

“But you haven’t planned out everything!

What about those highlighted words?”

That’s right.  I left some sections intentionally unplanned, because these are things that will require my co-teacher’s input.  I am deliberately engaging my co-teacher, who is usually relegated to a supporting role, in an active teaching role.  She also has permission to edit the document, and I hope she uses it.

3 Tips for Coordinating Co-Teaching

1. Plan ahead.  Well ahead.

Do the majority of your lesson planning before starting a unit.  If your co-teacher doesn’t know what you’re going to be teaching every lesson, he may reveal spoilers (“Actually, we’ll be discussing that next week!”) or inadvertently distract from the lesson objectives.

As subject teacher, you should expect to be more familiar with the lesson’s content than your special education co-teacher.  Give your co-teacher a chance to prepare in advance instead of expecting them improvise.

2. There is a middle ground between laissez-faire and control freak status.

Leave some activities unplanned, but have an idea of what you want to do so that you and your co-teacher don’t spend an entire planning period brainstorming.  Be open to making changes based on your co-teacher’s input.

Don’t expect to be able to co-plan everything, and clearly specify the activities that do need to be co-planned.

3. Google Drive is your friend.

Janine, one of my co-teachers, recently created a Google Doc of lesson notes for our students with dyslexia and processing disorders.  I’m able to add additional info into those documents whenever necessary.  Likewise, she can read and edit the lesson planning document I created.  Imagine how much stress this will prevent the next time one of us is at home with the flu or out of town for a workshop.

Both co-teachers must have the ability to edit all documents.

If you aren’t using Google Drive or another collaboration platform, start now.  The old school lesson planning notebooks do not work for co-teaching.


Share this article with your co-teacher and let it start a discussion about how you can improve your collaboration, with or without my three tips.

If you have any other ideas, comment below!