Planning for Co-Planning
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
As a dual language tandem teacher, you know that you have to coordinate instruction across the two program languages to meet the goals of the program, but how and when do you do that? It seems like there’s never even enough time for planning what you’re doing in your own classroom, and taking additional time to coordinate with your partner teacher can feel daunting. If this is how you’re feeling, it can be helpful to reframe your perspective to keep in mind that successful co-planning actually makes your individual planning time easier, and is the heart of successful co-teaching in a dual language program. It can also be really helpful to plan ahead - planning for co-planning! - by creating an annual co-planning map and agenda templates for each meeting. Keep reading to find out how!
When we were teaching together, we were fortunate to have two co-planning periods per week. We know this isn’t the case for all dual language tandem teachers, but we hope that you have at least one co-planning period per week. Otherwise, it’s really easy for tandem teachers to start to live in their own worlds and engage in ‘parallel teaching,’ in which each teacher operates as a typical monolingual teacher in a monolingual program, and the connections across program languages are limited or missing altogether. If regular co-planning time isn’t currently built into your overall planning schedule, we strongly encourage you to work with school leadership to make this a reality. Weekly face-to-face co-planning sessions, along with periodic larger co-planning blocks to prepare for upcoming units, themes, or grading periods, provide the backbone for successful co-teaching.
During our face to face planning periods, we identified our goals for the week and took responsibility for tasks that would have to be carried out to realize those goals, such as pacing for shared units, writing a classroom newsletter for parents, or planning a field trip. We also tried to focus on issues that were pressing and needed to be resolved right away, or issues that required us to be in the same place to discuss (such as jointly reviewing assessment results or modeling an approach for one another).
Over the past few years, as we’ve been writing our book about dual language tandem teaching and Shera has been continuing to teach with new partners, we’ve furthered our ideas about effective co-planning. With limited time together and so much to coordinate, it’s important to stay organized to have the most productive and useful meetings possible. This year, Shera and her partner teacher María have used an annual co-planning map that we’ve developed to streamline decision-making about the co-planning process and generate agenda templates for face-to-face meetings. The co-planning map asks tandem teachers to consider both the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ of co-planning for the year. First, you and your partner teacher brainstorm all of the recurring activities that you will need to work on together in the technical domains of co-teaching (curriculum, instruction, assessment, family communication, and classroom management), as well as the interpersonal aspects of your co-teaching relationship (see blog posts two and three for more ideas about that!). You then take those activities and determine the ‘when’ of co-planning, by distinguishing co-planning topics that need to be addressed weekly (such as lesson pacing) from those that require less frequent - but perhaps more intensive - discussion (such as curriculum mapping), as well as those that require ongoing attention through asynchronous tasks that partner teachers take care of on their own time.
Here’s Shera and María’s annual co-planning map to give you an idea of how it works in practice:
*If you work at a school that does not organize instruction around themes, a unit or grading period might be a more appropriate larger time chunk for your annual co-planning map.
The annual planning map gives tandem teachers a clear roadmap for what needs to be addressed and when it will be taken care of. The next step is to use the annual co-planning map as a point of departure for your meeting agendas in order to promote efficient and effective co-planning, and reduce the likelihood of important topics or tasks getting lost in the shuffle. Using the information in the annual co-planning map, you can easily create a template for each meeting type to use throughout the year for creating regular meeting agendas.To create each meeting agenda template, review the column that corresponds to the ‘when’ of the meeting (e.g. Weekly Meeting 1) and add each item in that column under the ‘topics/tasks’ column in the corresponding meeting template. The meeting agenda template also requires a time allocation for each topic/task to make sure that the whole meeting isn’t devoted to the first topic (no judgement, we’ve all been there!), an indication if the task is done, and any next steps that are required, along with who will do them and what the deadline is. Once you have the templates created for each meeting type, you simply make a copy of the appropriate agenda template and add in specific details for each ‘topic/task’ item to create the actual agenda for each meeting.
Here’s Shera and María’s Weekly Meeting 1 agenda template that’s based on their annual co-planning map referenced above:
By taking the time to ‘plan for co-planning,’ tandem teachers can really organize and streamline the co-planning process, making it more efficient and effective. It helps you to identify tasks that need to be addressed in person during face-to-face meetings, those that can be taken care of asynchronously as individual time permits, and those that can even be delegated to others, such as paraprofessionals or parent volunteers. Your annual co-planning map and meeting agenda templates might look different than ours based on your program model, grade-level planning structure, and partnership. The idea is to set yourselves up for successful co-planning by creating an approach that will help you have clarity about your required tasks and support in completing them in a timely way.
What strategies do you use to stay on task during co-planning? How do you set up your co-planning sessions to make the most of your time together? We would love feedback on our ideas and would also love to hear about other ways tandem teachers are creating systems to make co-planning more efficient and effective. Please comment below!
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