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Tips for Team Teaching Across the Curriculum

John Davis Jr.

Cooperative TeachingSome things just naturally go together: cream and sugar, peanut butter and jelly, tests and number two pencils, and of course, teachers and their students. Unfortunately, team teaching across the curriculum can make for more challenging coupling.

Now, some subject areas are an easy match – English and history often make a dynamic pair, as do math and science. Educators begin to bristle, however, when administrators and others in charge suggest “teaming” of vastly different classes, like Algebra and Language Arts.

With these tips, team teaching across the curriculum can transform from a marriage made in h-e-double-hockey-sticks to a perfect pairing:

Bridging Curriculum Between Team-Taught Subjects

How do teachers of broadly divergent subject areas scaffold one another’s goals and objectives for their students? The question can be a tricky one, but it does have answers. Collegial cooperation starts by asking a simple question: What does this other teacher’s class have in common with mine? While the material covered may be totally different, there will always be similarities, as well.

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Example 1: Teaching Math & English Together

For instance, in English class, any adequate study of poetry will include discussion of meter. The teacher may begin by asking students the mathematical definition for a meter, and then compare and contrast that answer with meter as it is defined in poetry. The math teacher, meanwhile, may be covering units of measure in class simultaneously.

Once the two types of meter are verbally dissected, further discussion may include similarities between poetic meter and rhythm in music. Such a conversation then involves your school’s music department (if music hasn’t been cut from your district budget). See how everything builds on everything else?

Example 2: Teaching Life Management & Chemistry Together

Some of you are thinking: “Yeah, sure. But what about subjects like Life Management and Chemistry? How do you combine those?”

No matter what the topic, there is always some common ground to be found. While our Chemistry teacher covers chemicals in the body that create fight-or-flight response, our Life Management teacher can be facilitating lessons about adrenaline, fitness, and physical exercise. Again, there’s always some carry-over from one subject to the next, no matter how remote the topics may seem at first.

Sharing Your Classroom

Just like you can't pick your parents, you also can't pick your cooperating teacher. If you get paired with one of your more myopic or argumentative colleagues, you'll have to make the best of it. 

As the old proverb goes, “To have a friend, be one.” This idea can be difficult to implement, as it is definitely easier said than done. We all have those fellow teachers with whom we would rather not share time or space.

But if we as educators want to optimize our students’ learning environment, we have to extend a few olive branches in the name of effective education.

And who knows? That person you were dreading working alongside could be your greatest ally and help in time of need. Stranger things have happened. After all, if Democrats and Republicans can reach across the aisle on certain issues of national importance, Reading and Calculus teachers shouldn’t have much trouble, either.

Team Teaching Tips in Review

To bring it all together, there are three things to bear in mind when seeking to coordinate curricula with other teachers:

1. What does the other class have in common with yours?
2. How might the subject areas be combined effectively? and finally,
3. How will you work cohesively with this fellow professional?

Before attempting to forge an educational bridge between classes, think of answers to the aforementioned questions, and your success will be ensured.

 

What tips do you have for team teaching across the curriculum? Share with us in the comments section!