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Co-Teachers Ensure Individualized Approach to our 8th Grade Math Program

Christina Coffman

This year, we launched a new co-teaching method in our 8th grade math program. Understanding how crucial it is to prepare our students for the high school level, Chris Nickell and Ashleigh Wolfe work side-by-side in their Algebra 1 class to ensure every 8th grade student receives individualized attention.

Armed with the best instructional practices, their daily co-teaching strategies vary based on the material at hand. Some days this means one of them leads the instruction while the other meets with individual students to dive deeper into the unit – offering extra support where needed or introducing advanced subjects. On other days you may find them dividing the class into two groups and teaching the same material to a smaller section of students. “We find that some students are much more comfortable speaking out and engaging in a smaller group of peers than a whole class,” says Mr. Nickell, “It also increases engagement for all the students with the instructors since there is honestly nowhere to hide.” An 8th grade student, Micah, agrees, “I really think having two teachers has improved my understanding. It gives us more individual attention and it is easier for them to explain topics. It is also easier to become closer to the teachers. Being in smaller groups not only helps us to get to know them better but also understand the topics better.”

Another approach Ms. Wolfe and Mr. Nickell have found useful is dividing the class in two and teaching two different lessons, then switching halfway through the instructional period. This exposes the students to different teaching styles while also allowing Ms. Wolfe and Mr. Nickell to be an expert on their respective topics.

Mr. Nickell notes that in addition to the extra attention, another benefit of this model is to demonstrate to the students what a strong coworking relationship looks like. Ms. Wolfe says, “Modeling this strong peer-to-peer relationship, will help our 8th grade leaders realize the importance of being respectful and how to have successful, collaborative relationships in their future workplaces.”

They both note that they view all of the students as “our students” and “are committed to working together to offer the best experience for all students and set them up for continued success.”