The Co-Teaching Plan for the next two sessions is developed after the Session Review process is completed and is based on the discussion of the sessions and students’ performance.
The Co-teaching Plan Form consists of 8 sections:
- Learning objectives
- Letter instruction
- Small group activities for sessions 1 and 2
- Letter recall and review
- Writing application activity for session
- Small group rotation for session #2
- Writing sample sentence
- Plans for behavior management, accommodations and supports
The learning objects are derived from the planned curriculum and the identified focus from the Co-Teaching Review Form. If the team identifies that several students continue to struggle to correctly size, align or form a specific letter, this will become part of the following weeks learning objectives and letter instruction.
In the letter instruction section, the team identifies the letters to be taught and the specific verbal cues that will be used for the instruction. It is important that the cues are simple and consistent, and are often guided by the district’s curriculum. However, since research supports the use of simple, consistent cues, the team may want to review the cues used in the curriculum and modify or enhance them as needed. The team may also want to develop simple cues by taking the best from established handwriting curriculum, such as calling all letters with a descending line basement letters (Stevenson 1989), and distinguishing the size of letters through fun terms like “tallies” and “smallies”, or reinforcing formation directionality using the magic C reference (Olson 2001). These decisions should be documented in the letter instruction plan so that all team members maintain consistency.
Activities for sessions and 1 and 2 are selected based on student responses to the prior sessions. For example, if students are observed struggling with letter alignment and sizing, the activities for the visual motor/spatial group may need to emphasize this area. In session 1, students rotate through all 3 sessions. For session 2, students are assigned to 2 of the 3 small group rotations based on assessed need. If a student has observed problems in the areas of dexterity and the use of cognitive strategies during writing, this student would be assigned to these small groups for rotation in session 2. Student assignments are made based on areas of need first. The instructors assign the students with no observed problems to the groups based on group size, student’s ability, and peer support roles.
The writing application activity for session 2 is an important component of the program. It facilitates generalization of legible writing from handwriting instruction to purposeful application. The team designs a curriculum-based activity for this learning experience, which reinforces the idea that students write so others can read it. Activities progress as the students’ writing skill improves from identifying and writing words, to generating sentences for multiple purposes and writing stories. At the mid-point of the program, week #7, the writing application activity in session two expands and replaces the two small group rotations.
The sentence that the students copy at the end of session 2 is developed during this planning time. The copying sample is developed to assess competency with the letters learned, to determine progress with noted problem areas, and to assess the students’ ability to apply writing conventions (spacing, punctuation, capitalization). The team develops a sentence at the students’ reading level, which includes the letters taught that week. The copying task sheet is then generated using this sentence. The copying task sheet should consist of a printed model of the sentence followed by a blank writing line. The sentence and the blank writing line should be repeated the length of the page. If the sample sentence is not repeated, the students tend to copy their mistakes on each subsequent sentence. The paper used should reflect typical first grade line sizing with a dotted middle line. Some students may use modified paper or modified letter style as identified by the team.
Finally, the instruction team considers student needs for specific behavioral or other issues that have been observed in the sessions. For example, they may create a behavioral plan for a student who continually demonstrates behaviors disruptive to instruction or rearrange the groups when a student is particularly distracted by another student’s behavior. It is in this section that the team describes student specific modifications, accommodations, additional supports or interventions such as modified paper, special writing utensils, weighted lap or neck pillow, dynamic seating, dictating ideas to an adult, or specific peer buddy supports.
Planning the co-teaching lesson is only the first step in the co-teaching process. In order for the co-teaching model to be successful during both planning and implementation, several role shifts need to occur. All team members must, at times, relinquish ownership of their ideas to eliminate defensiveness and territorial behaviors when their ideas are challenged. For example, the occupational therapist on the team needs to abandon the “expert” consultant role and assume a collaborative position. It is important that all team members’ expertise is appreciated, negotiated and integrated into the plan. This negotiation allows for a relationship between the teacher’s management of the classroom and curriculum, and the contribution of occupational therapist’s expertise in motor learning and handwriting. It is the teacher’s classroom, and his or her classroom management strategies need to be understood and implemented by all team members.