Co-Teaching in 8th Grade ELA - Gallery Walks

Saturday, September 19, 2015
My co-teacher and I were really worried this August ... we were teaching 8th grade ELA! We had 6th and 7th before, but 8th seems like a whole different monster. We didn't have much of a curriculum down and weren't entirely sure what to do in 8th grade. We experimented with the previous ELA curriculum, but it wasn't a good fit for us. We were previously informed about EngageNY, but we never had the chance to implement it. So my co-teacher and I delved into this and here's the gist of it all:
  1. FREE CCSS aligned curriculums
  2. FREE CCSS aligned curriculums
  3. All worksheets and articles are included
  4. Anchor texts are listed
  5. Homework assignments, Learning Objectives, the whole shabang
I mean there's just no way you could go wrong. So we used the 8th grade ELA curriculum, which begins with the book Inside Out and Back Again, by ThanhHa Lai.

This really eliminated all the work for us - we spent more time talking about modifications and accommodations, I mean come on! It was a dream come true. Anyways, back to the real purpose of this post ... We began out lesson figuring out what the learning objectives are with the students, we then moved to a gallery walk with the students, and debriefed afterwards. How did I accommodate or modify all this? Ch-ch-check it out (with pictures)!

Pictures 1 - 3: War related images of tanks, rifles, national symbols, etc.
Pictures 1 - 3: War related images of tanks, rifles, national symbols, etc.
  • Learning Objectives - the learning objective was posted on the board and read aloud to all students. I typed them out onto strips, in larger font, and gave it to the student. Once it was read aloud, we have the students do a Think-Pair-Share, where students had some think time and wrote down what they thought it meant and paired up to share ideas. Students who cannot write or cannot write at grade level, had one of the teachers write out words they didn't know how to spell. If this was a deeper analysis piece, I would've implemented co-writer.
  • Gallery Walk - This was naturally differentiated already - there are 11 pictures and 11 captions. For students who cannot read at grade level, the picture was there for them to view. Students were given an "I Notice, I Wonder" T chart to observe 11 pictures. I modified the assignments by putting visuals on the worksheet (a pair of eyes for I Notice, and a big question mark for I Wonder). I told them to use 1 word answers to describe what they saw. Students were writing down "hurt," "sad," "running," "bad," "scary," and "mad."
  • Debrief - Easy, especially with Kagan. We had students share their answers with their group using Round Robin, where students went around the table giving short answers. Perfect time for me to do my rounds and make sure they all shared. 
Images 4 - 11: Emotional pictures of the wounded, escapees, crowds, etc.
Co-teacher walking with a student who needed assistance.

Images 4 - 11: Emotional pictures of the wounded, escapees, crowds, etc.
It was a great lesson, but it was even better because my co-teacher and I team taught this. I'm going to admit, team teaching is the hardest to do because (and this is my personal feeling) you really have to know your co-teacher. I struggled with this last year because I didn't want to step on my co-teachers toes or we didn't mesh well enough so there were awkward times where we interrupted each other while teaching. Check out our defined roles below:

  • Before the students entered, I was at the door welcoming them. My co-teacher was inside ushering the last class out. We try to make sure that we switch it off every other day so that students see us both as equals, it is OUR classroom. 
  • When we were introducing the lesson to the students, the students saw that I wrote on the board and I read the learning objectives introduction. My co-teacher was working 1:1 with our diverse learners, helping them spell. 
  • We then switched, where she reviewed the meaning of of the learning objectives and I began prepping and handing out materials for the gallery walk. My co-teacher gave them directions on what they'll need and what they are doing.  I directed them on where to grab the items they needed.
  • When groups came up to grab their materials, she monitored the materials while I spoke 1:1 with our diverse learners about their modified/accommodated assignment.
  • We both ushered students outside and made sure to check in with every student during the gallery walk.
  • Back inside, I gave students directions on what to do with their group and she explained the Kagan strategy.
  • We began bouncing between groups ensuring that all students shared.
  • End of lesson, she directed students to the homework board, while I read the homework aloud.
There was never a time during this lesson that I felt students knew who was the general education teacher and who was the learning specialist - which is AMAZING. All students had face time with both teachers! 


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