All team members meet weekly to develop the co-teaching plan and review the previous sessions. Following the initial week of instruction, this weekly plan is based on the discussion of that week’s sessions and student performance.
The co-teaching planning form consists of eight sections:
- Learning objectives
- Letter instruction
- Small group activities for sessions one and two
- Letter recall and review
- Writing application activity for session
- Small group rotation for session two
- Sample sentence
- Plans for behavior management, accommodations and supports
Planning the co-teaching lesson is the first step in this 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 occupational therapist’s expertise in motor learning and handwriting. It is the teacher’s classroom, and their classroom management strategies need to be understood and implemented by all team members.
Learning objectives are derived from the planned curriculum and the identified focus from the co-teaching review form. For example, 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.
The team identifies the letters to be taught and the specific verbal cues that will be used for the instruction. Cues are often guided by the district’s curriculum. However, since research supports the use of short consistent cues, the team may want to review these and modify or enhance them as needed. The team may also want to develop simple cues by taking the best from established handwriting curricula, such as calling all letters with a descending line basement letters (Stevenson, 1989), 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 one and two 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/perceptual group may need to emphasize this area.
In session one, students rotate through all three stations. For session two, students are assigned to two of the three small group rotations based on 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 during session two. The instructors assign the students with no observed problems to the groups based on group size, student ability, and peer modeling roles.
The writing application activity for session two is an important component of the program. This 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 student writing skill improves from identifying and writing words to generating sentences and writing stories. At the mid-point of the program, the writing application activity in session two expands and replaces the two small group rotations.
The copying sample is developed to assess competency with the letters learned, to determine progress with noted problem areas, and to assess the student ability to apply writing conventions (spacing, punctuation, capitalization). The team develops a sentence at student reading level that includes the letters of the week.
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, students may copy their mistakes on each subsequent sentence. The paper used should reflect grade-appropriate line sizing with a dotted middle line. Some students may use modified paper as identified by the team.
Behaviors, Accommodations, and Supports
Finally, the 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.
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 modeling supports.