Thirty students are sitting in a co-taught history class, desperately trying to keep up with their notes as the teacher is lecturing. The co-teacher, recognizing the futility of this, jumps in and asks everyone to freeze. She briefly explains the importance of abbreviating and identifies two words - Democrat and Republican – that are good examples of multi-syllabic words that should be abbreviated while taking notes. The co-teacher writes a few abbreviation options on the board and directs students to pick one and use it for the remainder of the period. The lesson then continues on its original course.
Micro-lessons are the perfect solution for the co-taught classroom. A micro-lesson is a brief, targeted lesson that is embedded in the content instruction. Brief really means brief – no more than three minutes in length. Micro-lessons are typically inserted by the special education co-teacher with a focus on the complementary skills needed at the moment.
Complementary skills, also known as access skills, are the skills students need to be successful as learners, but aren’t typically a part of the common core or curriculum standards.
- Study process
- Time management
- Paper organization
- Sustaining attention
A lucky few students seem to have been born with these skills and need no direct instruction. Other children learn them through observation and incidental teaching. And then there are the unlucky many - students who struggle with the behaviors and skills that are needed to succeed in a fast-paced, subject-oriented classroom. Micro-lessons are an efficient way to provide instruction in complementary skills in a way that allows students to immediately apply the new skill in the general education setting.
Tips from the Trenches
Co-teachers who successfully use micro-lessons offer the following tips:
"Talk with your partner about the concept of micro-lessons and give each other permission to do this. Otherwise, it might feel like interrupting or going off task."
"In our planning time, we try to identify the complementary skills that most students need. These are the ones we use for micro-lessons. The complementary skills that only a few kids need we can address through a small group."
"Brevity is key. At first, some of our micro-lessons went on too long – really becoming more like mini-lessons. It was slowing down our pacing and stressing us out. Now we agree to monitor each other and stick to less than three minutes, and only a few each week."
For more ways to boost your co-teaching, check out "Co-Teaching that Works: Structures and Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning."