Co-Teaching: Planning for Instructional Classroom Management

by Butler Knight, Ed.S.

Effective classroom management involves two elements: structure and relationships (Gately & Gately, 2001). Structure is made up of the rules and routines that guide students through the daily activities within the classroom. Positive students-teacher relationships, in turn, motivate students to more readily accept the rules and procedures as well as the disciplinary actions that follow their violations. Without the foundation of a good relationship with the teacher, students commonly resist rules and procedures along with the consequent actions (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003).

Teachers' beliefs and principles provide the foundation upon which an instructional classroom management program is built. When co-teachers share and practice principles of respect and belief in students' capacity to learn, they maximize instructional outcomes. Darch and Kame'enui (2004, p. 10) offer the following examples of such principles and beliefs.


Principle 1

The learner should always be treated with respect.

The teacher makes a profound difference in how, what, when and why students learn.

Principle 2

Every learner has an extraordinary capacity to learn.

Teaching involves creating as many opportunities as possible for student learning.

Principle 3

The learner's behavior or performance is always purposeful, strategic, and intelligent.

Effective teaching enhances what the learner already knows and enables the learner to do things that could not be done before.

Co-teaching partners can capitalize on their collaborative relationship in designing and implementing proactive instructional practices for managing both academic and social behaviors. Friend and Cook (2007) suggest that, in addition to determining foundational beliefs and philosophies, co-teachers identify and discuss classroom routines and what constitutes acceptable student behavior.

In developing a classroom management plan, co-teachers should consider broad behavioral categories or expectations that will enable students to be successful adults. Common behavioral expectations include: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe. Co-teachers must translate these broader categories into rules by defining for themselves and describing for students what these expectations look and sound like within the framework of their daily routines. For example, co-teachers may decide that when students keep their hands and feet to themselves, they are demonstrating respectful behavior. In turn, common routines to develop and directly teach may include: beginning and ending the school day, transitions between activities in the classroom, transitions between locations in the building, using materials and equipment, handling times when the teacher is interrupted, group work time, seatwork time, teacher-led activities, reporting progress and communicating with parents, turning in work, and morning meetings.

Once co-teachers have reached an agreement on this initial structure, they must design instruction to teach students these classroom behaviors. Such instruction should be differentiated and delivered through careful and clear modeling, visual displays in multiple formats, and frequent verbal prompting to increase the likelihood of students' successful performance. During the first three months of school, the focus of instruction should be on acquisition of skills. Violation of rules and routines should be framed as the result of inadequate instruction (Darch & Kame'enui, 2004). Reteaching of rules and routines should occur followed by positive reinforcement to encourage successful practice of the expected behaviors.

As teachers assess the outcomes of instruction, it will be evident that some students require more intensive supports. Lesson plans should include co-teaching structures that facilitate the acquisition of skills for students requiring more review. Visual cue cards listing rules and procedures can be made available to these students in addition to more frequent cueing, reinforcement, and opportunities for self-management.

By addressing the principles that underlie their instructional practices; (a) carefully designing instruction to teach behavioral expectations, rules, and routines; and (b) providing frequent practice and reinforcement to students, co-teachers will discover that they are fostering the social behaviors that contribute to increased academic performance. More information on establishing schoolwide, classroom, and individual behavioral supports is provided in the February/March 2008 issue of Link Lines and in the Considerations Packet, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (2000).


Darch, C. B., & Kame'enui, E. J. (2004). Instructional classroom management (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Friend, M., & Cook, L. (2007). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals. (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Gately, S. E., & Gately, F. J., Jr. (2001). Understanding co-teaching components. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(4), 40-47.

Marzano, R., Marzano, J., & Pickering, D. (2003). Classroom management that works: Research-based strategies for every teacher.

Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Date: September/October 2008