Through the innovative co-teaching design of the BASIS Curriculum primary classroom—the Learning Expert Teacher/Subject Expert Teacher (LET/SET) model—two teachers work together to serve students’ different needs in each class throughout the school day.
Improving upon the traditional co-teaching model of lead teacher and assistant teacher, the expert knowledge of each individual BASIS Curriculum Schools teacher serves a unique purpose. Both teachers are experienced professionals who possess deep understanding of their respective fields.
Learning Expert Teachers (LETs) are experienced in pedagogy — the methods and best practices of teaching—especially in regards to early-childhood education. LETs are responsible for two crucial elements of the BASIS Curriculum: performing interventions and providing differentiation. Interventions cover much more than just behavioral issues; LETs track and support students who are performing below grade level in any subject. They also provide differentiation within the classroom, working with individual students or groups of students to help them catch up or to enrich their learning experience.
Subject Expert Teachers (SETs) usually hold advanced degrees in their respective field and know what content their students need to master in order to succeed at a higher level. The SETs’ expertise also allows them to break down complex subject matter in a way that helps students understand it better.
LETs are assigned to one specific group of students for the entire school year. Throughout the day, they lead these students to different subject-specific classes taught by the SETs. In addition, LETs teach a Connections course, which weaves together various lessons and subject matter from other classes. In Connections, students explore how different concepts are connected in the real world. When working together in the classroom, LETs and SETs create an invaluable synergy that inspires a passion for learning and challenges intellectual boundaries.
Take a look at what these co-teaching duos say about the LET/SET model:
Julie Molton-Roper (humanities SET) and Amanda Grunden (grade 2 LET) are thankful to have one another to rely on, because it allows them to focus on what they do best. “I love having an LET in the classroom,” says Molton-Roper. “Because of Ms. Grunden, I can focus on teaching just one subject and pay extra-careful attention to my lesson plans.” Ms. Molton-Roper can focus on providing her students with quality instruction without worrying about any behavioral issues arising and derailing the whole class.
As an LET, Ms. Grunden enjoys customizing the instruction to best meet the needs of individual students.“The LET knows the students really well, and can help guide and speed up their progress,” says Grunden. “We get to see the students in each one of their classes, so we know how to help out.” This wouldn’t be the case if she was working on lesson plans instead. Thanks to the SET, Ms. Grunden has ample time to pull individual students or small groups of students aside for customized instruction. She can identify when a student is struggling, get to the bottom of the problem, and design a plan to get back on track.
For Agustin Temporini (math/science SET) and Jason Grunden (grade 1 LET), the comradery and teamwork that develops while instructing very energetic first graders is a main highlight of working together. “Working together definitely helps with the sanity factor,” jokes Grunden. “Having two teachers, each focusing on separate elements of classroom instruction, definitely helps keep the students calmer, and as a result, everyone has more fun in class.”
The LET/SET model also offers many practical, academic advantages. Mr. Temporini finds that the LET’s role in the class not only gives him time to plan lessons, but also to instruct and review. “Without Mr. Grunden, I could spend a quarter of the class period just checking for parent signatures in Communication Journals,” he explains. By leaving the administrative tasks to Mr. Grunden, Mr. Temporini now has time to help the class master complex subject matter. And while Mr. Temporini leads the class in daily lessons, Mr. Grunden can observe the bigger picture and watch for any potential issues that may arise and disrupt the lesson.
“In other words, I’m the team manager. I know my kids, what’s going on, and what to do about it,” says Grunden. In addition, if Grunden notices a student is struggling, either academically or behaviorally, he can pull himself away for a moment to speak with the parents and discuss possible solutions.
Beth Blackstone (humanities SET) and Melissa Vazquez (grade 3 LET) are confident in the system. As someone who previously taught outside of the BASIS Curriculum Schools network, Ms. Blackstone (SET) realizes the value of the LET/SET model, especially when it comes to communicating with parents. “It’s nice for me to be able to focus on the planning and delivery aspects, while the LET takes care of parent communication,” says Blackstone.
Ms. Vazquez (LET) knows the classroom runs most efficiently when parents contact her first with questions or concerns. That way, the SET has more time for instruction and doesn’t fall behind on lesson planning.
In a fast-paced academic setting, like the one at BASIS Curriculum Schools, Ms. Vazquez understands that parental involvement is necessary if students are going to get sufficient practice time in at home. She tries to make herself available to parents as much as possible, and gives them frequent updates on their child’s progress. “I have parent meetings all the time. I meet with some parents weekly, and even talk to a few every day,” says Vazquez. “It all depends on the student’s individual needs and their academic standing.”
Blackstone and Vazquez agree that working together enables them to have a positive impact on the lives of their students in a way that would not be possible if they were teaching solo. “I don’t think one person can do it all alone. You can’t be emotionally there for one kid, and be there academically for 32 more,” says Blackstone.
Thus, the LET/SET model enables them to teach content ahead of grade level, and ensures that each student is able to master it before moving on.