Parallel Teaching

Mirror Teaching

UDL 5.3

Parallel Teaching is a collaborative teaching method where two teachers (e.g., general education teacher, special education teacher, student teacher, etc.) use their individual strengths and teaching styles to jointly plan a lesson, then divide the class in half and each teach the same lesson to the two groups at the same time. The class can be split randomly, according to learning profiles (e.g., reading levels), behavior tendencies (e.g. separating students who tend to argue), or to strategically combine or distribute students with various strengths, needs, or characteristics (e.g., talkative students). Working with a smaller group increases support for each student and the teacher’s ability to monitor the students for understanding. Parallel Teaching also allows for students with disabilities or learning needs to receive a higher level of support within group settings with a decreased level of social stigma that is sometimes associated with individual support.

Implementation Tips

Co-Teaching Meetings
Set aside time to regularly plan and reflect with your co-teacher. Some points to discuss include the outcome of previous lessons, student progress and needs, lesson plans for upcoming lessons, ways to improve teaching methods in future lessons, how to incorporate personal strengths and support each other’s weaknesses, any disagreements between each other, and how to improve teaching individually and jointly.
Lesson Planning
Outline key details of the lesson when planning with your co-teacher. Some points to address in your lesson plans include:
- Opening Connection: Reference to prior learning and ways to capture the students' interest
- Teaching Points: The purpose of the lesson (e.g., write an argumentative essay), the skills students need to learn or use, and the strategies you will use to teach the skills (e.g., think-aloud, modeling)
- Supports: Modifications and scaffolds each teacher will use within the lesson for the group or for individual students (This may or may not be the same for each group and is dependent on the students within the groups and how the class is divided.)
- Active Engagement: Opportunity for students to have quick success using the strategy
- Sequence: The order and amount of time of each activity within the lesson
Learning Locations
Distinguish separate “learning locations” in the classroom to be used interchangeably by both teachers. Choose spaces where the groups are facing away from each other to prevent distractions while learning. Teachers can create an interactive chart with the listed “learning locations” and editable spaces to identify which students and teachers will be in each space. Avoid creating designated teaching spaces by varying which teacher and students are assigned to each space.
Monitor the other group to the best of your ability while you are simultaneously teaching. Take notice of verbal and nonverbal cues from the other group (e.g., student participation may indicate that the other group has moved onto the active engagement portion of the lesson) and modify your pace accordingly. Over time “mirroring” creates fluidity and unifies lesson implementation across co-teachers.
Grouping by Academic Profiles
Use student groupings to maximize the opportunities for academic support and success. When planning with your co-teacher, consider whether learning will be maximized alongside students at similar learning levels or within heterogeneous groups. Vary student groupings frequently by creating groups based on various factors (e.g., learning levels, quiet vs. talkative students, etc.).
Grouping by Behavior Characteristics
Plan Parallel Teaching groups with student behaviors and personalities in mind. Balance the needs of the class by thoughtfully assigning students to groups based on behavior or personality (e.g., students who might have difficulty expressing themselves, students with behavior issues, students who often dominate conversation). The groups can also be used to separate students who encourage or trigger each others' negative behaviors.


Teacher Support
A first-year third grade teacher and his teaching coach conduct a series of Parallel Teaching lessons to support the new teacher in teaching math skills. During planning sessions they brainstorm teaching strategies, create lesson plans, discuss specific student barriers and how to address them, and personal difficulties and successes. They split the class into heterogeneous groups with similar numbers of students with academic and behavior needs. While the two teachers are teaching their respective groups, the coach is able to model instructional techniques and pacing.
Leveled Groups
A seventh grade class is starting a creative writing unit on realistic fiction. The classroom co-teachers use Parallel Teaching to introduce the writing process. The teachers divide the classroom based on writing levels. The teacher with the higher level group has the students develop their ideas through brainstorming and quick writes. The teacher with the group that needs more support has the students use a pre-labeled graphic organizer to identify the characters and the parts of the story (e.g., problem, rising action, climax, etc.). Each teacher supports the students in their group in developing their ideas, then the students work independently to write their drafts.
Test Corrections
A co-teaching team uses Parallel Teaching to complete test corrections after an exam in their physics class. They divide the classroom in half, placing students that made similar mistakes together. During the activity, the teachers dedicate more time to reteach the concepts that the students in their group misunderstood and review questions they answered incorrectly on the test.

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