If you are a teacher for middle or high school, “collaboration” might be that term thrown around at yearly department meetings that instantly fills you with dread:
How will I fit this in—I’m so busy already. When will I even get to meet with Ms. Smith from the Science Department? I don’t even really know her. I know we need to create a plan for collaboration, but I’m just burnt out of ideas.
Teachers are busy, and particularly in this last year, rightfully stressed out. Collaboration, while important and beneficial, can often feel like just another added “to-do” that you eventually get around to, pushed aside until you and another teacher can manage to schedule out a collaborative assignment. When done right, however, collaboration can be energizing, informative, and a creative change of pace for both teachers and students.
Basics and Benefits of Collaboration
Collaboration is beneficial for everyone— student and teacher. It unites teachers together, building a healthy rapport and emotional support among faculty. Collaboration involves discussion, brainstorming, and sharing of ideas with other teachers, maybe ones in other subject areas, energizing teachers for the hard work they do every day through community, and camaraderie.
Teaching can be lonely and isolating, and an opportunity to bring teachers together might bring a surprising respite through partnership and a boost of morale. It’s also a way to get creative, joining forces to break the mold of what can feel like repetitive lesson plans or daily class routines. In a study on collaboration, 90% of teachers reported that collaboration was helpful for the classes, particularly “instruction-focused and assessment-focused collaboration.” While sometimes difficult to get kick-started, teachers find collaboration to be worth the work and effort.
While collaboration unifies teachers with a common goal, it also has a positive effect on students, helping them to bridge skills and knowledge across different subjects that often remain separated throughout their day. Collaboration can start to lay the groundwork for students’ understanding of how different ideas or topics interweave across contents. It can also be a positive experience for students to witness friendship and support among their teachers.
After the collaboration, students indirectly benefit from the increase in data from assessments, which can better inform faculty and staff of student learning, and shape future assignments and learning targets.
Collaboration will look different at every school, within every grade level, and across departments. While teachers will figure out the best methods for their collaboration, there are a few basic signs of great collaboration:
- Teachers are hands-on and share the load
- Planning is intentional and thorough
- All teachers understand the goal of the collaboration
- Students benefit from the collaboration
- Reflection is scheduled following the collaboration
At The Juice, we believe our daily content is a valuable resource for planning collaboration, especially across different content areas. Keep reading for some ideas on how you can use The Juice to collaborate with other teachers at your grade level!
How to Collaborate Using The Juice
The Juice delivers engaging content that covers multiple subject areas every day. While we send each day’s top four current events stories, we also include vocabulary, infographics, uplifting stories, and a STEAM-related video. This learning experience naturally encourages collaboration across different subjects, combining current events with critical thinking, media literacy, informational text, and STEAM.
Below, we have outlined a basic plan on how to approach collaboration using The Juice:
Schedule and Dedicate Time to Plan
Whether you are a department leader or initiating a collaboration activity with other teachers, the first step is to meet and design the plan for collaboration. During your meeting, bring up The Juice and look through one of our daily newsletters. Walk your colleagues through the platform, explaining the different sections. Discuss a tentative plan of action, and how The Juice could be used by different instructors in their class. Create targets, deadlines, lesson plan ideas, and goals as a group, both shared and individual.
For example, perhaps a Social Studies teacher will read through the daily news stories with the class, and they will pick one story to focus on each day of the week, examining this story’s history and background as a current event, as well as how it relates to the past.
In an English class, the class can look at those same stories, but analyze them from a perspective of media literacy. The class can evaluate the story from a perspective of media bias, finding and evaluating other sources covering the same story, and comparing them all against one another.
Finally, a Science or Math class can use a STEAM activity or experiment from our STEAM videos to try out in class as an experiment. Students can first hypothesize what will happen in the experiment, and then write a follow-up afterward detailing what happens when they actually did it as a class!
Detail and Implement the Assignment
As a team, detail your plan for collaboration using The Juice. Look through The Juice platform, spending some time on each section. Finalize different activities and lesson plans that will be done for each subject activity, and set target dates for when the collaboration will occur.
To collaborate effectively and set shared, concrete goals, try discussing some of the following questions:
- How long will this collaboration last: one day, one week, or throughout the whole semester?
- Will we all focus on one day/newsletter or several different ones?
- Will our activities cross over to other subjects, or will we strictly only discuss ideas and topics related to our content? (For example, should the Social Studies class learn about the history of the STEAM experiment, and the English class writes an analysis of a current events story read in Social Studies, OR, will each subject only discuss their content?)
- How will students be assessed? Will they complete formative or summative assessments? How often will we assess?
- When will we meet to reflect on the collaboration?
Keep in mind any other guidelines or requirements from your school or department, and write down your outline and outcome goals for the collaboration. Ensure every teacher is on the same page, and the workload is balanced for each subject area and teacher. Make a plan of action, and keep in touch as you plan and teach the collaborative lessons.
In the weeks following the collaboration, ask students for feedback on the collaboration, such as through a formative assessment. Ask students a question regarding the collaboration as a bell-ringer activity, or a short note to write to you in the final minutes of class, not graded on. Then, with the other teachers you collaborated with, gather for another meeting time to debrief and reflect on the collaboration. Ask one another the following questions:
Debrief and Reflect
- How did this activity benefit my class?
- Did this assignment bring something new to my content?
- What was the student response to this collaboration?
- What skills and/or goals were accomplished?
- How can we fine-tune this for the future? What could we add or takeaway to make this collaboration more beneficial to students?
Final Collaboration Notes
The Juice is a helpful and flexible tool made up of content that encourages collaboration. Our content consists of current events stories, infographics, moral character stories, STEAM-related videos, vocabulary, and standards-based quizzes, all aimed to help teach critical thinking, media literacy, and 21st-century skills. Because our material isn’t specific to one subject or content area, it can be molded to fit different collaborative ideas. The collaboration will and should look different for every staff or teacher, and while it can be tedious to plan out, is worth it for both teachers and students.
Did you use The Juice to collaborate with other teachers? We would love to hear about your experience and how The Juice helped this collaboration happen. Send us a note about your collaboration experience for a chance to be featured on one of our future blog posts!