Collaborating with Teachers & Literacy Specialists

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  • 00:00 Collaborating
  • 1:08 How to Collaborate
  • 3:00 Example
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Collaboration between teachers and literacy specialists creates a unified front for the benefit of students. By coordinating the efforts of talented professionals, students are supported throughout the learning process.


Do you like trail mix? You know, that snack that has lots of different textures and flavors all in one handful? Let's see, you have granola, dried fruit, and nuts. Yum. But is it still trail mix without the nuts? What if we take out the granola? Well, then we just have dried fruit. Dried fruit is good, but adding in the others makes it even better. That is what collaborating is like. Having a great teacher is good, but adding in the cooperation of a literacy specialist and maybe even an ESL specialist makes the team even better.

Collaboration is the process of multiple people from multiple disciplines working as a team. If a child is having difficulty in literacy, whether it be with reading or language difficulties, having a team of specialists working with the main teacher benefits a child and helps the child progress through his or her issues.

What does good collaboration look like? Is it just a bunch of teachers sitting around talking about students? Let's take a look.

How to Collaborate

It may be helpful to answer the question: 'What does poor collaboration look like?' Well, collaboration on a literacy team is not a chance to catch up with your co-worker's personal lives. It isn't even a time to share information on new educational research unless that research directly impacts the students being discussed.

Collaborating must involve intentional discussion about students' needs and progress. A literacy team might include a mainstream teacher, an ESL teacher, a special education professional, and a literacy specialist. When the team comes together for collaboration, it is a meeting of professionals who have come together for a specific purpose.

There are three main things each team member can do to optimize a collaboration:

  • Work to build relationships among the team. While collaboration is not about spending time with friends, it is important that all the team members are able to work together cooperatively. Building good professional relationships helps the team meet student needs together instead of working against each other.
  • Go to the meeting ready to ask questions. By asking questions, each member gets a bigger picture of the student's learning process.
  • Attend the meeting prepared to share observations. Just as asking questions is important, it is also important to have specific behaviors or scenarios ready to share with the team. Because a team effort is required to assist a student having difficulty with language or other literacy concepts, the team needs to know what is happening with the student in each disciplinary field.

By being deliberate in the approach to collaboration meetings, teachers and professionals use their time wisely and reach a unified approach for each student. The result is a student who is given the best possible chance of success in school.


Let's walk through what collaboration might look like for one particular non-English-speaking child named Maria. In Maria's classroom, the teacher is covering old English history with information on castles, kings, knights, and many other similar concepts. With her language difficulties, Maria is struggling, so the teacher asks for a collaboration meeting with the literacy team to discuss ways to assist Maria.

Maria's teacher shares with the others the current unit in the main classroom. She asks the ESL professional if Maria has ever been exposed to the specific English words needed for this unit. She asked the literacy specialist what ideas he may have for progressing in this unit. Because they have built such a strong team, they work together to create a special interdisciplinary curriculum for Maria.

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