Building Engagement with Distance Learning

DL #24: The 5-15-45 Tool: Grab a Partner and Let's Collaborate!


Deborah Taub, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Hartmann, Ph.D.

Allison Posey, M.Ed.

Co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing are high leverage practices that support students with significant cognitive disabilities  to be more fully included in learning opportunities within general education classes and environments. Whether remote or in-school delivery, finding enough quality time to efficiently plan and collaborate to design inclusive practices is challenging. In this distance learning post, learn about how TIES Center and CAST came together to apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to remove deep-rooted barriers to special and general education collaboration with the aim of making inclusive education a reality for all. 

What We Know

Research consistently shows that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, benefit academically, socially, communicatively, and that post-school outcomes are improved when included in general education contexts for 80% or more of the school day (Sheryl Lazarus’ opening statement for Congressional Briefing PDF ). Here’s what we know:

  • Successful inclusion requires that general and special educators have time to co-plan and co-teach to develop grade-level standards-based content that is adapted to meet the individual needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities. 
  • Time is tight this year, and because you can’t make more of it, we will need to make the most of what time there is.
  • Effective leaders who promote inclusive states, districts, and schools create schedules that allow for time to co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess. They know that collaboration is the key to meeting the needs of all students! 

Enter the 5-15-45 Tool

The 5-15-45 Tool is an interactive tool that allows general and special educators, as well as related service providers, to use the time they have, whether it is 5, 15, or 45 minutes, to effectively plan for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It provides just-in-time resources and protocols that you can use online or in-person to focus on and optimize your collaboration time. Let’s take a look!

First, grab your lesson and your collaborator.

When making the most of your co-planning time, start with the lesson plan. 

  • Bring a lesson you already have developed or one from an online source that meets the lesson goals. 
  • Then, schedule a time to meet with your colleagues. It could be a quick 5 minutes, longer 15 minutes, or 45 minute period. Each time frame is a valuable opportunity for developing inclusive lessons and this tool provides guiding questions and success indicators to help you dig right into planning for students with significant cognitive disabilities. 
  • Use the 5-15-45 Tool to guide your discussion. It is packed with lots of additional resources to help you plan for today, tomorrow, or a month from now, including a list of inclusive strategies. The ultimate goal is that we design flexible, robust lessons that enable participation and engagement in learning for every student. 

Snapshots of the Content you will find in the 5-15-45 Tool

  • This content below shows how there are links to external sites and videos to support the collaboration. 
Video from the Web version of this publication:

5 15 45 Overview:

Welcome to the TIES 5-15-45 Tool

Grab your lesson

Option 1

“I have a general education lesson plan or an idea for a lesson that I can start working with”

Option 2

“I know what content I am teaching, but need a spark of an idea for this lesson”

Check out these lesson plans:

  • There are easy to follow indicators that align with how much time you have for collaborating.
5 minutes
15 minutes
45 minutes
  • There are tables that support collaboration around each time frame and provide guiding questions and success indicators to help educators dig right into planning for students with significant cognitive disabilities. A glimpse at the 5-minute section is shared below.  The 15 and 45-minute sections extend the guiding questions as you collaborate. Check out the entire 5-15-45 Tool on the TIES Center website to see all sections and accompanying resources.

“We only have 5 minutes!” Time is tight! We get it. Let’s use these 5 minutes to their max. Grab your special or general education colleagues, lesson, and work through these questions together.

Discussion Guiding Questions

Success Indicators

What is the content of this lesson?

What is the most essential content for all learners to know?

We have a mutual understanding of the essential content of this lesson.

What are the instructional strategies and activities in this lesson?

What instructional strategies and activities are most helpful for teaching the essential content?

We can ensure that our instructional activities teach the essential content.

Download printable discussion template (Google Doc)

TIPS #8: High Leverage Practices Crosswalk

TIPS #9: Special Education High Leverage Practices for Instruction in Inclusive Settings

Distance Learning Series: DL #24, October 2020

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

  • Taub, D., Hartmann, E., & Posey, A. (2020). The 5-15-45 Tool: Grab a Partner and Let’s Collaborate! TIES Center.

TIES Center is supported through a cooperative agreement between the University of Minnesota and the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education (# H326Y170004). The Center is affiliated with the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) which is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: Susan Weigert

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) leads the TIES Center partnership. Collaborating partners are the Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North-Carolina–Charlotte, and the University of North Carolina–Greensboro.

TIES Center

University of Minnesota

Institute on Community Integration

2025 East River Parkway

Minneapolis, MN 55414

Phone: 612-626-1530

This document is available in alternate formats upon request.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator.