Classroom Collaboration



How do I think through collaboration between/among classrooms?

A quick look (not inclusive)


What are the goals?

What is the timeframe?

What tools will enhance the project?

What do the kids think?

How will we know we are successful?

How will we share what we did?

How will we continue or contain the project?



We: Teaches/Students/Districts

Project: a shared inquiry

Goals: overall tagged with standards according to each school district and student needs

Timeframe: one time, short or long-term?

Thinking: input from student ideas; strategies ( I’ve started reading Comprehension and Collaboration by Harvey and Daniels)

Success: ongoing evaluation, revision, reflection, documentation

Share: public or private

After: continue with further inquiry or contain with reflection, appreciations, and farewells






What are the goals?

What goals do the participants hope to accomplish? Think in terms of teachers and students, linking them to the standards required. How will this project meet these goals? Create an outline with checkpoints.

What is the timeframe?

Is this a one-time meet, or a project that will involve time for a unit, week, quarter, year? Set reasonable checkpoints for reflection, discussion, refining, revising. What are we trying to do? How are we doing? Are we effective? What do we still need to do, and what is the best course of action?

What tools will enhance the project?


Partner Wiki or Partner Google Site: to create with students the focus, goals, timetable, discussions, possibilities, collaboration, documentation drafts

Skype: to meet each other and provide ongoing face-to-face time as needed

Twitter: sharing and requesting on content and process

Blogs: Documentation; Sharing; Portfolio — ideas include:

Create for dialogue of process, content, and/or product

Create for teacher reflection

Create for student content, reflection, dialogue

Create as portfolio of project

Google Docs: collaboration, research, product

Google Sites: documentation of content and process; collaboration on project analysis — what did we do and learn?

Google Groups: online discussion of project to clear up obstacles, delays, refinements

VoiceThread: an ongoing dialogue for exploring or explaining content

Glogster: Poster of content created for project

Flickr or Picassa: sharing visuals


Where will the participants communicate? wiki? email? google docs?

Where will the project information be easily accessible? Shared space (wiki, blog, google site?)

How will the participants keep the project vital and timely? Be clear. Notify each other of any potential obstacles.

What are the goals? List and understand responsibilities.

When will components be completed? Set and meet a schedule, considering time zones

Where will teachers facilitate? (email, wiki, google doc/site, google group?) 

How will the project be evaluated?

What are we trying to do? How are we doing? Are we effective? What do we still need to do, and what is the best course of action?

Remember to share and teach collaboration and thinking strategies as the needs arise in the project; reflect with students on these. These are the key life lessons not tested on “the tests.”

Be creative: original, flexible, fluent, elaborative. Think of the talents of students and include them in the development of process and product.

What do the kids think?

Begin with input from students. Develop with students the goal and criteria: Topic, Audience, Purpose. Once the inquiry begins, guide students in collaboration and thinking strategies. Work towards developing the best form to share the project and its results (wiki, site, blog, video, photo essay, public service announcement, etc.)

How will we know we are successful?

At checkpoints, reflect on the topic, audience, and purpose. What have learned? What are we trying to do? How are we doing? Are we effective? What do we still need to do, and what is the best course of action?

How will we share what we did?

Who else will benefit? Who did benefit?

How do we demonstrate our learning to others and our own school district? 

Think about the process and the product.

How will we continue or contain the project?


What are the next steps? Does the same topic continue, or a new goal develop? Is this the end of this collaboration? How will teachers and students debrief and release — say good-byes?

Where will the project results be displayed?



This is simply a beginning set of possible considerations for a collaborative project. Projects are messy; they require constant revision because life and humans happen. And each project topic and set of goals require its own circumstances and tools, and that’s another blog.  For now, what would you include when starting to plan for your classroom collaboration?



Flickr Photo CC by lumaxart

Guiding Student Collaboration: CRTs and Query Quests

After browsing my Tweets, this caught my eye because collaboration is important to me and I to find the ways in which all my kids are smart:

@gardenglen??Just read “Sitting Next to the Smart Kids” by @amandacdykes Good post reflecting on collaboration



First of all, I love the title and header of her blog: Upside Down Education. Her comments about our PLNs ring true:

“We use backchannels, blogs, and twitter to share our ideas, but stop short from giving our students that opportunity. ??Students need to share what they are learning as they learn it. ??They need to have others to bounce ideas off of. ??Even more they need to help each other. ??Isn???t that what we do in our PLN, help each other? ??Learning takes on a whole new level when it is done with others.”

And of course she brought the idea home to the classroom: this is what kids need to do, but how do we guide middle school students to this?

Immediately I thought of the work of Jim Burke of The English Companion ( and The English Companion Ning ( . ??Jim Burke’s ideas have guided my teaching so that students drive the conversations. Of course they need guidance to start, but on topics that interest them, they shine.

So how can I clarify for my students just how to connect with others so that they can choose this any time they need to gather ideas resources and ideas from a Personal Learning Community (PLC)?



Keeping in mind how I introduce the hard copies to students, I recreated my think sheets and added a TIPS section to include brief directions with some organizational and etiquette strategies, especially in the online Google Docs versions. I kept each document to two pages: one page for the organizer and one page for the tips. ??The Google Docs version doesn’t have the “blocks” of the CRT or the “target” of the target sheet, but the idea of an online collaboration with my class or with other classes demonstrates the power of our web tools and the transformation occurring in education. The thinking organizers are the tool to which a task and project move towards completion.


The CRT Conversation Round Table allows participants to extend ideas on four issues concerning their project. (Examples: reading possibility– theme, character, plot, setting; research possibility– content, experts, quotes, resources; volcanoes– history, types, consequences, advances)


The Target/Query Quest starts with a person or group with a project or idea. They need to expand on or get unstuck from the ideas and content so far. They ask colleagues to provide input in information or ideas. (Example: research– need more ideas on conservation of different items — trees, water, energy, etc.)

These two options nudge students to connect with others and consider other viewpoints or content. This could lead to further collaboration and expand the project to others. With an online template, the students can establish their own outreach, online learning communities.

Hopefully, we’ll have blogging buddies this year to which we can gather ideas online in a true Professional Learning Community. Truly, our PLN is more than a network, we are a community and I would love for my students to grow their smarts and their own learning through a learning community.??

Below are links to the documents and tips if you would like to adapt them to your needs. I’d like to thank Glen Westbroek??@gardenglen??and Amanda Dykes ??@amandacdykes??for provoking these possibilities. And thanks to my PLC for helping me transform my teaching.





Target Query Quests Web View


Target Query Quests Public Template


CRT Conversations Web View


CRT Conversations Public Template



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