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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