Seven Norms of Collaboration

 Seven Norms of Collaboration

 These norms build group energy, commitment, and effectiveness.

  • Pausing.  Not all brains work at the same rate or use the same processes.  There are four types of pauses: 1) after a question, 2) after someone speaks, 3) personal reflection time, and 4) the collective pause (structured or spontaneous).  Pausing, then paraphrasing are two steps that set up deeper types of discussion.
  • Paraphrasing.  To help the group be as receptive as possible, avoid using “I” as you paraphrase.  Instead, try using the following openers:

You’re suggesting…  You’re proposing..  So, what you’re wondering is…  So, you are thinking that…

Choose a logical level for your response:  Acknowledge and clarify content and emotion, or structure or bring together a number of statements or issues expressed by the group, or change the level of logic by raising or lowering it.
  • Probing for Specificity.  Human brains form generalizations from diverse pieces of information as a matter of survival.  Therefore, a special effort is needed to gain specificity, a requirement for good group communication and understanding.  Clarify vague pronouns, such as the generalized “they.”  Use specific verbs.  Find out what specific rules are behind words such as “must” and “cannot.”  Avoid using absolute or universal words such as everyone, all, never, and always.
  • Putting Ideas on the Table.  To present ideas in the spirit of group sharing and collaboration, try using one or more of the following openers:
Here is an idea for consideration…  One possible approach…  This is not an advocacy, I’m just thinking out loud…

Also know when to withdraw an idea if it is getting in the way of moving forward.  Make sure, too, that the group works with data, not just impressions.  
  • Paying Attention to Self and Others.  People have differing learning styles, so interact with them by recognizing their language and physical cues.  Listen for whether group members use visual, auditory, or kinesthetic modes of thinking and expression:  I see, I hear, I feel….
  • Presuming Positive Intentions.  Phrase and frame issues and concerns in positive rather than negative language.  
  • Pursuing a Balance Between Advocacy and Inquiry.  Using both cognitive and emotional means, spend equal amounts of time “advocating for one’s own ideas and inquiring into the ideas of others.”

Google Forms

Google Forms is a great free service provided by Google.  It has a huge potential in education for both teachers and students.   Google Forms are very easy to use and create.  It is automatically built in Google Docs meaning it is completely web-based and does not require any software download.  (Unofficial Google Doc Guide on Amazon)

Teachers can use Google Forms and Docs  in EDMODO with students for collaboration and formative assessments.  Teachers can create Google Forms for parents as well for quick feed back, volunteer information, and sign-up lists.   For me, I love Google Forms for teacher evaluations/checklists and walk-throughs.  I love being able to send immediate feed-back to the teacher.

Check out this list of forms below and click on any title to access its corresponding form. The pictures you see below are only  half snapshots of each form:

1- Get to Know your Class

google forms
Use this form to collect information about your students such as their likes, dislikes, club affiliations, and many more.
This is a form ideal for use by students when studying linear narrative both written or visual. It basically compare a range of happiness to sadness against different points in a story or film.
google forms

As its name suggests , this form is great for use inside the classroom to test students spelling.

4- Comprehension Questions

google forms
This is a form that test students understanding of a text or anything thing else you want to test. It can be used for multiple purposes.
google forms
This is a form where students can provide data about their reading. It is like a reading diary that they can use to record informations about their readings.
google forms

This one of the easiest forms you can use with your students in the classroom to gather Maths data handling information.

7- Guided Reading Record

google forms
This is another awesome form to  record students reading assignments.
google forms
This is a form that can be used to assess what children already know about any given topic that you are beginning.
google forms

This form could be used to collect the children thoughts about what they read.

10- Learning Success

google forms
You can use this form to assess the relative success of the learning that has taken place during a single lesson or after a series of lessons on a topic.






Wallwisher is a free and user friendly online tool that allows users to create a digital wall of multimedia sticky notes. In addition to text, the notes can include images, links and videos. Create a wall, then invite others to add stickies.
In early June Wallwisher released a new and improved version of the tools, known as Wallwisher Senbazuru.   This version is quicker, slicker and now has full iPad support.
    1. Build a collaborative wall without logging in.
    2. Add images, video and links to the wall.
    3. Create one place for resources, available 24/7.
    4. Give students a voice and a place to express themselves using a variety of multimedia.
    5. Embed a WallWisher wall into a wiki, blog or website.
    6. Enjoy Wallwisher Yubi for the iPad.

Boom Writer

BoomWriter is a great tool for creating collaborative stories as a class. Students can also share  what they know about a specific topic or unit of study.  Each student can add a chapter about what has been learned.  Students can essentially create their own collaborative textbook.

BoomWriter is a great tool to help students understand writing with purpose and audience in mind.  It is also a helpful way to get students to think critically about their own writing and evaluating other’s writing.

Successful Collaboration

Six Keys to Successful Collaboration

Full Article can be found here

Teacher collaboration—when it’s good, it’s very, very good, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid.

Many educators believe that implementation of the Common Core Standards offers an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration among teachers. What do educators already know about the benefits and pitfalls of collaboration?

Marsha, a science teacher from Kansas, posed this question to colleagues on the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network discussion board. Drawing on their own successful (and miserable) experiences, teachers identified key attributes of effective collaboration:

Clarity of Purpose

Top-down mandates for collaboration often fail. But systemic collaboration is not necessarily impossible—just tricky to design. And clarity of purpose is critical.

Some teachers noted that there are times—like when data shows students are struggling with a certain subject area—when mandated collaboration can work, as long as everyone understands its purpose.

Anne, a former state teacher of the year, described how she’d seen a school district achieve remarkable results after one middle school principal formed “small learning teams of teachers to accomplish a specific purpose.” Their goal? Improving reading instruction.

The teams cut across all instructional staff and had training in how to collaborate successfully. They studied about reading strategies together; designed, implemented, and assessed lessons; and made adjustments. All teams exchanged “big ideas” with each other regularly. The process spread from school to school—and the district saw impressive achievement gains.

“So I actually don’t think professional learning communities have to be made up of volunteers who see the value of collaboration at first,” Anne said. “Sometimes collaboration has to be mandated in order to ratchet up teacher learning in areas of student need. But if it is mandated, there must be training in the ‘how to’ and a culture of positive support, coupled with time, recognition, and incentives.”

Individual Commitment

A high school English teacher quoted a blues standard: “If it don’t fit, don’t force it.”

She pointed out, “Each member of the collaboration team would have to be convinced that their time and energy would benefit students, and there would have to be a process of coming to real consensus on what the intended outcomes for students should be. Commitment to that baseline focus would be necessary to hold the group together long enough for trust to develop.”


Bill, a Massachusetts teacher, observed that there’s a difference between “the professional, collegial trust I’ll give anyone on first blush” and the deeper kind of trust that is necessary for collaboration. And the latter takes time.

Time. This word came up over and over again—along with “money.” As Steve in Vermont put it, “Sooner or later, boards and administrators will have to confront the fact that if collaboration is desirable, it will have to be purchased, either with cold, hard cash or by eliminating vestigial tasks that don’t contribute to student learning.”

Many teachers had seen “good ideas” fail because they were mandated system-wide by those who underestimated the time needed to support the effort. One teacher offered a highly technical term for such scenarios: “a hot mess.”

Also important is how collaboration time is structured—or not structured.

Steve’s district has mandated “collaboration times” before and after school—but they are highly scripted, with protocols and reports. He suggests a different approach: “Why not create unstructured times in the school work day and avoid filling that time with stuff? Then encourage people to break out of their routines and talk with each other. See if it happens organically.”

Indeed, several teachers reported that their best collaborative experiences took place informally during shared planning time. Bill explained: “So many good initiatives for the school emerged from us bouncing ideas off each other randomly as we stumbled on them, then built off each other’s excitement.”

Understanding How to Collaborate and Communicate

Ernie, a Nevada educator, pointed out that the effectiveness of shared planning time depends on teachers’ understanding of how to use that time.

Noting that Learning Forward’s standards for professional learning address this, Ernie wrote, “Unfortunately, so much of what we do in schools comes in a neat little package with checksheets—and teachers aren’t encouraged to dig deep into discussing their practice and creating strategies to address the needs of their students.” Some teachers may need guidance in how to make the most of opportunities to collaborate.

Gail, an instructional coach, agreed. Active listening (as opposed to multi-tasking) is key: “When group members truly listen to one another, they are able to communicate their ongoing regard for one another and build the trust that allows them to collaborate effectively.”

Susan in Virginia added that establishing norms can help keep things running smoothly, even though some group members can find this to be an “unnecessary formality.”

Supportive Administrators

At Kathie’s school in California, the collaboration opportunity afforded by early release for students on Tuesdays was “a total waste of time in most departments.” But that changed when a new principal informed teachers “how close we were to being taken over by the district due to flat test scores” and “made it clear that teachers were accountable for improvement, but also trusted to come up with their own solutions.” The principal “added fun to the mix as well.” The results? Focused, meaningful collaboration quickly led to significant increases in test scores.

Freedom to Explore

Freedom to explore can refer to the ability to choose one’s own professional learning community—within the school building or even beyond it. As a couple of teachers asked, why not look to Twitter as a home for substantial collaboration?

Even when collaboration occurs in formal groups, a skilled facilitator can amp up the freedom factor. A group at Mary’s school was focused on improving writing instruction, but the leader often seized upon ideas and (without discussing them) immediately began planning for implementation. Mary cringed, thinking, “That is the way to kill a good idea.” When the leader shifted her approach to give teachers more voice and room for creativity, lively discussion and action resulted.

There’s no magic formula for successful collaboration. But this dialogue demonstrates that teachers know a great deal about what works—and what doesn’t.

What do you think contributes to effective collaboration? What should teachers, administrators, and policymakers keep in mind when facing Common Core implementation?

Classroom Tweeting

One of the beautiful things about education is learning from one year and starting fresh with another.   Education lends itself to collaborating and sharing with others…..what better way to find experts and information than CLASSROOM TWEETING.  Students learn to express their thoughts and/or learning in 140 characters or less.  As the teacher, you are able to gauge their learning on a daily basis.  The longer they tweet… the more followers that follow and the more creative they will be with their mentions [@ mentions] and hashtags [#].  Daily “Tweet Outs” make students think about a meaningful statement that their GLOBAL audience will read, learn, and/or comment. 

Tweeting Tips:

  1. Create one classroom account (easy monitoring).
  2. Create an avatar that best describes your classroom (you can change your avatar and password from year to year with your class).
  3. Create hashtags for different content/subject areas…you want to be organized and have an archived list for students to go back to as needed.
  4. Check your hashtags at or by searching within Twitter.  You want to make sure it is not being used.
  5. Model good tweets in front of the class.
  6. Make time to read other tweets.
  7. Follow people you can collaborate with and LEARN from…ex. NASA
  8. Monitor your account
  9. Tweeting can be a great communication resource for parents….ask them to follow.  YOU do not have to FOLLOW them.
  10. EMBRACE IT….it is their world!