Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Collaboration and Peer Review How To

Collaborate and Revise

Collaboration doesn't just happen. We work at it. One way we do this is by partner work on the computer. After posting writing on the wiki, students partner up.  The partner reads the story, essay, or report and provides feedback while reading: celebrate excellent writing, clarify confusing areas, and suggest additions or deletions. The author listens and then revises the work. Finally, the partners edit the writing. Then students switch places so this author reads and comments on the partner's writing.

We follow this process on computers or with writing on paper.

Peer Comments: Stars and Wishes

Since feedback is so important to writers, we often play Stars and Wishes. We place our work either on our desks or on the computer. If the writing is on our desks, we also place a blank paper beside it for our peer comments. Next everyone stands up and rotates to the next desk or computer to the right.  Each person reads the writing of this person one time through just to enjoy it. Next students read this piece again to add a compliment or two about the writing either on the comment paper on the desk or in the comment area of the wiki or Google Doc.  This compliment (star) would be about the writing traits and strategies we are learning or have learned. (Note: these areas are also what partners comment on during their collaboration / peer reviewing ) Next the student reads it through for confusing areas and suggest solutions (wish). After a few minutes of careful reading and commenting, students rotate to the next desk or computer. This repeats three or four times. Students return to their own writing to read the Stars and Wishes to decide how to revise their work according to the readers' suggestions.

During this time, the room is silent. Not because I ask for it, but because the students are enthralled and so engaged in their peer review.

Directions for Stars and Wishes

Sample Writing Strategies:

Sample Star:
"funny i laughed at this line: 'it sounded it reminded me of my aunties arguing or just plain old nagging.'
its such a classic you line."

Sample Wish:

"i like the detail in the first sentence

but i think you should add more detail and description and of course more part of the story"

What strategies do you have for student collaboration and peer review?


Stars and Wishes Idea from Dollie Evans

Also posted at: What Else 1DR

Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...  Reflect curiosity and wonder...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Googleaholic’s Guide to all things gmail

Why use Google Gmail in the classroom? Sue Waters provides the tips and tricks for how gmail helps teachers and students.

Thanks again, Sue, for all your work...

A Googleaholic’s Guide to all things gmail

Google gmail is part of our Google Apps for Education.

Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness... Reflect curiosity and wonder...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back To School: First Days

Back to school means crisp new paper and colorful notebooks covered with the names of friends. It means sharp yellow pencils and pink erasers. It means pink, blue, red, green, and purple pens and markers creating hearts, peace signs, and signatures written in vibrant designs.

It also means moving from running and playing, chores and vacation to reading and writing, homework and school. How do we smooth this transition from learning at home to learning at school? Here are two suggestions.

Rules and Procedures

Instead of telling students the "rules," I ask students two questions. They write the answers to these questions on fresh blue strips of paper, one on each side:
1. What do you think I expect of you as students?
2. What do you expect of me as your teacher?
Each day at the beginning of class I read one slip and we discuss those answers. What is expected of students? What is expected of teachers? -- in student words. We clarify expectations in terms of procedures and guidelines.
What does listen look like and sound like? 
How and where do we turn in our work? 
How does he teacher plan for interesting lessons? 
In this way, students learn the expectations for behavior and procedures, and I learn what in particular the students might expect from me.

The next activity provides practice in most classroom activities (individual, small group, whole class, and presentation) to which this first activity can refer as examples during the discussions of rules and procedures. Finally, I type up their answers as a contract for students and myself to sign for reference and review throughout the year.

Rules and Procedures Application

The following tasks provide practice in independent, small group, whole class, presentation, and reflection activities. Throughout each activity, take time to debrief on what worked and what didn’t to complete work and learn together. Apply these discussions to student and teacher responses in the blue slip activity.

Independent Work with whole class instruction

About Us (Student Directions)
Create an index card (or 1/2 sheet of paper) with the following information:

Walk around the room with your index card and share with classmates. When you find an item to which both of you agree, sign your initials by that item on each others’ cards.

Small Group Formation and Work
Return to your area and look at the initials on your card. Look for which initials are most frequently written on your card. Form groups of three based on who has the most in common with you.

In your group, discuss your card and create a Venn Diagram to discover how you are similar to each other member of your group and how you are unique.

Create a team poster with symbols to represent the similar/unique qualities of your group. Organize the pictures/symbols into an artistic poster to represent your similarities and differences. Add a title that fits as a summary or concept for your team and add artistic signatures (see below)* of each member.

Discuss in your group: What does this mean? Why did we choose that title and those symbols? Why is it important to know how we are alike and how we are unique? How do similarities and differences help us?

Prepare to present the information to the class so that everyone in your group speaks to explain your symbols’ connections to what is similar and unique among your group members.

Presentation and Reflection
Each group plans a presentation to explain their poster and discussions. Everyone must speak to explain part of their poster. (Student Talkers Idea from Peter Pappas http://peterpappas.blogs.com/copy_paste/2010/08/first-day-school-engage-problem-solve-how-to-get-students-thinking.html)

During presentations, students listen. After each presentation, students ask questions relevant to the topic and concept to which the presenters respond.

Students reflect on group and individual process, product, and participation. (https://docs.google.com/View?id=dg9d35kb_369d732k3f2)


In a matter of a few days, students have jumped right into learning and thinking together, applying the procedures required to be successful in school without a drill into Here are the Rules. Students have listened, read, written, discussed, shared, collaborated, designed, spoken, presented, and reflected in a fun activity that transports them from summer to school. It’s now October, and students are still looking at and talking about their posters which hang along the locker hallway.

What strategies do you use for Back To School?

Sample Artist Signature for Sally Fischer
Can you see "S" and "fish+er" ?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Google Apps Presentation Collaboration

Do you have a need to create a "Thank you" for a special event so that many students participate? Create a Google Apps presentation. 

The Process

Choose a template that fits the situation. Create the title slide and a template slide for students to copy when they log in. Show students how to insert a duplicate slide from the template. Students add their information to their slide, or to one with room left on the slide.

Our project involved a thank you for our outdoor learning day.

The Collaboration

Students logged in to the document and added slides to include Who (who presented) and What (what activities and learning occurred) text. The next day, as a class, we chose pictures from our iPhoto library to upload into the presentation and edited our errors. It worked beautifully: we were able to be specific about the value of the day by explaining what we did and learned.
The Presentation
We downloaded and printed the presentation, two slides to a page. Two students from each class brought the beautiful color copy, now spiral bound with their signatures, to the Colville Tribal Council to share their learning. By writing the slides themselves, students clearly stated with confidence the learning and appreciation for our outdoor day. The Council appreciated our “Thank you.
The Product
Google Docs Presentation allowed us to collaboratively create a careful appreciation for a wonderful day of learning. Does this help you think of other projects for your Google Apps in Education?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blogging: Starting With Comments

How does a teacher with no experience begin blogging with middle school students? Here’s another idea?


First, we reviewed Internet Safety since we already use wikis. (Netsmarz.org is great)

I asked students a question or asked them to respond to a quote. While reading about Martin Luther King, Jr, students chose a quote from his work. Students wrote the quote on an index card and explained why they chose the quote or what they thought about the quote. Then we passed the card to the student on the left, and that student read the card and added a sticky note comment. The note needed to be at least three sentences, refer or quote something from the original text, and be “overly positive.” We handed the card and comment to the left again, and that student read the comment and the card. We continued passing to the left and adding sticky note comments, which could comment on the original text or any of the comments.

As we passed the work along, student comments became longer and better as they read other comments that were better than some who had not followed our protocol and simply wrote, “I agree.” By the time every one had commented on every one else’s card, all students had written at least one good comment.


When the original writer received the card, they chose and shared the comments that helped them think more or caused them to want to add to their original ideas. One student, a very active youngster, proceded to notate every one of his comments by placing a sticky note on the back of each of the sticky notes on his card!

We talked about how each one had added to the conversation, how their positive words (even if they disagreed, but positively) demonstrated their own character as well as their ideas, and how they had become a small community on the topic of MLK.


Next, we looked at a new site called Tween Tribune (http://tweentribune.com/), a site for students and teachers with kid-friendly news feeds on which to comment or add their own stories. We read comments and critiqued them, noticing some grammatical errors and mostly that some comments did not add to the conversation.

Of course, the students began asking to make their own comments. We completed two comments together to see how to do it — and we decided to use the fantastic “check spelling” aspect every time!

Students have been commenting for two weeks.

Our next goal: write a class news story.

Just a few small steps (Internet Safety, commenting protocol, note-card practice) and we began the blogging journey. Have fun!

Note: Students names are pseudonyms.
Sample Comment Template from Youth Voices