Strengthening Collaboration

Critical Tip of the Month

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Each teacher and student in a cluster brings with themselves unique characteristics, but when everyone works together, all of those characteristics combine and become something greater. Develop ways to look at the cluster as a whole, rather than a conglomerate of individuals, then the collaboration will run more smoothly.

CHILD Essential Components that deal with collaboration:

  • Teachers meet regularly to plan and coordinate instruction.
  • Teachers observe students in other classrooms on a regular basis.
  • Students have frequent opportunities to work in cooperative groups.

The strength of the CHILD instructional model is in specialty teachers working together for the good of each student across multiple grade levels within the cluster.  This can be a powerful and time-saving bond. Requiring time and care to develop a level of trust that will encourage a working relationship, this bond should be continually growing and respectful.  Here are some suggestions from CHILD teachers that have worked in encouraging this strong bond between clustermates.

  • Have a common discipline plan that each teacher believes in and can agree to use.
  • Complete cluster observations (Essential Component) on a regular basis.  Completing cluster observations build unity and trust.
  • Value cluster planning meetings – be on time, be ready to share, volunteer to do your share of the work.
  • Think of the entire cluster as part of a big family – refer to students as our first grade, not your first graders etc.
  • Share cluster duties.
  • Support each other during parent conferences.
  • Collaborate and plan together regularly.
  • Plan cluster activities to celebrate success.
  • Meet socially to develop a more personal relationship with your clustermates.  Knowing their personal interests often leads to discovery of their professional strengths.
  • Remember/ celebrate clustermate’s birthdays.
  • Smile even when you’re having a bad day – don’t take that bad day out on your clustermates.
  • Encourage and compliment one another often.
  • Disagree in an agreeable manner – many times you may have to agree to disagree on some issues.
  • Value the camaraderie – this job is too hard to do alone.

Maintaining Momentum

CHILD Essential Component:  Students work at a variety of learning stations on a regular basis.

Primary teacher, Erin Hicks, from Imagine School at Lakewood Ranch, makes words with her kindergarteners at Teacher’s Station.

You’ve worked hard this year to establish routines and procedures to ensure quality, small group instruction through stations.  Feel confident as you continue to work in stations that the practice and specific feedback will provide your students with the skills and confidence they will need to be successful on upcoming tests.  Continue moving forward with rigorous station work and targeted sessions at Teacher’s Station.

Reflective Thinking

CHILD Essential Components for 21st century learners:

  • Students set and assess goals.
  • Students assume significant responsibilities in the daily management of the classroom.
  • Students have frequent opportunities to work in cooperative groups.
  • Students use a record-keeping tool (Passport) and Task Cards to develop 21st century skills.
  • Students have frequent and equitable access to technology.

Today’s school environment requires much more than just critical thinking and content knowledge.  In a world of fast paced, technology-filled instruction, students must be organized, focused on goals, and collaborators with their peers (Carroll, T. G., Fulton, K., & Doerr, H., 2010, June).
The CHILD Passport is an essential tool to move students toward mastery of these 21st century skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009).   But like all powerful tools, they are only good if used consistently and correctly. If you haven’t already done so, teach explicit reflection strategies. Use your Reflection Flip chart and/or reflection starters, along with Primary or Intermediate Station Vocabulary lists to empower students with the skills they need to tell what they learned and a detail or two about that learning.

Review the Passport with your students.  Be sure that all sections are being used for purposeful documentation and insightful reflections.  Help students be self-directed, accountable and responsible as you guide them toward success with effective use and review of these tools on a daily basis. Passports that are valued by the teacher and used daily with students will be valued by the students and show better reflective thinking and accountability.

  • Bubblegum – create a bubblegum machine with reflection words on the various colored gumballs.
  • Box of crayons – record a reflection word on each colored crayon.  Students choose the color of the week or day to use within their reflective writing.
  • Fish – create a goldfish bowl with reflection words on the colored gravel.


  • Birds – create a birdhouse with words on various flying birds.
  • Monkeys- write words on various fruits around your main monkey.
  • Circus – create a clown juggling balls of different colors.
  • Pirate – create a treasure chest with loot (coins, beads, even bones!)


Carroll, T. G., Fulton, K., & Doerr, H. (2010, June).  Team up for 21st century teaching and learning: What research and practice reveal about professional learning. Washington DC: National Council on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF).

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from

Passport Checks

Thanks to New Britain, Connecticut CHILD teachers for the development of the Passport Task Card.

Utilize the Passport Rubric and At Home Passport Check Task Card to hold students accountable and encourage them to do their best.

CHILD Essential Component:  Students use a record-keeping tool (Passport) and Task Cards to develop 21st century skills.

Preparing for CHILD Renewal: Development of Parent Advocacy Group

Your parents love CHILD so put that energy to use now in preparing for CHILD renewal and possible expansion at your site. Work with parents to help toward keeping CHILD in place at your site, as well as, updating materials for a fresh look each year.  Fundraisers, auctions, and car washes are ideas that can generate the affordable renewal fees for each teacher, providing Passports for students, new activities and Professional Development opportunities throughout the year.

CHILD Essential Component:  Parent/Guardians use the CHILD Passports to stay informed and provide input.

Here’s what will come with your 2012-13 CHILD renewal:

Teacher Materials (per teacher)

  • Two New Lakeshore Learning activities including:
    • One interactive game (CD ROM)
    • One board game/print activity (with Task Card online)

Student Passports for the year

Professional Learning & Online Resources

  • On-Site Fidelity Visit by an ISI staff memberThe Leading Edge newsletter
  • Workshops-in-a-Box
  • Online Professional Learning Resources (password protected):
    • Monthly Teacher Tips
    • Station Activities w/ Task Cards
    • Webinars
    •  Wikis
    • NING networking
    • Online tutorials
    • Teacher Resources (PowerPoints, planning templates, newsletters, etc.)

Celebrate Famous People in March

Check out the stations for use in March under the “Holiday” section of the website.  There are activities and resources for the following topics:

  • Spring
  • St. Patrick’s Day

Enjoy these new station activities to do with famous people and celebrating Women’s History Month!

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