Collaborative Lessons that are Common Core Ready!

I’ve been using online discussions for years to extend conversations, collaboration and learning beyond the walls of my classroom. Now, they are a cornerstone of my approach to blended learning. Online discussions are transformative because they:

    • allow for an equity of voice that isn’t possible in real time.
    • encourage students to share a variety of perspectives.
    • build community to complement face-to-face interactions.
    • improve retention and understanding.
    • create opportunities for modeling and peer-to-peer learning.
    • teach online communication skills necessary to success beyond school.

As educators transition to the Common Core Standards, it is crucial that we use the online space to engage students in meaningful tasks that teach communication, collaboration, reading and writing skills.

I’m excited to share Collaborize Teachers Guide – Common Core Ready: English Literature, Grades 9-12 (Kindle version) with other English teachers looking to integrate dynamic online discussions and asynchronous collaboration into their curriculum.


Available on Amazon & Teachers Pay Teachers

This ebook has lessons aligned to the Common Core Standards for five of the most popular texts taught at the high school level. I designed the lessons to ensure they target a range of specific Common Core Standards and cultivate a variety of skills at one time. The lessons use a variety of question types, as well as media, to drive interest and engagement. My hope is that these lessons will yield the same types the dynamic, academic discussions I’ve been enjoying for years!

The online topic-based lessons are launched right from this ebook. When you select a collaborative lesson in the Teacher’s Guide, it will either instantly appear in that teacher’s private Collaborize Classroom site or is made available as a stand-alone lesson. These stand-alone lessons have their own unique URLs, which can then be integrated seamlessly into almost any digital environment, LMS, blog, or assignments page. All a student needs is Internet access and a browser. The lessons can also be accessed by students on almost any mobile device.

I had the pleasure of writing and curating these lessons, but future Collaborize Teacher’s Guides will offer lessons aligned to the Common Core for a range of subject areas and grade levels written and curated by other inspiring educators.

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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My Favorite Mobile Apps #2: Socrative (+Lesson Ideas)

Socrative is a student response app I use almost daily with students for a multitude of tasks. Students can download the student app and teachers can download the teacher app. Both are free and easy to use.

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Ideas for using the Socrative app with your students:

1.  Begin class with a warm up question or problem for students to solve. You can preload questions into Socrative or write a question on the board for students to answer using Socrative.

2.  Check for understanding by asking students to explain a concept in their own words using the short answer question type.

3.  Brainstorm ideas and project the stream of ideas shared via Socrative onto the board.

4.  Play a review game with “Space Race” option. The Space Race turns a quiz into a game adding a competitive component students love. Each group is assigned a colored rocket ship that moves forward as each group answers questions correctly.

5. Facilitate icebreakers at the start of the semester to encourage students to get to know one another and provide you with interesting information about your students. On the first day of school, I put students in groups and had them take a pop culture quiz. They had so much fun that many of the new students forgot to be nervous or shy!

6. Collect student information with a quick quiz. Collect their names, emails, phone numbers, language spoken at home, etc. and that information can be saved in an Excel spreadsheet for future reference.

7. Access previous knowledge and find out what your students already know before beginning a unit. Ask a series of questions to assess knowledge or use Socrative to administer a classic K-W-L activity.

8. Give a reading quiz or pop quiz with preloaded questions. You can watch the “Live Results” and know instantly whether students understand the material. If not, you know what needs to be retaught.

9. Design questions with images attached to create quizzes or review games with a visual component. Science teachers can ask students to identify parts of a cell, art teachers can ask questions about artwork, and history teachers can ask geography questions.

10. End class with exit tickets to find out which students are feeling confident and who needs additional support and scaffolding.

Are you using the Socrative app with students? If so, post a comment and share your ideas for using Socrative in your classroom.

More of my favorite apps to come!

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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Favorite Mobile Apps #1: Google Search (+Lesson Ideas)

The Google Search app is the first app I recommend my students download onto their devices. It is simple, yet versatile. Students can research topics, find images, scan QR codes and search using voice commands.

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The Common Core Standards mention research repeatedly. College and career ready students must be able to “tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently.” This requires practice. The Google Search app is our go-to app for research in my classroom.

Ideas for using the Google Search app with your students:

1.  Make your students the experts! Don’t lecture. Instead, challenge students to find, evaluate, and share information.

2.  Use QR codes to create learning stations, web quests, or virtual field trips. Students can use their Google Search app to scan the QR codes to complete the activities.

3.  Crowdsource information with devices and tap into the collective intelligence in your classroom.

4.  Flip argument and research writing. Present information on how to write a research paper or argument essay at home, then allow students to complete the actual research and writing in the classroom. This creates opportunities for students to collaborate in real time and get one-on-one help as they write. (More on teaching argument writing.

5.  Ask your students to grapple with real world issues. Present students with a real world dilemma, crisis or challenge. As them to research in collaborative groups to investigate the topic presented and to design a real world solution.

Are you using the Google Search app with students? If so, post a comment and share your ideas for using Google Search in your classroom.

More of my favorite apps to come!

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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5 Tips for Managing Mobile Devices in the Classroom

An increasing number of students are returning to school after the winter break with shiny new mobile devices in hand. This excites me as I rely entirely on my students devices and a BYOD policy to integrate technology into my classroom. That said, I’ve trained lots of teachers who are hesitant to embrace mobile devices. Many teachers fear that allowing students to use their devices in class will only distract them and compromise the learning environment. My experience has been the exact opposite. Allowing students to use their devices in the classroom has been absolutely transformative!

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5 Tips for Managing Mobile Devices: 

1. Establish New Norms

When class begins, my students know they need to put their devices volume off and screen down in the corner of their desks. When it’s time to use their devices, I simply say “screens up” and they know they can use their devices.

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2. Treat Devices as Learning Tools

If you treat your students’ devices as learning tools, the perception of them in the classroom also changes. Students begin to recognize the value of their devices for research and exploration. They shift from potential distractions to tools that engage.

girls ipad

3. Use a Phone Cubby for Testing

When students are taking a quiz or exam, use a phone cubby to neatly store their devices. I bought this Christmas ornament organizer and used that to create my phone cubby. Students know they must put anything with a screen in the cubby during testing.

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4. Encourage Sharing

Many teachers worry about equity when it comes to technology. Teacher always ask,
“What if every student doesn’t have a device?” My answer, “They can share.” If you create a culture of sharing in your class, then using devices encourages collaboration. It does not create a huge divide between the haves and have nots as many teachers fear. In fact, I  prefer the energy in the room when multiple students share devices. They lean in, they ask questions, and they have conversations.

collab with devices

5. Connect Student with Educational Apps

I’ve got go-to apps I use with students all the time. I encourage students with devices to download different apps to use both inside and outside of the classroom. Using a variety of apps with students cultivates technology fluency. Students begin to understand how to leverage apps for learning. Over time, they develop the ability to evaluate a situation and select the best app or tech tool to  a given task.

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Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing my favorite apps with ideas for how teachers can use them with students!

If you have tips for managing mobile devices, please share them.

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Top 13 Moments of 2013

2013 was full of moments that challenged me to grow, inspired me to experiment, stopped me to reflect and filled me with gratitude for choosing a career in education.

My favorite moments from this year in chronological order were:

1. Collaborating with Tina Barseghian, who writes MindShift – one of my favorite blogs, on “A Teacher’s Guide to Using Videos.”

2. Designing an Instagram scavenger hunt for a field trip to Chinatown in San Francisco to complement our Joy Luck Club unit. When I had this brilliant idea, I was an Instagram neophyte without an Instagram account. One of my students volunteered to walk me through the basics of using Instagram, which she did in 5 minutes. It reminded me how much my students can teach me and to always remain open to learning from them.

3. Delivering the kick off keynote at the annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs.

4. Reading Daniel Pink’s Drive and instituting FedEx days in my own classroom. Pink’s book challenged me to plan every lesson, every class and every unit with purpose, autonomy and mastery at the forefront of my mind.

5. Using the Story Corps interview model as a foundation for a digital story project where my students selected a family member to interview and recorded those conversations. They transformed those conversations into riveting digital stories using the hodgepodge of devices at our disposal.

6. Leaving my students voice comments instead of written feedback when assessing their digital portfolios at the end of the year. When I polled my students, the overwhelming majority said they “definitely preferred voice comments to written comments.” Many wrote me emails to thank me for taking the time to leave such thorough comments on their work.

7. Being invited to deliver the closing keynote at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference in Boston. It was an honor sharing a stage with Alec Couros, Tom Barrett, and Kathy Cassidy.

8. Flipping my Back-to-School Night. My first instinct was to freak out when I realized I would be out of town for Back-to-School Night, but I quickly realized I could use the flipped model to provide parents with all the information I would have presented in person. I made an iMovie introducing myself, then proceeded to give parents a virtual tour of my classroom, our go-to website, and the web tools we use on a regular basis (StudySync, Collaborize Classroom, YouTube, etc.). I set up a TodaysMeet backchannel to field questions, collected parent information using a Google Form and ended with an Animoto video composed of photos from our first few weeks of class. The irony is I probably reached more parents this way than I would have if I had been present for Back-to-School Night!

9. Publishing “Five Musts of Mastery” in Educational Leadership to share how I’m attempting to support students in their pursuit of mastery in a traditional classroom. (For anyone attending BLC 2014, I’m leading a workshop titled Embracing Mastery Learning in the Traditional Classroom on Monday, July 14 from 1-5pm. Join me!)

10. Discovering Blogger! Yes, it has always been part of my Gmail account, but this is the first year I’ve used it. Now, I have an interactive homework blog, class blog and every student has his/her own blog on a topic they are passionate about.

11. Providing synchronous comments using Google docs. There is nothing more rewarding as an English teacher than working real time on a document with your students.

12. Crowdsourcing notes during student designed presentations using TodaysMeet, then copying and pasting the transcript to a Google doc and realizing my students had generated 126 pages of notes!

13. Opening the email from Corwin announcing they wanted to publish my second book Using Web 2.0 Tools to Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards! Now I just have to finish writing it, which is both exciting and daunting.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year!

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Club Academia: Videos for Students by Students

Club Academia is a student spin on the Khan Academy. It began when Shilpa Yarlagadda, a Gunn High School student from Palo Alto, created her first instructional video for chemistry.

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She remembers, “I made a video on Solubility Rules and it wasn’t that great, but I was amazed by how easy it was to make the video and how much I learned through the process. Making the video forced me to really relearn the material and understand it in depth so I could explain it to someone else.”

Shilpa joined forces with a fellow student, Roya Huang, and Club Academia was born! Shilpa recalls, “We had no idea what this would turn into and thought, at best, we could help out  friends who were struggling to learn the content we would cover in our videos. So, we set up a YouTube channel…Soon we had a hundred videos.” After setting up Google analytics, they were shocked to discover they had more people viewing their videos in New York than in their own community.

Currently, Club Academia has 17 students creating videos and 13 teachers who approve videos to ensure the material is accurate and high quality.

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Below is a video created by Tatiana Klein, who was in 8th grade at the time when she recorded this video for a 5th grade student who requested it. Club Academia welcomes student requests for video content.

Shilpa said they began “Club Academia with the intention of growing it at a local level and to help out a few friends. We had no idea we could expand it on a national level much less an international level.”

Now that the site has become so popular with students, who appreciate learning from their peers, they plan “to grow the number of video-makers and teacher approvers…to develop an educational social network to connect students and teachers from schools all over the world.” They value the student perspective in learning. This resonated with me as I am always striving to give every student a voice and foster peer collaboration to create a truly student-centered classroom.

Shilpa told me that the students involved in Club Academia “believe the best people to solve problems are people who directly face that problem and in development of education, students are the best people to solve problems.” I could not agree more. Too often students are left out of the conversation about education, yet they are the most directly effected. It is exciting to see student driven innovation in the education technology space!

If your students are struggling to understand a concept, maybe the best resource is another student. I’d suggest checking out Club Academia and letting your students know it is a resource available to them!

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Getting Started with Google Forms

Google Forms have streamlined so many cumbersome and time consuming tasks I previously did with pen and paper. I was training a group of teachers last week and was surprised to find that none of them had ever used Forms with students. When I stammered, “Why not?” Several replied that they were not sure how Forms worked.

Here are some basics:

Forms 1

Forms 2

At any point, you can click “View live form” at the top in the grey bar to see what your Google Form will look like when you share the link with students. The URL for the “live form” is what you want to share with students, so they can complete the actual form. (Note: This grey and white view is the your form in edit mode.)

I’d suggest always beginning your Google form by requesting your students:

    • First Name
    • Last Name
    • Class Name
    • Email Address

This information is key and so easy to forget on your first foray into using Google Forms! It is also fantastic to have this information if you plan to experiment with scripts, which you can install on your spreadsheets to automate a variety of functions. My favorite scripts include FormEmailer (email students directly from your spreadsheet), Flubaroo (automatically grade quizzes and email results), and Doctopus (to manage and share documents with students or groups).

Ideas for Using Google Forms with Students

1. Collect student data with a survey

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2. Take your rubrics online

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3. Peer Editing with Purpose

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4. Class Evaluations

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5. Exit Tickets

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Have fun with Forms! If you are using forms in a creative way, please share!

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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Citelighter: Research, Write & Cite

Many teachers are ending their semesters with large scale assignments that require digital research. According to the Common Core Standards, students who are “college and career ready” can “tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline.” With unlimited information at our students’ fingertips, it is key that they learn how to find, evaluate, analyze and apply that information.

I’ve used Diigo with my students to teach them how to annotate and organize digital information, but I recently stumbled over another useful research tool I wanted to share. Like Diigo, Citelighter has a toolbar the user can download. Students can capture quotes, write comments, and generate citations.

Citelighter Toolbar

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Citelighter Features

Create Citations - Students can create instant citations (MLA, APA or Chicago) for any piece of information captured using Citelighter.

create a bibliography

Write Comments While Researching – Students can add comments that are attached to specific pieces of captured content. They can actually write their paper as they research. Too often the research component is a separate step disconnected from the writing component. Citelighter pulls those two steps together, so students can write down their immediate thoughts as they encounter information online.

Make notes as you search

Save Everything to Specific Projects – Students create project titles and their research is saved to specific projects, which makes it easy to complete research for multiple classes or projects at one time. When they log into their Citelighter account, they can access all of the information — quotes, comments, and citations — associated with a particular project. Gone are the days when students get to their works cited page and complain, “I don’t know where I got this quote.”

Students can also enter a due date and opt for email reminders to ensure they complete their work on time.

Start a project


In addition to these features, students can log into their Citelighter account to:

    • see a “quick view” of their research for any project. This quick view acts like virtual research note cards.
    • export their research, writing and citations directly to a Word document. (Citelighter Pro account allows the user to export to Google docs.)
    • share their work via email.
    • print their work.

How-to Resource for Your Students

No sense recreating the wheel, so I wanted to share the Google document I created to walk students through the process of signing up for a Citelighter account. This document also highlights some of the features for students who are new to Citelighter. Feel free to use it with your students!

*Note: It is a “View only” Google doc. To make a copy to share with your own students, sign into your Gmail account then go to “File” on the document and select “Make a copy.” It will automatically save in your Google drive.

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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Student Designed Infographics: Process & Products

Last year my students designed infographics for the first time. I enjoyed the process and the products. It was a fun strategy to teach my students crucial research skills while encouraging them to think creatively about how to visually communicate information.

This year I was literally blown away by the work my students did on their infographics. I wanted to share my process and examples of student work to help support other teachers.

Step 1: Submit a Proposal

Students were encouraged to select a topic that interested them. Then they had to submit a proposal via a Google Form I created. I was able to provide feedback on their proposed topics before we began working on the actual infographics.

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Step 2: Research, Research & Research Some More!

After every student received feedback on their proposal, we began the research component. I required my students to use a minimum of three credible online resources. We discussed research strategies, and they read my Google search blog post to learn how to search smarter. Since they were going to create an infographic, I also shared this cool Get More Out of Google Search infographic with them.

Step 3: Evaluate the Credibility of Digital Sources

My students had to complete my “Got Credibility?” Google form for each of their three online sources to ensure they were credible.

I also required that students use their Diigo accounts to annotate their online resources and share them with me via email. This encouraged them to actively read the information they were planning to use for their infographics.

Step 4: Explore Infographic Tools

I encourage my students to choose and use the technology that they are most comfortable with or that meets the needs of a particular task. A one-size-fits all approach to using technology is easier for the teacher, but can actually limit the student’s creativity. I shared three different infographic creation tools with my students and scheduled time in the computer lab for them to “play” with the different tools to see which one they preferred.



Step 5: Check Out Infographics

Before students can effectively design an infographic, they must have a clear sense of what an infographic does and what an infographic looks like. This helps them to better understand how they can show information in a dynamic way without relying on a lot of words to explain the research.

I used my homework blog to link to a variety of different infographics on topics related to what we were reading in class. During our Of Mice and Men unit, I linked to infographics on both mental health and mental illness in America. When we read To Kill a Mockingbird, I linked to infographics focused on racial inequality in the justice system, the death penalty, and the prison system in the United States. These visual displays of information were a powerful way to expose my students to facts and research and help them to conceptualize what infographics look like. has a huge collection of infographics on a variety of topics. Students can search “entertainment,” “health,” or “environment” to view infographics on topics they are passionate about.

I’d suggest building time into your class to allow for this exploration. Ask student to critique different style of infographics and discuss the following:

    • What strategies or visuals were you drawn to or felt were particularly effective?
    • How was the information displayed?
    • What type of organization did you prefer when looking at the infographics?
    • Were there any elements you did not care for?
    • What strategies would you like to replicate in your own infographic?

Step 6: Storyboard

Students had to submit a storyboard of their ideas either on paper or using Google drawing to reflect their pre-design process. I wanted my students to think about their approach to designing their infographs (organization, information and visuals) prior to going into the computer lab.

Below is a storyboard one of my students created and submitted using Google drawing.

Aristotle-Kuklinski-Infographic Storyboard

Step 7: Design Infographics

Depending on your access to technology this may need to happen in a computer lab, at home or a combination of the two. I booked two 90 minute blocks in our computer lab, but I know most of my students also worked on their infographics at home. Luckily, my students’ work was saved to, Piktochart or and accessible from any computer.

Here are some of the incredible infographics my students designed this year!


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Aristotle - Coletti - Infographic


I love that every infographic was unique. Students focused on topics they were interested in researching, used the tools that worked best for them and created finished products they could share with the world!

Please Tweet me your comments and feedback @CTuckerEnglish.

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Blogger: Crowdsource, Share & Archive

This year I am using Blogger, Google’s free blogging tool, to create an ongoing class blog. It is a space for students to actively share their ideas about the subjects, themes, literature and informational texts we are reading. Most of the blog posts are crowdsourced notes and ideas generated collaboratively in real time. Students posted directly to our blog from their mobile devices.

in class

Last class, my students analyzed art work depicting life in the 1300s and early 1400s, which is the time period when Chaucer lived and wrote The Canterbury Tales. I asked them to explore every detail and nuance of the paintings to see what they could learn about the time period/historical context. I asked each group to consider:

    • What is happening in each painting? Look at the details. You’ll need to research!
    • What do you notice about the style of painting? What might this reveal about the time period or art movement this was produced in?
    • When would your group guess these were painted?
    • Are there common elements in these paintings?
    • What can you infer about life during this time from these details?

Then they shared worked together to collect all the information they had gathered and inferred, then emailed their responses as a group to our class blog.

art pic 1


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 After they had analyzed the artwork to learn about the historical context of The Canterbury Tales, I had each group listen to the prologue read in Middle English. I wanted them to figure out what the prologue was saying before we read the translated version. I asked each group to try to identify the following information as they listened:

    • What time of year it is?
    • Where is this story taking place?
    • What is the premise of the story? Why are these characters together?
    • How many people are involved? Do they have a lot in common?

prologue 2


prologue 1This was no easy task as Middle English is a far cry from modern English, but I told them at the outset of the lesson that I wanted them to demonstrate “mental curiosity.” Too often students immediately give up when they don’t understand something. I want my students to struggle to make sense of the new or unfamiliar. I continually strive to get them asking questions, talking to each other to make sense of challenging concepts and conducting research to come to their own conclusions.

Blogger has provided a space where we can collect, share and archive our ideas as a class. As a teacher I love being able to hear from every student and review their contributions when I have time. Students can also return to our blog to review what was covered or see what they missed in class if they were absent.

I don’t have time to maintain a class blog that attempts to give an overview of what we are studying each week or month. I don’t think that would provide an authentic view of what is happening in the classroom. I enjoy having a class blog that is generated by the students and functions more as an archive of their work.


Getting Started with Blogger

If you have a Gmail address, then you have access to Blogger.

Log into Gmail then click the icon in the upper right hand corner with all the tiny boxes. A menu will drop down. Click “More” to get to more options. Blogger is on the second pages of options.

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Click the orange Blogger symbol and you’ll be walked through a series of simple steps to set up your blog.

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Once you have set up your blog, you can adjust the settings to allow your students to email or text their ideas to your blog from their mobile devices. Click “Settings” and select “Mobile and email.” Then create a custom email address or use a mobile code so they can share their ideas in real time.

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Feel free to send me a tweet @CTuckerEnglish if you have any questions about setting up a class blog using Blogger!


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