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How deep is your commitment to reflective practice?
Do you maintain a reflective journal? Do you blog? Do you capture and archive your reflections in a different space?
Do you consistently reserve a bit of time for your own reflective work? Do you help the learners you serve do the same?
I began creating dedicated time and space for reflection toward the end of my classroom teaching career, and the practice has followed me through my work at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio. I’ve found that it can take very little time and yet, the return on our investment has always been significant.
Observations about reflection
- Reflection makes all of us self-aware. It challenges us to think deeply about how we learn and why and why not.
- Reflection deepens ownership. When we reflect, we become sensitive to the personal connection that exists between ourselves, our learning, and our work. The more we consider these connections, the deeper they seem to become. Reflection makes things matter more.
- Reflection helps us get comfortable with uncomfortable. It also helps us fail forward. It’s through reflection that we’ve discovered our greatest power as a writing community: our collective expertise and our willingness to encourage and celebrate risk-taking.
- Reflection helps us know ourselves better. It helps us sharpen our vision, so we can align our actions to it. Reflection also helps us notice when we’re getting off track.
- Perhaps most importantly, reflection helps us advocate for ourselves and support others. Taking the time to reflect enables us to identify what we want, what we need, and what we must do to help ourselves. It also helps us realize how our gifts and strengths might be used in service to others.
I find that often, we struggle to find time to support reflective practice. Deadlines drive instruction far too much than they should, forcing learners and teachers to value perfection, products, and grades more than the development of softer and perhaps, more significant skills. Devoting a few moments at the end of class can make a real difference though, particularly when you pitch a few powerful prompts at learners. These are the ten questions that elicit the most powerful responses from the students I work with.
Ten Reflective Questions to Ask at the End of Class
1. Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What were you most proud of?
2. Where did you encounter struggle today, and what did you do to deal with it?
3. What about your thinking, learning, or work today brought you the most satisfaction? Why?
4. What is frustrating you? How do you plan to deal with that frustration?
5. What lessons were learned from failure today?
6. Where did you meet success, and who might benefit most from what you’ve learned along the way? How can you share this with them?
7. What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success?
8. What made you curious today?
9. How did I help you today? How did I hinder you? What can I do tomorrow to help you more?
10. How did you help the class today? How did you hinder the class today? What can you do tomorrow to help other learners more?
The learners I serve typically capture these reflections in a special section of their notebooks. These entries grow in number over the course of time, and eventually, they revisit them to prepare for conferences.
The influence that asking reflective questions has on the quality of our conferences is incredible. In fact, I hesitate to confer with kids unless they’ve had a chance to pursue purposeful reflection first.
Try it yourself. See how it makes a difference for your students. You can find a set of printable reflective prompts here.
About The Author
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
Here are 20 questions to help you and your students reflect on the school year. You could use these informally for discussion when you have a few minutes, or, for a more personal reflection experience, take a few of your favorites to use for a survey or as writing/journal prompts. There is also a list of reflection questions for teachers here.
- What is something we did this year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life?
- What is something you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
- What was the nicest thing someone in our class did for you this year?
- What was the most challenging part of this year for you?
- Where is your favorite place in our classroom (or school)? Why?
- If you could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?
- What are three things you did this year to help your classmates?
- What are the three most important things you learned this year?
- What is something that was hard for you at the start of the year but is easy now?
- In what area do you feel you made your biggest improvements?
- What is your favorite part of the day in our class? Why?
- What is something you taught your teacher or classmates this year?
- Of the books you read this year, which was your favorite? Why?
- What was the best piece of writing that you did this year? Why do you think it is your best?
- What person at our school has made the biggest impact in your life this year? Why?
- What is something the teacher could have done to make this year better?
- What are six adjectives that best describe this school year?
- Knowing what you know now, if you could write a letter to yourself that would travel back in time so that you would receive it at the start of the school year, what advice would you give your younger self?
- When you consider the rest of your life, what percentage of what you learned this year do you think will be useful to you?
- What advice would you give students who will be in this class next year?
Looking for more open-ended questions to ask your students?You can find 200 of them in easy-to-use card format right here.
Have more to add? Please share with a comment!