Reflecting on a concept or topic is an essential skill students need to engage in constantly – not just at the end of term and the unit. It needs to be done virtually at the end of every lesson where a new concept has been introduced or learning activity has taken place. This gives the students an opportunity to ‘take a step back’ from all the new information hurled at them and to sort through what it is they have understood and what it is they need to ask help for. Teachers often tell parents that their students don’t ask for help and need to do so more often, but what if the student doesn’t even know what they need help with? What if they are so overwhelmed with new information that they think they get it, but in reality when it comes to applying it new circumstances they just can’t connect it all together.
Making reflection a part of the classroom routine is essential to teach and guide students to be able to stop and think about their learning and take responsibility and leadership in their knowledge construction.
All sounds good in theory. And we all know the benefits of it. So why don’t we do it?
That great big dirty word.
TIME.By the time you have introduced your lesson, review what you did last lesson, introduced the new concept/topic, given time to students to do a learning task associated with it, you’re already running into the next lesson or lunchtime trying desperately to get them to pack up after the bell. So how to fit it in?
We’ve come up with some simple methods. A reflection does not have to be a huge sit down and write essay responses to 10 questions. With appropriate questioning (get rid of ‘what I liked’ questions for now!) you can get a quick and easy reflection from students that help you to see what concepts have been grasped, and what ones you may need to re-teach to the whole class or perhaps just a small group or individual. The students then begin to get into a routine of being able to identify what new knowledge they’ve learned and what might be sticking points for them. We have made these reflective practice cards up so they may be printed in mass amounts and handed out quickly when needed, or they can be posted somewhere and answers can be made on a digital collaborative platform (like padlet or lino). If printed, we usually get the students to either pass them to us to review, or to stick them on the white board/ classroom twitter board – not to shame, but to facilitate discussions. Students can look at each other’s and maybe even help and explain concepts to those who weren’t sure about something in the lesson – an excellent form of collaboration and forming learning networks in the classroom.
2 Insights – students write down 2 new things they have learned from the lesson, or 2 ‘lightbulb/ aha!’ moments. This may not just be limited specifically to content, but perhaps skills as well (for example, how to reference a website, or how to use advance search techniques). The obvious point here is that you can monitor that the students have understood the new topics correctly and that no one has ‘learned nothing new’.
1 Question – Students write 1 question they have from the lesson. It could be a clarifying question about some new content, or how to do something. This makes students really think about something they would like to learn further about. Don’t take ‘I have no questions’ as an acceptable remark – they can find a question about the concepts in the lesson, even if it wasn’t covered in the lesson – something connecting the new information to prior knowledge or opportunities for further learning.
EXIT CARDS‘Exit Cards’ are given just before the lesson ends and students need to complete one as an ‘Exit Ticket’ out of the room to recess/lunch/home. These are fairly self-explanatory, but the reason we ask students to write down what they did in the lesson in order is to make sure they actually engaged and understood each topic covered during the lesson and the progression of the topics. Again, we get students to hand these to us or pin them for discussion purposes.
I NEED HELP WITH…
Another way these have been used is in review of a test – if you go through tests afterwards, students can jot down what they still don’t understand the concepts and the teachers can re-teach to either the whole class if there is a pattern of ‘misunderstanding’ or to small groups/ individuals. These can also be used as exit cards.