10 Unique and Creative Reflection Techniques & Lessons for the Secondary Student
As educators, we know how critical reflection is to the learning process. Getting students to reflect- deeply and meaningfully- is often one of the most challenging lessons we teach. I have found that both my middle school and high school students will often scoff at these reflection activities, providing the least amount of effort possible to complete the task they see as meaningless. I have been searching for and creating lessons and activities that will bring interest and engagement to this task. The following is a list of 10 lessons and activities I use regularly in my classroom to create a class of reflective learners.
1. Growth Mindset
The first step in developing a truly reflective learner is to develop the growth mindset within each and every student. Students do not naturally believe that reading and writing are skills that can be improved upon. We have all heard our students comment that they “just are not good at writing.” With this mindset, students are willing to accept poor scores, give less effort, and fain any reflection activity given. As we know, this mindset takes time to alter. I focus on these skills at the beginning of the year, but this concept can be taught at any time!
2. Asking students to reflect on a deeper level.
The first few times I asked students to reflect on their thinking, I received reflections that were basic at best. I have created this poster to encourage my students to reflect at a deeper level. Similar to Blooms Taxonomy, the lower the question- the deeper the thought. I keep this posted in my room, and use this as a guide for open reflections on activities, daily work, or projects.
3. Model your own reflection.
I take the opportunity to model my learning and my reflecting whenever possible. After an activity or lesson, I will model my own reflection for students. I will also let students see when I make a mistake, so I can express what I have learned from this. I reflect on these in the same way I would wish my students to do after their own mistakes/learning opportunity!
4. Reflect ‘n’ Sketch.
One of my favorite reflection lessons is the Reflect ‘n’ Sketch activity. When I began teaching, I only saw my students as readers and writers. I could see their struggles and successes within my subject alone. Then, after teaching tone and mood to a group of eighth graders, I asked students to draw a picture of the mood of a poem. Through this activity, I saw my struggling readers excel with beautiful artwork. I realized that my subject, English, is not the only skill to be had. Many of my students excelled in other areas, especially those who struggled in my class. This experienced inspired my Sketch ‘n’ Reflect activity. This gives students the option to draw their reflections on a project or activity. Guiding questions guide their artwork, and students can still deliver deep reflections with a medium that inspires them.
5. Reflection Vlog
I tried this for the first time this past fall, and my students absolutely rave about the Reflection Vlog. I gave students the guiding questions found within the Reflect ‘n’ Sketch activity, and asked them to create a personal Vlog. After each major project or assessment, I asked students to add to their Vlog. Some students chose to upload their videos to YouTube, and others preferred the privacy of simply creating an iMovie or Windows Moviemaker video. With this medium of reflection, students were free to speak about their work, display their work, or add videos and pictures of the process of creating their work. Not only did students find this engaging, but they found that they were able speak freely about their learning. They have commented that they did not feel bound by words, grammar, structure, and organization within the reflection, so they felt that they were better able to express their truest feelings. I can attest to this as I watched their Vlog videos. They opened up more through this ‘on camera’ experience, than in any other reflection technique!
6. Analyze your work from the teacher’s perspective.
When introducing a writing assignment, I would often provide exemplars, or mentor texts, and ask students to assess these using the rubric that would assess their own work. Not only did students better understand the rubric, they better understood the expectations for the writing. This inspired me to have students assess their own work in a similar manner. I ask students to assess their own work from my perspective. This can be via rubric or by simply providing feedback that they believe I would give. Once students get to know me, this feedback can be eerily correct! This helps students to see their work from a new perspective, and often will encourage students to make revisions before they submit their final work!
I have asked my students to create a scrapbook reflection on larger projects; this is especially effective for group work. Students take pictures of the process of their work, students working in their group roles, and of their final project. Each group member can showcase their own pictures or drawings of the groups work. Then students can reflect on their roles within the group, the process of collaboration, their impact on the groups success/failures, and on the learning that was derived from the project’s completion. Some students get very creative with this process, and truly enjoy this as much (or more) than the project itself!
8. The Cube of Reflection
I have use this Cube of Reflection after a group project. Students have a tangible cube that they roll to help them reflect together. The cube really helps them to think about their collective learning; they will use the reflection taxonomy to build their reflection to the deepest levels. Guiding questions help students with each level of this taxonomy. The fun cube fosters a collective reflection experience!
9. Social Media
I have created a Google site to mimic Facebook. Students can upload a picture of their project and reflect on their process or learning experience. I can also pose reflection questions and have students respond to these through this “Fake Facebook”. This can be equally effective on a class blog as well. For more details about setting up a class blog, check out this article on the left!
10. Semester Reflection
I always try to do a deeper reflection at the semester break. For most of my classes, I will retain the same set of students into second semester. This transition practically begs for a deep reflection on the previous work before we have a fresh new start in the new semester. I break down my semester reflection into three categories: academic, out-of-school, and personal. This has helped my students to write a guided reflection that covers all parts of their life as a learner.
Liz is a collaborator on teachwriting.org and the founder of Teach BeTween the Lines. She has been teaching for over ten years; she has loved growing young minds through literature and the art of crafting the written word. She is currently working on her doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota, and holds an M.A. in Education from St. Mary’s University, Minnesota. She loves to write short stories in her free time, especially in those cold Minnesota winters. She is supported by a wonderful family made better by the addition of her two beautiful children.