I did this reflection activity with a few classes this week and appreciated the outcome. I hope someone reading this finds it useful, too. We spent approximately 20 minutes working through it.
First, I gave students a piece of colored paper. They took the paper and folded it in half both directions, then opened it to see four sections. We worked through each section one at a time. In the first class, I had students write in a section for a few minutes, then start sharing to help others remember. Here are the sections:
- Content Learned
- Activities for Learning
- Highlights of #1 for you – Choose one or two of the concepts listed in #1 that you feel your thinking changed about and describe that in writing
- Highlights of #2 for you – Choose one or two learning activities that most helped you develop an understanding of the content
We talked through sections 3 & 4 with an example before students started writing them. After we completed each section, students volunteered to share an item from their list. I was surprised to hear some of the highlights – surprised in a good way 🙂
Next, I asked the students to flip over their papers. Again, we worked through the four sections on the back one at a time. This time, though, after I explained a section I did not ask for volunteers to share. This side of the paper is more personal. Here are the sections:
- Proud – What are you proud of yourself for doing this school year? It does not have to be related to my class but must be appropriate.
- Most Memorable – What experiences of school this year do you think are most memorable? These might relate to your proud moments from #1.
- Want to Remember – What do you want your future self to remember from this year? This could be a hard lesson learned, or something positive you hope to remember in order to repeat.
- Encourage – You are soon heading into the next chapter of your life (high school, senior year, college). Write a note of encouragement to yourself as you prepare for that next adventure. Please fill the whole space with encouragement.
I asked students at the very end if there was anything they wanted to share from the back side. No one wanted to share and that was fine. Though I did not tell them ahead of time, I had no intention of collecting this paper. Instead, I asked them to keep it and put it in the back of their science notebooks so they might come across it sometime in the future.
For my older students, I approached this activity a little differently. We still folded a piece of colored paper, but we started with a group discussion. We talked about (and I wrote on the board) the concepts they learned this year and the activities they remembered. Then, I had them think about and share with me what their highlights were and why. The highlights of the activities were harder to elicit for them because, by their own admission, they found value in many of the activities. So, I changed the “rules” and asked them if they would encourage next year’s teacher (if for some reason I left and someone new took over) to NOT use one or more of the activities on the board.
Next, I had them complete the sections on the colored paper using the second set of prompts above. We worked through them one at a time and I did not ask them to share. When they finished, I asked them to flip over their papers. Then they were given the choice to write a full letter to themselves about the year, or a letter to me, or a letter to next year’s class. I offered a separate piece of paper if they chose me or the next class. Most students chose to write letters to themselves – and they filled the space! It was quiet and peaceful in my room, and I could see thoughtful reflection taking place.
I truly enjoy watching the students work through activities like this. Maybe, though, I will fill out my own reflection with the next class. I wonder what I would list 🙂