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Collaborative learning

Nureva collaborative learning blog

15 ways to spark student reflection in your classroom

By Tricia Whenham
on October 30, 2015

In a recent survey of educators conducted by THE Journal, an overwhelming number – 81 percent – considered reflection skills very important. This doesn’t come as a surprise. The ability to learn from mistakes and recognize strengths and weaknesses can make the difference between success and failure, in school and beyond.

Are you looking for some new ways to increase student reflection in the classroom? Here are 15 ideas you can try tomorrow:

Student reflection in the classroom


1. Introduce reflection sentence frames 

Help students get started by providing sentence starters like “I was surprised when…” or “I’m still wondering about….” Here’s a great source for many more.


2. Sketch reflections 

Try getting your students to sketch a picture that represents what they’ve learned from a project. Remember it’s not about the quality of the art – it’s about how drawing prompts students to look at their learning from a different perspective.


3. Roll the dice 

Especially with young students, putting reflection questions on dice is a fun way to vary the reflection experience. Here’s a virtual die that a teacher created using QR codes, but you can also do this the old-fashioned way by writing questions on a blank cube.


4. Share reflections with parents 

Opening up a reflective dialog with parents can deepen the experience for your students. With a digital portfolio, LMS or other cloud-based solution, students can post a project, add a reflection and then get their parents to add comments.


5. Use dedicated reflection journals, blogs or vlogs 

Journaling is a tried-and-true reflection activity, but these days there’s no need to restrict yourself to paper and pencil. Blogs and vlogs work just as well for getting students to regularly reflect.


6. Create reflection snowballs 

This one’s not for the faint of heart, but in the right class it can be a fun way to shake things up. After a lesson, all your students write a key reflection on a sheet of paper and crumple it up. Then they toss their papers to the other side of the room. Once students catch a “snowball,” they read it, add something new and repeat.


7. Use videos

To give your students a fresh perspective on a presentation, performance or even social skill development, pull out your phone or tablet and record it. Watching themselves can give them (and you) incredible insights into their progress.


8. Write exit slips

This idea has been popular for a while for a reason – it’s a good one. Before students leave your class, ask them to quickly jot down what they’ve learned (or answer another reflection question) – it can be that simple. And if you’re looking for new ways to use exit slips, check out this Edutopia blog post.


9. Capture weekly learning highlights

On Fridays, have each student capture their number one insight of the week and post it to a shared space – you could use sticky notes on a wall or take the process digital with the Span™ system. You’ll not only build reflection skills, you’ll also see at a glance what’s resonating with your students. Here's how one school used their Span system to make student thinking visible.

Student reflection with the Span system
10. Take reflection breaks

Reflection can’t be forced, but it is a habit that can be instilled. Build reflective practice by stopping work periodically and encouraging students to record their thoughts. Eventually, students will start to reflect on their own, without teacher direction.


11. Teach a peer, a younger classmate or a parent

It’s often said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else – it’s also a natural way to reflect. Plus encouraging students to teach each other is just another way to create a student-centered classroom.


12. Use a reflective taxonomy

Peter Pappas’ taxonomy of reflection is a gold mine if you’re looking to approach reflection from some different angles. He’s taken Bloom’s more familiar model and mapped reflection questions to it.


13. Incorporate revision into assessment

Some of the best opportunities for reflection occur during the assessment process. Rather than having students submit work for a grade and then promptly forget about it, try giving them descriptive feedback instead and let them resubmit until they achieve mastery.


14. Teach the growth mindset

Reflection only works if students truly believe they can get better results with hard work and that intelligence isn’t a fixed trait. To help students internalize these ideas, try introducing Carol Dweck’s growth mindset concept and talk specifically about how you can talk back to the fixed mindset voice they might have.


15. Model your own reflection

Actions speak louder than words. So make sure to model the same reflection skills you teach. Don’t be quiet about it either – talk out loud through your thought process to show students that reflecting doesn’t stop once schooling is done.

Let’s keep adding to this list. What are you doing in the classroom to get students reflecting?


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Topics: education reflection

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