Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.
Teaching language arts lends itself to constant reflection, so this prompt is a little difficult for me. Sometimes I feel like all we do in class is reflect. The three main ways students reflect on their learning in my class are writing about it (obviously), talking about it (either through discussion or real life application), and creating a visual (or performance) to represent their learning.
This 8th grade girl reflected on her learning verbally this morning:
She flew into my room first thing shouting, "Hauptsteen, I did it!" My first response was something sarcastic along the lines of wondering if she'd actually completed her homework on time. She proceeded to explain that she had used "well" instead of "good" when another adult inquired about her health this morning, and that she knew it was the first time she had ever used it correctly because we had just gone over it in class yesterday. She brought me a flower she picked on her way to school (to match the one she picked for herself) and we decided that a selfie was appropriate to celebrate the momentous occasion. (She actually completed her homework on time, too, which was a major bonus.) I was puffed up with pride that not only had she been able to apply what we'd learned so soon, but also that she was so darn excited about it she had to tell me immediately.
This is one of the reasons I love talking with kids about their learning. It's fun to see them work it through and be able to apply it. It's one of the reasons I enjoy writing conferences so much. To be able to sit and have a conversation over a new skill or strategy is one of my favorite parts of teaching. It's something kids are proud to do; they want to talk about it when they learn something new, when they finally get it. Sometimes I get so bogged down with all of the other parts of my job that I forget how awesome it is that I get to talk to young teens every day. They are some of the most fascinating people in the world. Yes, middle schoolers can be immature, and mean, and drive me nuts. But they're full of emotions and opinions, and sometimes their perspective (and company) is more refreshing than being around adults because the conversation is so raw and visceral. (Remember, I'm awkward with social situations. Adolescent social interaction is perfect for those of us who suffer from this problem. No one is more awkward than 7th and 8th graders.)
But talking doesn't work for everyone. Some kids need other ways to reflect on a poem we've read or a new piece of writing they had to create, so many of them choose to do written reflections. These reflections are often where I learn the most about myself as a teacher and my students as learners. They inform the changes I need to make before I teach a lesson again next year (or if I decide to never teach it again). They allow me to pry into my students' heads and see what specifically was difficult that I need to address, or if I'm not challenging them enough. Written reflections are invaluable teacher-student interaction. While I find more joy in verbal reflection, I use written more often so I can reach every student, not just the exuberant ones.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.