Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Opportunities for Student Reflection

Opportunities for student reflection or conferring don't need to wait until the end of a marking period.

Of course, tickets out the door have been used successfully for reflection, and teachers have often scheduled days and weeks for conferencing with students. Yet two ways that I have been building more reflection and conferring for more students--seamlessly--is two-fold:
  • ending quizzes and tests with brief written reflections.
  • using the classroom podcast for kids to reflect on reading and writing, allowing the rest of the class to use the podcast for source-based writing.
Regarding the questions at the ends of quizzes and tests, I have varied what I have asked.

Sometimes I ask students to reflect about the content on the assessment, but more often I am finding more value in asking students to reflect on their life as learners.

For example:
  • Explain your writing process outside of class.
  • Share what writing or reading was like when you were a child. Do you miss anything about it? 
  • Tell me about a topic from another class, or from everyday life experiences, that you continued to think about on your own. How have you pursued learning more about that topic?
  • What obstacles keep you from pleasure reading? What could you do to overcome those obstacles?
  • Tell me about topics or classroom exercises that feel worth the effort for you.
These reflections are worth points. Attributing points is a small way to demonstrate that I value their learning beyond the content and standards. However, the longterm value comes from my follow-up in writing or in conversation (formal and informal). When we participate in their reflections, we send a message that how we learn has value. How we think and what we do matters.

I find myself jotting more possible reflection questions down in my writer's notebook all the time. Now that I find that I have a place to continue to slip in more writing and more reflection, the ideas come easily. I am chasing my curiosity about my kids.

More often, I find myself conferring with students about more than a specific piece of writing. Conferring happens at any time, and on any given day my kids will have several pieces of unfinished, messy, writing to reference in a conference. We can talk about reading. We can talk about their reading and writing past, goals, growth, et al.

I record many of these conferences on my iPhone using the VoiceRecord Pro app. I like this app because it allows me to email the audio file or upload it to a wide variety of online storage systems such as Google Drive or DropBox.

Voice Record Pro also helps me share reflections with all of my students in another format--the classroom podcast. I meet with students in pairs or small groups and host discussions about reading and writing. Recently, these conversations have been more about the conditions of the learning classroom (choice) as well as books that they have loved recently.

Our students can learn from conferring, but they can also learn by listening in to the conferring that their peers experience. It happens anyway when they eavesdrop on our conferring.

This podcast, The Classroom, can be found on iTunes or through most podcasting apps. I use a podcast hosting system called Libsyn. It does cost a bit of money, but my hope is that this podcast will lead to more understanding and reflection by students, families, and teachers.

One way I am bringing the student podcast into the classroom is by asking students to listen to it in class and to write a bit of a reflection on specific episodes--their writing in this instance is built on supporting academic vocabulary.

For example, this week's work asks students to reflect on the word implicit. Once we establish a meaning together, students will listen to an episode of the classroom podcast and find something implicit in the podcast to write about.

In the end, finding ways to ask students to reflect, and for me to reflect with them, brings me closer to understanding where they are today--and if I can understand that, I can help them.

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