Why Student Reflection Should Never Be Skipped
A MiddleWeb Blog
We’ve worked on formatting dialogue, punctuation, editing and revising, and crafting strong characters.
I’ve shared mentor texts and conferenced with them in both the classroom and in Google Docs. They’ve spent a lot of time writing. They focused on strong starts as a way to pull the reader into the story with a dramatic opening.
They ended the short story project with a round of reflective writing. While I always enjoy the stories, it is the reflective stance that I look forward to. How do they see themselves as writers? What have they learned from the experience?
And just as important, what trends emerge from the reflections that I can make sure I address in the classes, either as celebratory moments or mini-lessons that dig deeper into some writing skills?
Mostly, my students try to be insightful and honest. These reflections are part of their emerging digital writing portfolios (I wrote about these portfolios last year) yet they give me an inside look at self-perceived strengths and weaknesses.
In some ways, the reflections are more important than the stories themselves. They will write other stories (although trends in students’ reflections suggest that many are not writing stories in the earlier grades like they used to). But my aim is to find anchors for future improvement to help them grow as writers.
I think the art of reflection is difficult and not often enough valued, mostly because we run out of time or feel rushed at the end of a unit of study. We often cheat reflection to keep pace with the never-ending timeline of our curriculum maps and standardized testing calendars that loom large in our minds. When we “catch up” this way, we do a disservice to our learners.
Expanding the notion of reflecting through writing
I participated in the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC this fall — a sort of large-scale open social media study of the book by George Couros called The Innovator’s Mindset. One common message from George, and from many of the participants, has been to expand the notions of reflection through writing.
Many participants in the IMMOOC are school administrators and technology/innovation coaches, and George has pushed the idea of blogging as a way to reflect for oneself while also sharing with the world.
When you reflect on your own, you are accountable to yourself. When you blog, you are accountable to yourself and others. Others need to hear your voice.” – George Couros, The Principal of Change
As a daily blogger in my own space and a monthly blogger here at MiddleWeb, I am all for reflection. I like to write when things go great with what I am aiming to do (not often enough), and when things go south and fall short (all too often), and everywhere in-between. I reflect to share, but I also reflect to gather insights from others. I learn from my experiences, and the reflective writing is my memory, written down for later.
Same with my students. I know not all of them are in that critical thinking space yet, where they understand the power of reflective stance. Many still write for me, the teacher, and not for themselves, or for some larger audience.
My aim is to nurture them towards the understanding that we reflect to contemplate where we have been, and to give them the necessary tools and time as young writers still finding their voice. Reflection allows us all to see our multi-dimensional selves and provides us with the foundation and traction to move forward.
We could all use more of that.