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5 Classroom Activities to Help Students Reflect on Learning

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 -- McKenna Wierman

Wrapping up the school year is an emotional and exciting time for you and your students. By now, you’ve bonded as a class and spent an entire school year together overcoming challenges and learning new things.

Taking time with your class to look back on the past year you’ve spent together is a great strategy to part ways on a high note before the summer begins, and it also helps your students reflect on their academic progress. Providing students with dedicated, structured time to think about their interests, strengths, and weaknesses will help them set goals for the summer, as well as the academic year ahead. Not to mention, these reflections can provide valuable insights for you as you work to refine classroom processes and consider changes you want to make to better serve the next year’s class of students.

Here are a few fun ideas to incorporate reflective exercises into your lesson plans for the last few days of school:

1. Survey the class

Sometimes the best approach is a basic one. Having students fill out reflection questionnaires is a great way to cut right to the chase. The best part about using a simple survey method like this is that you can tailor it to get the kind of information you need. For example, if you are looking for feedback on your classroom management style, create a questionnaire that includes questions specific to your teaching methods and classroom structure. Or, you might want to take a more introspective approach so that the reflection serves as a personal exercise for your students. In this case, include questions that go beyond academics, and have students consider things like what their favorite lesson or subject was, what their proudest accomplishment of the year was, or what they hope to achieve next year.

2. Invest in student trackers

Take a more visual route by letting your students get creative and graph out the highs and lows they’ve had over the year. Using a sheet of computer or construction paper, have your students mark the months of the school year on the x-axis and have them use the y-axis to create their own scale to describe their performance on certain skills or standards throughout the year. If you’ve already been encouraging students to track their progress based on data you have been collecting, round out the year by revisiting completed trackers. Try having your students break into small groups and explain their performance to one another. Encourage each student to talk about what has been his or her biggest growth area of the year, what he or she is most proud of accomplishing, and what he or she has found most challenging.

3. Ready, set, goals!

Encourage your students to write a letter to themselves at some point in the future (try their end-of-summer selves). Ask them to think about what kinds of things they want that future self to keep in mind. Consider posing questions such as: “What subjects and topics have you enjoyed learning about this past year?” and “What do you hope to learn in the future?” You might even have your students make a list of SMART goals to set for themselves and challenge them to achieve as many as they can before the end of the next school year.

4. Finalize student portfolios

Student portfolios are a great reflection tool to help learners gather their best work from throughout the school year and see their own progress. Whether you’re just rounding out existing student portfolios or hoping to pull a few pieces together right at the end of the school year—it’s not too late to give student portfolios a try! Effective student portfolios will be a showcase of everything that represents effort, grit, and growth over the academic year. As you assign work during the last few weeks of school, encourage students to put their best efforts forward to help complete their portfolios with artifacts they’ll be proud of. Around the last day of school, set aside time for students to review their portfolios and see how much they’ve improved since the beginning of school. If you think your class would be comfortable sharing, let them discuss what they notice about their progress and what goals they might set for themselves in the future as a group. 

5. Get poetic

Poetry isn’t just great for the soulit’s also a great way of getting to know your students better. Take a moment to read a reflective poem of your choice to your class—something that is both relatable and inspirational. Then, give students some time to come up with their own reflective poems. Ask them to use their poems to describe what their journey in your classroom has been like since the beginning of the year, how they have changed, and what they have learned. Once everyone has completed a draft of their poems, invite them to share with the class. You can even try having students share in true slam poetry fashion (including snaps after each reader). However you go about it, be sure to emphasize that this exercise is not about perfection, judgment, or comparison—it’s simply a chance for everyone to get creative and share their thoughts.

Looking for more ideas to keep your students from bouncing off the walls (and also encourage learning) during the final weeks of school? Check out this blog post for 4 Tips for Teachers to Make the Last Few Weeks of School Count!