Reflective Teaching Day 19: Student Reflection

Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

There’s a problem with this prompt. It assumes that I adequately and proficiently utilize various methods to encourage students to reflect. I suppose I could list three ways to get students reflect, and then come up with some classroom activity that somehow utilizes it. But this isn’t a college paper where I feel the need to prove that I’m doing something correctly even when I’m not. If I BS the prompt, then I’m not really in the spirit of being a “Reflective Teacher” am I?

So to be honest, when I first read this prompt I said to myself, “What? Umm….huh?” And then I read a few other peoples’ posts and I got some ideas. The first is that I am not alone. Of the 4 blogs I looked at, 2 of the teachers said that this was an area where they needed to improve. Obviously, I make number 3. That being said, once I read a few others’ posts, I got a few ideas of my own for future use.

It has become clear to me that student reflection is clearly something that I have been grasping desperately for during my 3+ years as a teacher. I just didn’t have the name for it, and therefore I didn’t know how to teach my students to reflect. As I see it, student reflection really means “I can identify the places where I’m proficient and the places where I need work, and here’s what I’ll do to improve.” And I’ve been trying desperately to get my students to that place for years! Maybe it seems strange that I have to spell it out for myself in those terms, but honestly, we’re in totally new territory for me here. But now I have a name for it. In fact, now that I recognize it, I realize that I have recently read about lots of good ideas, and now I just need to figure out how to implement them!

So here are some of my goals for student reflection, and how I plan to use them:

  1. Portfolios. At first, I was skeptical here. I thought back to my elementary portfolios which basically went “Find one piece of work you’re proud of and one you’re not. Tell why you’re not happy with the second one.” From a teacher standpoint, that’s not a bad idea. But when that’s all the guidance you give you 4th grader on the day before parent-teacher conferences, let me tell you, it doesn’t guarantee much reflection from the student. So when I started reading about portfolios, I dismissed the idea. But then I heard all these world language teachers talking about how excellent their portfolios were. How they got students to reflect. How it helps the students recognize where they are from a proficiency standpoint (not just, “Ooh, there’s a lot of red marks on this paper, I must have done badly. Oh well. So, last night, Christy called me and…”) and let them take ownership of how they can improve. I’m not totally certain how I want to implement this yet, but I know I want to try it. I’m thinking electronic will be the easiest to organize, and Google Drive should make that a snap.
  2. Self- and peer-editing. I tried this yesterday, but most of my students told me “¡No encuentro errores!” “I can’t find any errors!” Let me tell you, from the brief glances I got at students’ work, they were far from error free. So I think this is what I’m going to do:
    1. Create a “duh” error board. This has been on my to-do list for a few weeks now. But I want lots of student input, and I just haven’t made space for it on my walls yet. Hopefully this will help students know what to look for when they edit themselves or others. The idea is that students will be able to add to this throughout the year, and it will help remind them not to make those “silly” mistakes.
    2. They already have lists of Can Do statements for their levels, but I think I’m also going to give them the ACTFL guidelines as well and ask them to evaluate their own & others’ writing according to the guidelines & say how they can improve. I can do this for other modes of communication, too.
    3. Before I ask them to self- or peer-edit, remind them of some of the things we’re working on right now (the differences between ser & estar, preterite & imperfect, etc.) so that they’ll be doubly on the lookout for errors there. Hopefully, the better they become at catching errors after something is written, the better they’ll become at catching them before or as they’re written.
  3. I’ve started working on a “proficiency wall”. I’m going to post the proficiency levels on a continuum with their various benchmarks and indicators underneath. Then, I’ll give students 5 copies of their name on different colored paper. I’ll ask them to put (for example) the blue one where they’d rate themselves for presentation speaking, the green one for listening, the red one for interpersonal, etc., and then, as they progress, ask them to move them from one level to the next. I’m hoping this will help students take ownership of their proficiency and push them to work toward the next level of proficiency in the various modes of communication.

So there you have it. Three methods of self-reflection. Not how I use them in my classroom now, but my thoughts on implementing them in the future. The proficiency wall I hope to have done by the end of next week. The silly errors board will be next on my list. Hopefully by the end of the first quarter I’ll have that going. The portfolios may take until the second semester to get started, because I have a feeling that’s going to be the most time consuming to set up and figure out. But I’ll keep you updated!

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