Friday, June 20, 2014

Did You Really Do Your Best? (Student Reflections @ the End of a Lesson)

Picture this:  You're sitting at the kitchen table grading papers, late Sunday night (because let's face it, you put it off until the last minute so you could enjoy every ounce of your weekend!).  You come across "Johnny's" paper and realize - IT'S NOT DONE!  Grrr...  Did he seriously not check over his work!?  How could someone turn in a paper not finished!?    Then a few more papers later you get to "Julie's" paper and realize - she did NOT try her best.  She didn't use the anchor chart you provided nor did she take her time!  

These are situations that we've all been in as teachers.  What if there was a way to limit the amount of times this happened?  I would love to share with you what I've done that's helped my students really focus on doing their best work and reflecting on their work before turning it into me.  

I call it "The Reflection Station".  It has this name because I want the students to know that reflecting on his/her work is something we should do constantly and every time we turn in an assignment, no matter how big or small.  I try to refrain from calling it 'the paper trays' or other words/phrases like it.  This has seemed to help make the concept stick more.  

So what IS 'The Reflection Station'??  Here's what it looks like!

I have typed up short, reflection type questions and placed them on the bulletin board behind where the paper trays are located.  Therefore when they are turning in a paper - they see them each time.  The questions are simple to read and simple to answer as well.  They consist of:

*Did I do the best I could?
*Did I use the resources my teacher gave me?
*Did I read the directions carefully?
*Did I double check my work?
*Did I think back to how my teacher taught this to me?
*Did I take my time?

These are a great visual for the kids to remember to ask themselves these questions each time they go to turn in a paper.  At the beginning of the year, we took a LOT of time to discuss each question and what it means.  We also worked on what to do if we answer one of the questions with a 'negative' answer.  Having the board up for them to see is one thing, but really making it meaningful and modeling it for them lesson after lesson is what made it work.  

To help make the questions even more meaningful, I would randomly assign them a question at the end of the lesson that they had to physically answer on their paper before being allowed to turn in their paper.  This made the reflection more concrete and it would also help me see if they understood HOW to reflect.  Sometime I would allow them to choose a question on their own to answer on their paper.  I would gear it to:  "Pick a question that may be something you don't always do...  Do you ALWAYS take your time?  Do you ALWAYS use the resources I gave you?"  This made it a bit more meaningful for them too.  

You can also see that in the middle of the questions is a stoplight themed 'grade myself' system.  These are becoming very popular now and I'm happy to say I've been using one for a few years now and they really do work!  Here's how:

After the students have decided "Yes!  I'm ready to turn in my paper" they then continue their reflection by deciding how well they thought they did on the actual concept/topic itself.  Green = They've got it and they can move on or teach others.  Yellow = I'm getting there and might need a bit more instruction.  Red = I'm not there yet and I'm not confident on this topic.  

Students then place their paper in the coordinating tray that matches their confidence level.  At the end of the lesson and when all students have turned in their paper - I then collect them from the trays.  I use this data to have mini conferences with my students on why they feel the way they feel.  Especially for those students in the 'red' tray.  I've found a lot of time kids will put their papers in that tray but get a perfect or almost perfect on their grade.  It's so nice to have those conversations with the students about 'Why did you feel this way?  and Look!  You did great!"  What a confidence boost for them!!  I do the same for the yellow and green.  The harder conversations are the ones where the papers are in the green tray but yet they obviously didn't master the objective of the lesson.  But what a great conversation it ends up being - so meaningful!  

This is something I had in place all last year in my classroom.  It did take some redirecting and reminding as they year went on.  Students would sometimes get 'lazy' and not do the reflections as meaningful as I would want them to.  But just like all lessons that need a refresher - that's just what we did!

I hope you've enjoyed my little idea and I'd LOVE to hear how you have your students reflect on their learning.  I do lots of other reflection type activities too that differ depending on the lesson, but this is one that is in place no matter what the lesson is.  It's worked great for me and I hope you have found it interesting as well!  If you want to download the reflection questions - Just click HERE or the picture below!  They are yours for free!

Oh - and what better way to have the students reflect quickly on their learning than by using exit tickets!  Check out my newest TPT addition - Show What You Know - Grammar Exit Tickets!  Over 30 Grammar concepts and over 40 pages of exit tickets to make ending your lessons much easier!  

If you like what you see, make sure you're following me on Facebook for other great ideas, freebies, and contests!  

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Wow! I love this reflection idea! Thank you for posting it and including the freebie relection questions! I am definitely going to be making this into a mini bulletin board this coming fall! Do you have the red/yellow/green signs available anywhere?

  2. This is a fabulous idea! I'm moving from fifth grade down to second grade next year, and was looking for a simple way that students can reflect - LOVE the visual! Thank you!
    One Sassy Teacher

  3. What an simple, yet powerful idea. Thanks for sharing :)


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