Kids, the end is near! We’re so close. Fun Fairs are done. Crafts from the school year are coming home. Celebratory trips are happening. Summative activities are almost complete. Exams are just around the corner. You can smell summer. What a glorious feeling, right?
Well, it is. It’s amazing to be done and to bask in a well-deserved break from studying, working, and learning. The last thing anyone wants to do (students and parents alike) is one more project. And yet, here I am about to ask you to do just that. It’s not a big assignment. No one is going to evaluate it. But it may be one of the most important things your kiddies do.
I am asking you to get your kids to reflect. And to write it all down.
We ask people to reflect all the time. What went right? What went wrong? What else should I have done? What would I do differently?
Well, generally, I don’t think we do a fantastic job of it. Reflections aren’t meant for other people. They are meant for us. You can’t really Instagram it, sometimes people Facebook it, but inevitably, we put it out for reaction, for interaction, and that is not really the primary purpose of reflection, now is it? We end up neglecting ourselves and our learning, because we are too busy looking for others’ opinion. This is exactly why we need to do a better job at it. And more specifically, why we need to do better at teaching our kids how to excel at it.
Where this activity is so important is at the end of the school year. When everything has come to a close and all children want to do is go to camp, or play with their friends, urge them to take a little bit of time to think about what happened this year. As a teacher, parents ask me all the time, “what should my kid be doing this summer to prepare for next year?” They are always surprised when I tell them they need to reflect. “But Ama, what about reading a book every day, or hiring a math tutor?” Yes, these are all good. Sure you can/should do this if your child needs extra help. But wouldn’t it be awesome for them to reflect on how they feel about these things in the framework of what has worked well for them in the past and what they need from their teachers in the future?
I will tell you that if you give kids a voice in their own learning, they will tell you what they need in order to learn better. If they can do this while the year is still fresh in their mind, your kids will have a much easier time recalling what worked and what didn’t. And if you really want them to achieve success next year, get them to work on this exercise.
Here are few questions students should be asking themselves – and writing down – come June (which, ahem, is now):
- What subject did I excel in? Why?
- What subject was my weakest? Why?
- What types of assignments challenged me the most? Did I enjoy this challenge? If not, why?
- What types of assignments bored me? What was it about them that didn’t have me involved?
- Where did I sit in my classroom? Did this work for me? (Be honest!) Where do I feel is the place for me to sit in order to do best in my class.
- When my teacher gives me feedback, what do I wish they would tell me to improve?
- What is something my teachers tell me to improve upon that I have no idea how to do?
- In class, what do I wish we could do more of (class discussion, direct instruction)?
- How do I feel about technology in the classroom? Do we use it enough? Too much? Do I have access to the same things at home?
- What is one goal I have for myself that only I can make happen?
*The questions are endless, but this is a good start
If you really want to know what your kids did at school, and how they feel about school and learning, get them to reflect. When the stakes aren’t high and their memory is still fresh, this one activity helps kids think about their own learning. And bonus, when they truly reflect and then share with you, it’ll make you much better equipped to have well informed conversations with your child’s new teacher(s) next year!
This activity is really great especially for students with learning exceptionalities. These students have IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), which denote an exceptionality including – but not limited to – LD (learning disability), Gifted, or Behavioural. Some of the great Special Education teachers I know get their students to reflect on their learning and then write self-advocacy letters to teachers, so students can be more successful in their classes. The information is invaluable and the students feel empowered to do better. They feel like someone is listening. Now, wouldn’t it be great if all kids reflected on their learning? We could move so far beyond “I just don’t like that class/teacher/subject”, to a real understanding of WHY this actually is.
So here’s your challenge for the summer. No one is going to evaluate you. No one is going to check your homework. No one is going to punish you if it’s not complete. But it may be the best lesson your kid could ever teach you.