Friday, May 13, 2016

Student Reflection Consolidates Learning, Encourages Teachers, and Drives Professional Development

Want to consolidate student learning, encourage yourself, and drive your professional development?

Ask your students to reflect on their learning. This reflection can take a variety of forms, from a well thought out Google survey to a quick-and-dirty brief class discussion or 1-minute essay on the back of their final essay or project.

For the Google survey, here is a great plug, example, and step-by-step video that I’ve pinned for future reference. I’m not going to get around to it this year—but it’s a great idea.

However, I did write up on the whiteboard the goal for my 11th grade AP Language and Composition class as stated on the syllabus: Students will become critical thinkers, readers, discussers, and writers who have the communication and research skills necessary for successful engagement with academic and real life problems. It was fun for me to see the students walk in, read the board, and say, “We DID do that this year!” (Next time I need to ask for specific examples.)

The next day, when they handed in their final paper, I asked them to answer the usual two reflection questions, and a year-end third question:
  1. What did you work hard on in this essay?
  2. What is one question you want to ask the teacher about your writing in this essay?
  3. What are three things you learned this year about writing?
Here are some of their answers to those questions:

What did you work hard on in this essay?
  • I think I did well with varying my sources and examples. I wanted to make sure my sources were credible and woven into the paper instead of just placed there.
  • This essay had good usage of sentence length, with a decent introduction and conclusion.
  • For this essay I feel like I was able to put in my own personal touch as it connected with my main points. I feel like I had a good balance of my own thoughts and other credible sources. I’m proud of how I was able to let this flow in my essay
What is one question you want to ask the teacher about your writing in this essay?
  • I was wondering how to use my personal experiences in an argument essay.… I’m trying to balance the use of facts with the use of stories. [Great opportunity to refer back to our ongoing discussion of audience and purpose. Anecdotes serve ethos (you can believe me because I’ve got skin in the game) and pathos (making it real with emotional connection). Ideally, these work in tandem with logos, or data and logic.]
  • How can I organize a personal essay so it does not sound like a narrative but more scholarly? [I’m making a mental file of essayists to recommend as models. Barbara Kingsolver on the personal end, Annie Dillard in the middle, and Nicholas Kristoff on the scholarly end?]
  • Was the main point of the paper clear in general? The transitions seemed difficult to follow through the paper. [Taking a risk on a different type of organization—I thought it worked very well.]
What did you learn about writing this year?
  • Every author has a different writing style and you must be able to analyze all, even your own.
  • No matter what the prompt is, be sure you stay true to your own style and organization.
  • Reducing redundancy is important in having a clear and concise essay.
  • Knowing when to use passive voice, or even just identifying passive voice, is important.
  • Something that I’ve learned and know that I’ll use forever is ethos, pathos, and logos. I use this in almost every essay that I’ve written this year.
  • I’ve learned how to use sources in my paper and connect them with my ideas. In the past I would summarize my sources, but now I’ve gotten better at adding them in my papers smoothly.
  • Writing is not always about the 5-paragraph format. Sentence lengths should be varied. Good writing can come from nonconformity.
That was the day before the AP test. I think it helped us all feel ready.

How will you help your students reflect on their learning and your teaching this year?

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