Posted in Education, Reflection, Teaching

Author’s Note: Reflecting on Your Writing

I wish I had understood the power of reflection when I was a student in school.  I would have grown so much more because of it.  I was an average student in school, but I could have been even better had my teachers had me reflect on my learning and the processes involved.  Reflection is such an important life skill for our students.  They need to be able to reflect on their learning and life choices in order to learn and grow.  The only way true growth can happen is through reflection.  Providing our students with opportunities to reflect in the classroom are so important for them as learners and individuals.  I can only imagine what I might be capable of doing had I been given the opportunity to reflect on my learning in elementary school.

Today in Humanities class, we gave the students another chance to reflect on their learning and work.  As they have been taking their vignette through the writing process over the past several weeks, we felt it was time for the boys to stop and look back on their writing process.

In the past, this reflection process took the students about 10-15 minutes.  They addressed the questions and moved on.  They looked at it as a checklist assignment and not an opportunity for growth.  So, this year, we approached this task differently.  First, I explained the four guiding questions we wanted them to focus on in their reflection:

  • Explain what you liked about your piece and why.
  • Explain the successes and challenges of taking your piece through the writing process.
  • What do you still need to work on to make your piece even better?
  • What would you like the teachers to provide you feedback on in your piece?

Then, I shared my model with the students.  I read it aloud.  I crafted it as if I was having a conversation with myself about writing.  I didn’t just answer or address the questions.  I told the story of my story.  I then explained this idea to the students.  “You’re not just completing this activity to get it done.  You are using this opportunity to reflect on your process as a writer so that you can grow and develop.”  I fielded some interesting questions the students asked about writing and the purpose of an Author’s Note.  Then, they got to work.

Right away, my co-teacher and I noticed something interesting.  The students were being honest and taking their time.  They explained and described the various processes they had gone through to write their vignette.  Their Author’s Notes were super long and thorough.  They weren’t just doing this assignment.  They were digging deep into the writing process.  They were genuinely reflecting on how and why they crafted the piece they did.  It was phenomenal.  I was blown away by their detail and candid answers.  They weren’t just giving us answers they thought we wanted to read.  Oh no, they were pouring their heart into these notes.  Wow!  I was blown away.

So, what was the difference?  How was it that this group of 10 students was able to craft truly reflective Author’s Notes?  Why weren’t they able to get to this high level in years past?  Is it because this group is able to be more naturally reflective?  Are they able to think more critically about their work?  They certainly aren’t more self-aware than any group we’ve had.  Was it because I shared a very different kind of model compared to last year?  Did this model allow them to better visualize the task at hand?  Was it because of how I explained the process involved in crafting the Author’s Note?  Did this make the difference?  Because I described it as a conversation and not just a series of questions, were they better able to understand what they were being asked to do?  Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above.  Whatever the reason, the students seemed to be able to really reflect on their writing today in class.  My hope is that they will take what they learned about themselves as writers today and apply it to future writing pieces.  This will be the true test.  Can they effectively utilize reflection to grow and develop as learners?  My fingers are crossed.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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