Crit & Creative Thinking

Reflective Practices

Probably one of the things that teachers really struggle in is guiding or giving time for reflective practices at the end of lessons. We too are guilty of this!
Reflecting on a concept or topic is an essential skill students need to engage in constantly – not just at the end of term and the unit. It needs to be done virtually at the end of every lesson where a new concept has been introduced or learning activity has taken place. This gives the students an opportunity to ‘take a step back’ from all the new information hurled at them and to sort through what it is they have understood and what it is they need to ask help for. Teachers often tell parents that their students don’t ask for help and need to do so more often, but what if the student doesn’t even know what they need help with? What if they are so overwhelmed with new information that they think they get it, but in reality when it comes to applying it new circumstances they just can’t connect it all together.

Making reflection a part of the classroom routine is essential to teach and guide students to be able to stop and think about their learning and take responsibility and leadership in their knowledge construction.

All sounds good in theory. And we all know the benefits of it. So why don’t we do it?
That great big dirty word.

TIME.

By the time you have introduced your lesson, review what you did last lesson, introduced the new concept/topic, given time to students to do a learning task associated with it, you’re already running into the next lesson or lunchtime trying desperately to get them to pack up after the bell. So how to fit it in?

We’ve come up with some simple methods. A reflection does not have to be a huge sit down and write essay responses to 10 questions. With appropriate questioning (get rid of ‘what I liked’ questions for now!) you can get a quick and easy reflection from students that help you to see what concepts have been grasped, and what ones you may need to re-teach to the whole class or perhaps just a small group or individual. The students then begin to get into a routine of being able to identify what new knowledge they’ve learned and what might be sticking points for them. We have made these reflective practice cards up so they may be printed in mass amounts and handed out quickly when needed, or they can be posted somewhere and answers can be made on a digital collaborative platform (like padlet or lino). If printed, we usually get the students to either pass them to us to review, or to stick them on the white board/ classroom twitter board – not to shame, but to facilitate discussions. Students can look at each other’s and maybe even help and explain concepts to those who weren’t sure about something in the lesson – an excellent form of collaboration and forming learning networks in the classroom.

321 RIQ

3 Recalls – Students write down 3 things they recall from the lesson, preferably in order. This is important to see if students have recalled the important and main points of the lesson, or whether they have missed the anything. This also helps students to organize the new information into smaller, more manageable chunks of understanding.

2 Insights – students write down 2 new things they have learned from the lesson, or 2 ‘lightbulb/ aha!’ moments. This may not just be limited specifically to content, but perhaps skills as well (for example, how to reference a website, or how to use advance search techniques). The obvious point here is that you can monitor that the students have understood the new topics correctly and that no one has ‘learned nothing new’.

1 Question – Students write 1 question they have from the lesson. It could be a clarifying question about some new content, or how to do something. This makes students really think about something they would like to learn further about. Don’t take ‘I have no questions’ as an acceptable remark – they can find a question about the concepts in the lesson, even if it wasn’t covered in the lesson – something connecting the new information to prior knowledge or opportunities for further learning.

 

Exit Cards

‘Exit Cards’ are given just before the lesson ends and students need to complete one as an ‘Exit Ticket’ out of the room to recess/lunch/home. These are fairly self-explanatory, but the reason we ask students to write down what they did in the lesson in order is to make sure they actually engaged and understood each topic covered during the lesson and the progression of the topics. Again, we get students to hand these to us or pin them for discussion purposes.

 

 

I Need Help With…

These are the simplest cards I use. Students just write down something they need help with – easy! We hand these out at the beginning of a lesson (mainly maths at this point) and students can add to it during the lesson as we go through the content. The teachers can then view these on their desks at their leisure as they walk the room.

Another way these have been used is in review of a test – if you go through tests afterwards, students can jot down what they still don’t understand the concepts and the teachers can re-teach to either the whole class if there is a pattern of ‘misunderstanding’ or to small groups/ individuals. These can also be used as exit cards.

Using See-Think-Wonder and Artful Thinking as a way of teaching Livability

Context

Our students have been learning about Livability and Internal Migration within Australia. We had spoken about and explored the different types of living environments within Australia, namely remote, rural, and urban environments.

The Task

The students were given a picture each that we found on the internet of paintings of these different living environments. We created a ‘proforma’ for them to work on so the learning task could be completed in silence and independently to start with.

We mixed together two different Visible Thinking Routines within the ‘Artful Thinking’ sub-genre – Looking 10 x 2, and see think wonder. There was a small element of the explanation game as well in there when we asked the students to explain why they thought certain things in the think part of the see-think-wonder.

Reflections

The individual nature of the task worked well, as the students were able to focus and think in peace without verbal distractions. I was interested to see what they thought to start with, not just what they could mash together in disjointed conversation. Perhaps steering the students away from just commenting on the artistic qualities of the painting and who painted it to focus more on the concepts arising from the actual landscape and living environment was most challenging. Surprisingly enough, the students were really engaged in this task and some even commented on how much they enjoyed it (and how much their brain hurt afterwards!) In the future we think we would possibly give some question starts to help with the students’ wonder part to guide them in the right direction.

To extend further on this task,  we have also asked students to create wordles (word clouds) on www.wordle.com or www.tagxedo.com from the listed words they came up with. This was a nice way to present the key words associated with their landscape picture. There could be many more extensions that could emanate from this task, including creating their own landscapes, further inquiry into some of their wonder questions, and one of my favourites which the students at the moment are completing, asking them ‘Would you rather live in a remote, rural, or urban environment? Why?’