Higher Order 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.


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.

Maths and Critical and Creative Thinking

Let’s face it, the general sentiments about maths can be somewhat… uninspiring. We hear many complaints about maths and how students find it boring and don’t like it, and we figure that’s because a lot of us teachers don’t feel confident enough (ourselves included!) to teach beyond the textbook, lest we get it wrong and the students are forever ruined in their mathematical knowledge. We personally understand this trepidation and ingrained feeling that the only proper way to teach maths is from the textbook because really, it was written by math genius’s right??

But should this really be the case?

We have begun small, baby steps, in trying to open maths up to some creative and critical thinking. Something to get those problem solving skills and connecter neurons happening. Something to make this fun, and seem worthwhile.

We used to start with the usual ‘What do I know, What don’t I know’ type of questioning at the start of maths units to try to ascertain what the students may be able to recover from mathematical lessons of past, but after a while, this too became slightly mundane.

So we turned to our favourite types of critical and creative thinking templates and questioning. Instead of telling the students what we were going to ‘tackle’ in maths, we gave them an opportunity to explore creatively some connections and prior knowledge through Blooms, Questivities, and Thinkers Keys. These were given to the students as ‘prior – knowledge’ learning tasks and as a way to introduce them to the concepts we would be exploring in maths.

The students were given these tasks as a sheet and they needed to present it in a way that they thought was interesting and informative. Most students stuck to the ‘poster’ presentation method, however we have had a few student starting to delve into prezis, movies and other forms of digital presentations. These were shared with the class and then discussions around the ‘vocab’ we would need for this topic would occur. As students came up with pertinent words, they were given a card to write the words on and add to the ‘Vocab Wall’. This then ensures the students can see and access this language and associated vocab all the time in class.

The result?
Students collaboratively working together to produce some rather thoughtful, engaging, and sometimes hilariously creative ideas! It may seem like a whole heap of fun (which it was!) but with carefully constructed questions and learning tasks, students began to make connections between the concepts and real life. They were able to begin asking those big questions, see the purpose these concepts have in our world and use language that they didn’t know they already had ingrained into their mathematical vocabularies. As a teacher, not only does this practice essential 21st Century skills like collaboration, communication, inquiry and creative and critical thinking, but it gives an insight into the type of language, concepts and ideas the students might have about the topics.

And they’re much more fun to read than a pre-test or list of knowledge points.

Blooms Taxonomy on Decimals and Percentages

Fraction Questivities

Measurement Questivities

Thinker’s Keys on Chance

Please feel free to use these as you see fit and adapt to your classroom, but please cite EduSphere on your documents!