During the summer months, when I was in the early days of my commitment to this blog, I wondered about student self-reflection and what I could do to help students become more reflective. In the end, it is really hard to add to the school day. A constant frustration of mine is how challenging it is to get it all in given the four hours of instructional time I have each day. Yes, the kids are in school from 9:00 to 3:30 but so much of that day is gobbled up my specials, recess, lunch and arrival/dismissal procedures. By the time the kids come in and take care of morning procedures, pledge and announcements take place, it is nearly nine thirty. The kids head off to their specialists at 11:55 and return from recess and lunch at 1:30. On Tuesdays, we lose the kids to KCR for social emotional/social skills instruction and chorus. That means that on Tuesdays, we only have 2 hours and 45 minutes of instructional time with our students! Chipping away additional minutes dedicated to self reflection seems like a big ask.
Nonetheless, I have found a little slice of time for self reflection. Each day, we wrap up our science and social studies instruction at 3:00 so that we can get the kids packed up for the end of the day at 3:10 when walkers and bus students start getting dismissed. When my students return to the classroom, they work on their highlight reel right away and then begin packing up. The students use their student planners which are purchased by our school's PTO. The planners are intended to be used by students as a place to record their nightly homework. I don't assign homework so repurposing the planners for self-reflection seemed like a super idea. There isn't a ton of space for the students to write which is actually great because filling the space isn't overwhelming. The students are simply asked to write about the most memorable moments of their day.
As I review the highlight reels, I am able to quickly see what has impacted students. My students write about the learning experiences that have mattered to them. Generally, the experiences that make their highlight reels are also the same teaching moments that seem meaningful to me. On occasion though, I am struck my how something that is seemingly small makes a child's highlight reel. Oftentimes, it is the one on one teaching moments that make the reel. Students appreciate the individual attention that they receive.
The highlight reel is also a great tool for eliciting a conversation about the student's day at home. I think that even the most engaged student can be at a loss for words when questioned about their day at the dinner table. By then, exhaustion has set in and the school day seems like a part of the child's distant past. Having a handful of sentences to cue up the conversation can be helpful. Parents are sincerely interested in what is happening during their child's school day. Having this little cheat sheet to spark the conversation is helpful.
At the end of term, I think that it will be fascinating for students to review their highlight reels and see if they can make some generalizations. Do they really enjoy hands on experiences in math and science? Do they like research? Are they most engaged when learning is personal? Giving students opportunities to learn about themselves as students seems like a great use of our time. So far, this is a five minute (max.) investment and it seems absolutely worth it!