Today’s contributor: Nicole Stevens is a Music teacher at Casis Elementary.
The last two years in education have been the hardest years I have ever had. This is not due to my students but to the difficulties of teaching during a pandemic. It has been a journey to say the least. I have learned a lot. Most of what I have learned has been positive and has added value to my classroom. One of the positive changes that I have added to my classroom is the use of student reflections. Certainly, using student reflections in the classroom is not a new concept but it is new to me.
Let me start by saying that upon learning about student reflections in the classroom, I was not really sure when I could fit it into the schedule and would it really be beneficial to my students. Well, it was and it is beneficial. My students became more aware of themselves and what they were learning. It helped them to think more about their learning, reflect on mastery, and it was used as a tool for growth. My students began to take ownership of their learning. They gained more confidence in their learning and became more aware of the skills they were learning. This helped them to develop a sense of accomplishment for the new skills or concepts they learned. The reflections from students also helped shape my teaching. For example; in 3rd grade music class, we did a station rotation studying the Nutcracker curriculum. The Stations were listening, rhythm identification, dance observations, composer study, and a craft. When I gave the students 2 questions for reflection using an exit ticket. The first question was “What is something you have learned that you didn’t know before the rotation”. The second question was “Tell me something that you would like to learn in the rotation or something that you think needs to be improved about the stations”. Many students told me that they wanted to learn how to play something from the Nutcracker on an instrument. As an experiment, I added learning how to play a part of the NutcrackerMarch on the glockenspiel as a station. When the students completed a reflection on what their favorite station was and why it was their favorite, the station with learning the March on the glockenspiel was the favored station by almost all of the students. Therefore, all of my Nutcracker study station rotations have included the glockenspiel station. This is how the students shaped what I taught for that lesson. With the reflections from the students I was able to create lessons around what they needed and what I expected them to get from the lesson. I was able to be aware of whether or not the lesson was effective and I took suggestions from the students to help co-create lessons. Everything about adding student reflections to the lessons was positive.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how to add student reflections to the lessons. I felt that it was too time consuming and thought that it would take away from my lesson time. I started by adding student reflections at the end of a unit. I used exit tickets with an I think…or I feel… prompt to accomplish this. I found that the students were very responsive to the exit tickets. I learned a lot from what they wrote. I was starting to realize the value of having the students’ feelings, opinions, and ideas for improvement written on the exit tickets. Next, I decided that I needed to use student reflections once a week. I still used exit tickets but I wanted to expand the methods of recording reflections. I used discussions with a prompt but included that they had to explain how or why they wrote what they did in the reflection. I also used video recordings with an IPad as a means of collecting student reflections. They would be given a prompt and respond with a video recording of themselves answering the prompt. Sometimes I use a form. Other times, I use a think-pair-share method. All of the methods work well. I try to switch it up so that the students don’t get bogged down with the same method being used repeatedly. It keeps them thinking.
It wasn’t long before I saw my students growing in their understanding of the assignments and becoming more aware of their learning and their concept of mastering an assignment or skill. They became more confident and were able to see what they had accomplished and what they still needed to work on. I made a safe environment for the reflections and taught them to reflect honestly. I took their reflections and used it to differentiate and set goals for them. I also used the reflections to improve my teaching and shape my lessons to be a more effective teacher. The use of reflections has enhanced my classroom and the learning of my students. It is well worth the time and effort to use student reflections. Not only did the students benefit, but I did as well. I am glad that I did not let my initial hesitation dictate whether or not I used student reflections in my classroom. I will continue to use reflections and discover new ways of incorporating them into my lessons.