Communication Skills

5 Activities That Promote Reflection in the Classroom

The metacognitive work of reflecting on learning boosts engagement and encourages the development of critical thinking skills.

April 25, 2023
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Reflection is a powerful tool for enhancing learning and knowledge acquisition and is essential for teachers and students. When students engage in reflective thinking, they are better able to analyze and evaluate their experiences, which enables them to extract meaning and actively process what they have learned and to make sense of it. By taking the time to engage in the metacognitive practice of thinking and reflecting on learning, students can make more meaningful connections and gain a deeper understanding of the material, leading to greater long-term retention and application of knowledge.

Reflection also helps students develop metacognitive and social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness and self-regulation, by identifying areas for improvement and setting new goals. These are all important skills for lifelong learning.

5 Learning Activities that Can Foster reflection

To promote reflection, there are many options available that provide students with choices in how to share what they have learned and to engage in reflective practice. 

1. Blogging. For students who enjoy writing or jotting down ideas, blogging or journaling can be a great choice. Whether students contribute to a class blog or share it only with their teacher, it enables students to practice their writing skills, reflect on their learning, and potentially receive feedback from their peers. The blog can be on a topic related to their coursework, such as a book review, a reflection on a field trip, or a summary of a research project and what they learned and how the experience was for them.

WeVideo is a neat way for students to compile a series of video reflections and have an artifact of their learning to look back on throughout the year. It also promotes student choice and building digital skills with its editing tools and features. Students can even collaborate with classmates as they reflect. 

2. Digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is a popular and engaging option for students who are looking to showcase their knowledge through multimedia. With digital storytelling, students are empowered with choices in how to create a visual representation of their learning in a fun, engaging, and meaningful way. Depending on the tool used, students can include images, video, and audio to share thoughts and reflections of learning. 

StoryJumper is a digital storytelling platform that promotes student choice and voice in learning. Students can choose different background scenes, characters, and props and record audio for their books. Books can easily be shared with a QR code. 

3. Making mind maps. Creating graphic organizers or mind maps can be another way to boost visualization of learning and for students to present their thought processes, ideas, and connections between different concepts they have learned. Mind maps can promote critical thinking and creativity skills, as well as helping students evaluate how well they understand complex topics and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

Ideamapper is a tool that can be used by students and teachers for creating a mind map. There are many templates available to start with that make it easy to process learning, creating visualizations that help students reflect on concepts learned and make connections, leading to better content retention. 

4. Podcasting. For students who prefer speaking rather than writing to communicate their thoughts and ideas, podcasts are a great option. I started my own podcast as a way to reflect on my teaching practices and also to share what I was learning and how it impacted my classroom. By creating a podcast, students can explore their communication skills, delve deeper into a topic, and have a thoughtful discussion with classmates or simply a conversation with themselves that they can listen to and process for further reflection.

Students can create an episode to talk about a current event or a specific area of study, or to self-assess their learning experiences. Students can provide their unique perspective and insights on a topic while refining their speaking and communication skills. They will articulate their ideas more clearly, structure their thoughts, and engage in conversation, all of which also benefit their SEL skills.

Soundtrap for Education offers students and teachers many resources for getting started with podcasting in the classroom. Soundtrap also has lesson plans on a variety of topics and content areas for educators to explore and start podcasting with students right away.

5. Building digital portfolios. Digital portfolios are a great way to have students track their progress. Through a portfolio, they can build a narrative of their work and have a space to reflect on their progress and set goals.

Spaces EDU is a digital portfolio platform that helps teachers gain a deeper understanding of students’ interests, needs, and learning styles. Students can track their growth over time, identifying strengths and areas where they can set new goals. This information is critical in supporting reflective practice, allowing teachers to adjust their teaching strategies to better serve each student’s unique needs. 

Wakelet offers many possibilities for classroom use. Students can have their own Wakelet to add artifacts of work and create a digital portfolio, as well as record Flip videos to reflect on their learning. Flip has been a very beneficial tool in my classroom for several years. Whether students record videos to share their ideas or respond to prompts, it offers many choices that provide authentic and engaging learning and reflection opportunities for students. 

Benefits of reflection

Reflection promotes self-awareness and self-improvement and helps students identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and develop strategies to improve their learning outcomes. We want students to take ownership of their learning and become more active and engaged learners.

Reflective practices also enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When we engage in the metacognitive process of thinking about thinking, we develop greater awareness of our learning experiences. Students will develop a habit of self-reflection that will enable them to better adapt to new challenges, learn from experiences, and continue to grow and develop as they prepare for the future.

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