A time used to capture our individual understanding and learning through reflections.
The Art of Reflecting
Image retrieved from: Amazon
It has been a privilege to be currently involved in an incredible professional development group: Creating Cultures of Thinking. This study group takes the time to investigate and discuss Ron Ritchhart's book of the same name.
This cohort of educators has fanned my passion for learning and has inspired me with ideas to do the same for the learners in my classroom.
Similar areas of concern were highlighted in our discussion in regards to student reflection:
Concern #1: TIME
We agreed that not enough time was given throughout a unit of study for students to truly reflect on their
Concern #2: Lack of MOTIVATION
When time was given for reflection, most students were not motivated to do so in a meaningful manner.
It was just one more item on their checklist to hurry up and finish.
Concern #3: Uninspiring ENVIRONMENT
The lack of motivation led us into a discussion on how the learning environment itself was not a source of inspiration.
Confining desks and uncomfortable chairs do not serve to promote student engagement for longer periods of time.
Clearly changes had to be made...
The What: A Time to Capture our Thoughts
- food (a natural motivator among my students)
- items that promote comfort: fuzzy socks, pillows, blankets
- individual space
- range of materials to capture thoughts: phone, computer, paper, writing and drawing utensils
With this new set of information, it was time to start taking steps to transform these ideas into action.
The How: Learner's CHOICE
In his book "Making Thinking Visible", Ron Ritchhart shares an inspirational case study
Making Room for Reflection written with Lisa Verkerk.
In this case study, Lisa shares how she incorporated painted reflections journals with her 5th grade students. The following paragraph helped define my next steps:
"... to allow oneself to think through art, and to create abstract metaphors with deep personal meaning... had the deepest impact on Lisa as a learner... Although the use of writing and words weren’t forbidden, they tended to be useful in amplifying the visual rather than replacing it. Furthermore, the open-ended use of materials had a unique way of allowing ideas to flow in ways they didn’t always seem to do in purely written reflections..."
With this in mind, I decided that I would have reflection prompts that students could respond to in any form they chose.
Introducing the 'Thought Catcher' to Students
Note: Dream catchers triggered the idea for our 'Thought Catchers'
Classroom Set Up
My colleague Ilse Ortega- a phenomenal educator that lives and breathes visible thinking in her classroom- introduced me to Calm.com. A website with relaxing nature scenes and sounds that helps create a peaceful environment.
I projected the website on the screen so that it could easily be seen from any place in the classroom. Classical music played softly in the background mixed in with the nature sounds creating a soothing atmosphere.
Students were told to find and create a personal space for themselves. Some decided to sit under desks or in corners while others laid out on the floor.
I brought drinks along with some salty and sweet finger food for students to munch on. They took their food to their personal spaces and were responsible for cleaning up after themselves.
Our First 'Thought Catcher' Topic: Rube Goldberg Machines
They provide a better understanding of the content students were reflecting on.
Our Thought Catchers
- How do simple machines make our lives easier? Provide at least one example.
- What were the most significant things you learned when building your Rube Goldberg machine?
- What will you take away from this learning experience?
- Feel free to add any extra thoughts!
Same prompt; different results!
"This is a 'Butterfly Bomb' that is made out of pieces of paper...
I have placed my thoughts inside, so when you hit it, the thoughts will come out."
Created using: Piktochart
Created using Sketchnote techniques by Grade 6 student
Created using Sketchnote techniques by a Grade 8 student
Whenever possible, educators should model their own learning experiences for and with their students.
Thoughts on the 'Thought Catcher'
Note: out of the 30 students surveyed 100% want to continue doing 'Thought Catchers' in class!
The transformation that has taken place over the past few weeks has redefined my path as an educator and most importantly as a learner.
This is just the beginning!
Share Your Thoughts
Please comment and share your own experiences with promoting the art of reflection among your students.
I would love to hear your ideas so I can improve upon this process!