Student Reflection & the Common Misconceptions Teachers Have

     Now days, teaching is so much more than delivering content.  It's about developing the whole learner - a student who is self sufficient, responsible, flexible, thinks outside of the box, and empathetic.  It's a lot on their plate as well as ours as their teacher!  So on top of teaching our content areas, we also need to be helping round out the well groomed children in our classrooms.  But how can students be a part of this?  How can we get students to step up and take responsibility for their own learning and hold themselves accountable for their journey.  Two words - Student Reflection.  When we have our students consistently reflect upon their learning & their journey, we are allowing them to take control of their own education.  They can make decisions for themselves based on their own data.  They get to sit in the driver's seat for once.  But - with all aspects of teaching, there are many misconceptions to student reflection that I would like to set straight.  By the end of this post, I hope that you truly can see and understand the potential and impact that student reflection can have on a student's growth & achievement.

Student Reflection Misconceptions

Misconception #1:  Student Reflection is Natural

In my experience as a teacher and an instructional coach, I've found that many teachers see and want to harness the power behind having students reflect on their work, however they assume that
Student Reflection Misconceptions
 'reflection' is a natural part of the learning process and that students just know how and what to do.  This is not true.  Teachers are a reflective bunch, but that's because we've been taught how to.  Reflection is a learned skill.  It is learned through observing others.  When we ask our students to reflect on their learning without having taught or modeled, students don't know where to start their thinking.  They don't understand what's important to reflect on and not to reflect on.  Where do they start?  How?  Why?  Do you see the confusion that students will/might have if we just throw this 'reflection' at them?  We need to teach our students how to reflect.

(See Photo!) A super simple way to model for your students is to complete the 'reflection activity' you're having your students do, yourself!  Let them see you do it and hear the process themselves!

Misconception #2:  Students Don't Need Reminders to Reflect on their Learning

Since we learned from the previous misconception that student reflection isn't something that comes naturally to students, this misconception naturally makes sense.  Students need to know when to reflect on their learning.  They need reminders, modeling, support, explanation.  And remember that reflecting doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be at the end of a lesson or activity.  Remind
Student Reflection Misconceptions
students to reflect before, during, and after a lesson to get the most out of their level of understanding and growth.  If you want the most out of their learning and growth - then make sure you're reminding students to reflect!

-------->  An easy way to do this is to make reflection a part of your routine!  Making or creating a reflection journal where students can simply write out their thoughts on a lesson/activity or the day is super helpful (and you can use them when conferring with students!).  Giving them sentence starters in their journals is helpful to get them started thinking, especially if they are in younger grades!

Misconception #3:  Students Understand What It Means to Reflect

First off, when we reflect - that encompasses a wide variety thinking.  Students don't know what questions to ask themselves to reflect on.  Students need examples of reflection to know what to do and how to think through their own experiences.  Reflection is about the process of thinking not about the product that they are producing.  It's about the 'How'.  When students are reminded to reflect, have been given ample models of thinking to use to mirror, and understand what it means to truly reflect -
Student Reflection Misconceptions
then you're going to get the deeper and more confident reflection from your students!  So as a teacher - I'm modeling reflecting, giving concrete and specific examples and ways for my students to reflect, and making it a specific part of my lesson to get the most out of my students.

<---------------  Giving students a concrete way to reflect helps them understand the process even better!  One of my favorite and easy ways to do this is to create a stop light and use clothes pins with students' names on them.  Before, during, or after a lesson - have the students reflect on their level of understanding on the concept and place their clothes pin next to the color that matches their level.  This allows you to locate quickly students who need more help or pair students up for an activity!

Misconception #4:  Students Only Need to Reflect on Graded Work

This is something I've noticed even from teachers who have upped their 'reflection game'!  Think of this - by the time it's graded..  it's too late! (not completely, but you get what I'm saying). We want to make sure the students get the chance to reflect during the process of learning to get the ample chance to grow as much as they can during the lesson!  So when we have them reflect at the beginning we
Student Reflection Misconceptions
Consensograms are perfect for reflecting at any point in a
lesson and it gives the teacher amazing data to use to identify
students for small groups!
are allowing students to think about their prior knowledge, think about how they've done on a previous assignment that's been connected to so they know where and what in today's lesson they need to focus and work on.  When we have them pause and reflect in the middle of a lesson, we are giving them the chance to think about what they need from me, the teacher, that might impact their outcome by the end of the lesson, what questions they have that they don't understand, and how and what they need to change in themselves to get the most out of the lesson.  When we reflect at the end of a lesson, we are allowing students to make a game plan or an action plan for 'next time' or identifying areas that are great for small groups and interventions!  This also is perfect for encouraging a growth mindset in our students as well. (Want to get started with Growth Mindset?  Check out this great post on 5 Ways to Get Started with Growth Mindset).  So it doesn't just have to be on graded work!

Misconception #5:  Students Only Need to Reflect on the Mistakes That They Make

When it comes to success (for adults and children), it's important to know what impacted your success.  So when it comes to reflection, we need to make sure we're teaching students to not only reflect on the mistakes that they are making to change them and grow - but also to reflect on what went right and how that made them successful.  Doing this allows them to repeat this and hopefully
Student Reflection Misconceptions
apply it to another area in their day to have more success.  Students need to see both sides - what positively impacts their learning and what isn't allowing them to learn.  This allows them, too, to reflect on areas in their life that just aren't about academics.  This can apply to behavior, social, and many other areas as well.  Reflection is truly a life long skill and when we put all of this together, we are teaching them that!

(See Photo!) Sometimes it's just about asking the right question.  So to make sure students are reflecting on both sides of the spectrum - just make sure you're asking a variety of questions!

So if you didn't think it before, hopefully you do now.  Student reflection is an important and necessary part to a student's growth and achievement.  It takes much of the responsibility that is on the teacher's shoulders and places it also on the student's shoulders.  And why shouldn't it be on theirs as well?  It's our responsibility to teach our students to become well rounded people and what better way to do that, than reflect on their own journeys?

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If you want to get started with student reflection and/or need some new and concrete ideas to add to your toolbox, then definitely check out my Student Reflection Mega Pack!  It's loaded with ready to use ideas and printables for teachers and students!

Student Reflection Misconceptions

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Student Reflection Misconceptions

5 Ways to Introduce Growth Mindset to Your Students

      When teaching, some things are easy to explain.  Concepts like addition are concrete and visual.  Others like phonics or probability, not so much!  When a concept isn't black and white, it's more difficult to explain it to students.  And that's no different with non academic concepts, like Growth Mindset!  Have you tried explaining Growth Mindset to students?  Maybe you've used some of the catch phrases related to GM such as "Don't give up" or "Mistakes mean progress!" - but have you truly broken down and explained what this necessary mindset is truly all about and how it effects each and every one of us?  Keep reading to find out 5 fun and simple ways to introduce Growth Mindset to your students!


     There is a time when a young child is growing up that doing things wrong becomes bad.  I haven't been able to pin point when that is.  But growing up, everything difficult that a child had to accomplish was done by repeated practice of doing something the wrong way over and over again:  walking, riding a bike, reading, etc.  But at a certain point, we (society including the child) expects perfection right away.  The child gets discouraged, we get frustrated and the cycle continues.  We can avoid this from the first day of school by doing what tip #1 states:  Practice the wrong way.  It doesn't matter what you're practicing - procedures during back to school, math word problems, reading comprehension, etc. - practice the wrong way.  This allows students the chance to understand the process of how to 'redeem' themselves after making mistakes, how to manage their frustration, and how handle situations like the one that they are in, at a later time.  By doing this, it allows students to see both sides of spectrum of thinking - both the right and wrong side.  It helps keep them balanced and able to use their growth mindset when needed! When you do practice the wrong way, make sure to talk about using their growth mindsets so students begin to make the connections between the two.

     When we teach, or practice routines or procedures, in Science class, Math class or any time during the day - we as educators are giving our students chances to get 'right' answers.  We do this by asking questions that we know (and hope) they will get right, teaching just to the standard being taught and nothing more, and even, dare I say, playing it safe.  Students need to understand that learning, life, and our world is all about making mistakes and using our Growth Mindset to get through them.  If we don't give them purposeful opportunities to make mistakes then this will never happen!  We need to make our activities, lessons, and experiences have moments where there is a purposeful struggle for all of our students.  Let them get a question wrong 5 times in a row to see what they can do with it.  How can they think through the question and analyze their 5 wrong answers to determine where to go and what to do next?  We need to ask the question in class that we know only ONE student might know the answer to and then let that be the focus of our class for a few minutes.  We need to make time to get things wrong!

     A huge part of Growth Mindset, as you most likely know, is the language.  Using self affirmations, positive quotes, etc is important.  But what is also important is specifically using and teaching the
students the vocabulary about Growth Mindset.  It's one thing to have a positive class, encourage students, and embrace mistakes - but it's another to specifically teach students the concept and terminology of Growth Mindset.  One of my favorite books to teach this is a wonderful picture book
by Julia Cook titled Bubble Gum Brain.   (affiliate link) This picture book helps break down the exact concept of Growth Mindset for students and teaches them the vocabulary and terminology in a fun and friendly way.  Students can relate to the characters and events because they do have lived them!  If you're looking to add a great title in your collection, definitely grab this one!

     Students learn SO much from picture books, so why not teach them all about Growth Mindset
doing just that?  Students everyday make connections, relate to, and form bonds with characters in stories and many of the character's 'struggles' are relatable to students'.  So let's be purposeful about choosing the right picture books and using them to talk about, explain, and teach Growth Mindset!  You may already have titles in your library that are ready to go!  Here are my top 10 favorite titles:

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
After the Fall
Anything is Possible
Flight School
Amazing Grace
Rosie Revere Engineer
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike
The Most Magnificent Thing
Thanks for the Feedback
Making a Splash

These are some amazing titles!  Feel free to browse them and get to know them with the links above (affiliate links).  You may even already have some in your classroom library!  So go and find one,
create a lesson and get started!  It doesn't have to be anything extraordinary or over the top!  Just be intentional about it.  If you need some easy to implement lessons, I've got you covered!  You can grab lesson and extension activities that are low prep and ready to print in my TpT store right now!  It includes all 10 titles you see above - each with a ready made lesson plan and 2 extension activities ready to go!  Go and grab my Growth Mindset Read Alouds now :)  Or - want to try a sample lesson?  You can grab the lesson plan and activities for Rosie Revere, Engineer for FREE below!

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 One of the best and easiest ways to encourage and practice a Growth Mindset is by providing students with open ended activities and questions.  At the beginning of the year - this translates directly into having some open ended team builders where multiple solutions are explored.  When teaching, be intentional about creating and asking at least one open ended question in your lesson.  By providing open ended opportunities and combining that with Growth Mindset it shows students that not all paths to an answer are the same, that different types of thinking and understanding are encouraged, and outside of the box thinkers are needed in your classroom!  Instilling a Growth Mindset in your students isn't just about being able to bounce back from a wrong answer but also encouraging that courageous and out of the box thinking.  STEM is perfect for this type of thinking too!

I hope these tips were helpful!  Please let me know if I can help answer any of your questions!  I love hearing from you all!

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Earth Day Service Project!

The month of April is a glorious month.  If you're living in a state with winter, you know exactly what I'm talking about ;)  Spring is so close you can smell it, flowers are beginning to bloom around the yard and the birds are finally chirping letting you know there's life outside of your 4 walls besides SNOW!  Our world is finally reawakening and there's a lot on our to-do lists...  Including Earth Day!  Each year, teachers all over take time out of their regular scheduled program to teach students of all ages about the importance of taking care of our dear Mother Earth.  Reading passages, cute paper projects, and fun bulletin boards are all wonderful, but why not try and take the impact you're trying to make outside of your school?  Why not try a service project!?  Need a fun, SIMPLE, and cost free one?  Keep reading!

Here's all you need to do:  

Find a local grocery story that is near your school, a place where the majority of your school's families would be shopping.  Call ahead and speak with the manager (so you don't catch them off guard).  Explain that Earth Day is approaching and you'd like to do a project with your class and you need their help.  :)  

Once you have their attention, reassure them that they won't need to spend any money or donate any merchandise for this project - how can they say no now?!  

Ask them to donate X number of brown PAPER grocery bags to your school.  Explain that you're going to have the students decorate them to help remind their community to reduce, reuse, and recycle for Earth Day!  When the bags have all been decorated, explain that you'll bring them back for the store to use with their customers the week/day of Earth Day!

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Check out some of the adorable bags my scholars made a few years ago:

If the store will let you, you can even make a large banner to hang in the grocery store to let its patrons know who the bags were decorated by!

Community members from all over will receive these adorably decorated bags and be reminded of the importance to take care of our Earth!  (Please remember to not have students put any personal information on the bags - even first and last names!)  And don't forget to let your students' parents know to go grocery shopping that day too!  They will definitely want to snag one of these bags for themselves!  

So this Earth Day, help make a greater impact and let your students be involved!  They will enjoy knowing that others will get to see their work and that they are reminding the public about such an important topic!

Want to remember this for next year?  Pin this image! :)

Close Reading in a Snap!

As teachers, we know that 'educational fads' come and go with the years, many of which come back with a different name but the same old information.  Because of this, teachers sometimes neglect listening and learning about the 'new' strategies that are being presented.  Well - if you haven't listened to this one yet, you're going to want to.  Close Reading isn't just the same old 'fad' and it isn't going anywhere.  So let's stop, learn, and implement this amazingly successful reading strategy... in a SNAP!

What is Close Reading?

Close reading is the purposeful re-reading and analysis of short and complex texts!  Easy, right?  Let's break that down a bit more. ;)

Purposeful Re-reading, in close reading terms, means that we are having our students read the text
These mini anchor charts are GREAT to allow
student to keep & use during their reads!
three times.  Each read is to help uncover specific layers of meaning and lead to deeper levels of comprehension.  Students are noticing additional details about the text each new read.  Each read has a specific purpose:

#1 - Key Ideas & Details
#2 - Craft & Structure
#3 - Integration of Knowledge & Ideas

If you hadn't noticed, these 'topics' are actually the 3 main categories of the ELA Anchor Standards for Reading.  So as the students complete each read, the questions and tasks they are asked to do should align with each of those specific components of the standards.  Another way to think about it is this:

#1 - What did the text say?
#2 - How did the text say it?
#3 - What does the text mean?

So during each of these 're-reads', students have specific jobs and tasks to do.  During the 1st read, students are being introduced to the text (minimal activation of prior knowledge), and after reading are answer text dependent questions about the 'big picture'.  In the 2nd read, students are guided to think about how the text works and why the author wrote it.  Again they will answer text dependent questions mainly about vocabulary and text structure.  Finally in the 3rd read, the students are thinking deeper and becoming 'experts'.  They are answering their final text dependent questions OR writing prompts.

How Do Students Analyze the Text?

Having annotating bookmarks for your students
makes analyzing the text more simple & FUN!
As students are completing the reads, their job is to analyze the text in different ways.  One way for them to do this is with a pencil, also known as annotating.  When students do this, they are marking ideas in the text that they really want to remember or that they think are important.  Many teachers do this by introducing a variety of 'text markings' for the students to use.  It doesn't matter which markings you use, just that the students truly understand each marking and have had to chance to watch the teacher model the marking sufficiently before being asked to use it independently.  

Another important concept to remember when engaging in the close reading strategy is the usage of 'complex' texts.  This term came about from the introduction of Common Core Standards and College & Career Readiness.  In order for a text to be considered complex, there are three important factors it must include:  qualitative measures, quantitative measures, & reader & task.  These aren't as scary as they sound! :)  Qualitative measures are all of the areas of a text that can't be measured by a computer, such as the meaning, literary elements, figurative vs implicit language, etc.  Quantitative measures are all of the areas of a text that CAN be measured by a computer - Lexile level, word length, word frequency, sentence length, etc.  And finally reader & task simply include the students' motivation
level, background, interest, and what are the students being asked to do with the text.  Are you using complex texts?  

So How Do I Get Started?

To get started, begin by trying to answer these questions:
  • How often & when will I have my students complete a close read?
  • How much time will it take out of my daily reading block?
  • What texts will they read and where will I find them?
  • How will I support my students will evidence based responses?
Once you've answered these questions, I think you'll be ready!  And don't worry about getting it perfect.  There's nothing you can really mess up in this process!  Just go with it and have fun!  

My 7 Minutes A Day Close Reading Routine!

So as you already know or can tell by the information you've learned from close reading, it's quite a lengthy process.  For a student to do a full close read in one sitting would take a long chunk of time
These passages are perfect because they include
each day's instructions directly next to the passage!
and I don't know about you, but I don't have time for that!  #toomuchtodo  So how CAN we fit it all in?  Here's MY routine and how I get it all in :)   I begin each reading block with my close reads.  I use it as their reading warm up to get their brains going and in the 'reading mode'.  Once they are independent with close reading, this is great to have them do while I'm gathering homework, checking on students, etc.  

Day One:  Read entire passage & answer one wholistic question
Day Two:  Re-read the entire passage & mark up the text
Day Three:  Re-read the entire passage & complete the graphic organizer
Day Four:  No re-reading necessary.  Answer the 3 text dependent questions
Day Five:  No re-reading necessary.  Write an extended response using evidence from the text

It's that simple!  I take 7 minutes at the beginning of my reading block each day and by the end of the week, we've become experts at our close reading topic!  No fuss, no mess - just simple, engaging
I place my toolkits in 6x9 manilla envelopes, but you can place them in
anything that works for you!  
reading!  To make it even MORE engaging, I make & give each of my students their own Close Reading Toolkit!  Inside the kit I place:  highlighter, my annotating bookmark, post it notes, a small magnifying glass, arrow stickies, pencil, and mini anchor charts.  Students are allowed to access these kits at any time during our close reads (and other times throughout the week when instructed).  They
know how special these kits are and take great care of them!  You can grab your students' kits just by clicking here ---->  Close Reading Toolkits!  And I've even thrown in a few extra surprises just for the teacher!  (Close Reading questioning foldable, Close Reading Focus planning page, & EIGHT Spice It Up Close Reading strategies that will help engaging your students during your close reading).  If you have any questions about how to put the close reading toolkits together, just let me know :)  

I hope that you know a little more now about close reading than you did when you started reading.  I'm happy to answer any questions you may have :)  If you need some engaging close reading passages to get you started, definitely check out my TpT store and grab them!  

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Building a Culture of Collaboration

     Unfortunately I've seen it and heard it many times..  "My students just won't collaborate!  They won't get along during group activities.   They don't know how to collaborate."  Many teachers get frustrated with their class when this happens.  Students are given this amazing and engaging activity to do in a group, to collaborate together to complete a project or even as simple as answer a question - yet - it doesn't happen. Instead, students are thrown into a situation where, by no fault of theirs, they are not ready for.  Many teachers forget to take the vital step of setting up their classroom for success during collaborative activities.  They haven't yet built a culture of collaboration in their classrooms.

     For true collaboration to take place, teachers must establish a classroom culture conducive to student interaction and to students taking on active roles in the classroom learning community.  Teachers have to get comfortable with losing some of the control they have over talk-time and over wide but shallow coverage of a huge amount of content.  <----- THIS IS HARD!  I get it.  True collaboration can only take place when teachers first, take the time to build the culture and secondly, take a step back and allow collaboration to happen.  So let's break this down.  How DO we build a culture of collaboration?

Step One - Accepting Student Differences

“A leader’s job is to touch every one of those people so they know they’re free to think and do things better.”
* Are our students free to think and do things better?
* How would our students react to knowing that they are all unique, and that their differences are not just tolerated, but that their differences, perspectives, and diverse experiences actually add to the small-group and classroom learning experiences?
* What would our classrooms look like if we truly believed that of our students?

Let’s make a commitment to ourselves and to our students that we will not be the type of teacher who never knows how deep our students’ thinking can be.  Let’s instead use multiple ways of giving students opportunities to demonstrate the depths of their cognitive abilities.  

Step Two - Fostering Student Collaboration

How are you grouping your students?
*Choice of group
*Mixed ability
*Face-buddy or shoulder-buddy
*Strategic grouping

How are your desk arrangements conduscive to fostering collaboration?
*U-shaped to allow teacher to be apart of the conversation?

Regardless of group or arrangement, it is the teacher’s informed judgements that make each grouping scenario work.  Teachers make decisions based on their own teaching styles and their experiences with the students in their classroom.  They make decisions based on the trust that they placed in each student, believing that, although the students were different, each had valuable gifts to share within their groups.  Another part of this is finding unique opportunities to allow students to talk to one another in structured yet collaborative ways. Check out my Engagement Strategy Cards for over 60 different ideas to help get you started!

Step Three - Peer Rejection and Peer Acceptance

Research has shown a direct correlation between participation and self-concept within students.  Peer rejection is & can be a major factor in the decrease of self-concept therefore decreasing participation as well.  It is our job as teachers to create an environment where students feel safe to participate. How do we create classrooms where everyone feels free to participate?  For the answer to that question, let’s talk about #4:  ‘Rippling’ questions and prompts.

Step Four - Asking Rippling Questions
What happens when you ask a deep, thought provoking question to the class at the end of a lesson?All students should have the opportunity to reflect upon and answer the deeper, higher level, reflective type questions.  To do that, teachers need to ‘ripple’ their questions. Allow all students to respond and reflect by means of quick writes or quick draws.  Students can also be given the chance to pair up and discuss with partners before then being asked to discuss whole group.  
Step Five - Building Confidence
Students need the opportunity to feel validated and have their voice heard.  When this happens through collaboration in the classroom, their confidence in themselves increases.  
Teachers can help facilitate student confidence by:
* Validating students’ answers
* Encouraging students to share with others
* Not accepting incorrect answers
Step Six - Building Trust - The Teacher Belief System

In order for students to collaborate and learn freely, trust needs to be a center focus and pillar of the classroom.  Trust takes work and it is earned. In order for a classroom to be centered around trust, it begins with the teacher’s belief system.  Does the teacher really believe that kids are capable of big things?  Do you trust them? Do you think that they want to learn?  Do you trust that they have amazing things to share?  Do you trust that they can learn from each other especially because of their learning differences?  Do you trust that if they trust themselves, amazing things will happen?

Step Seven - Students Trusting Themselves

A collaboration focused classroom doesn’t just work if the students trust the teacher and the teacher trusts the students - the students also need to trust in themselves.  This comes with building confidence! What are you doing to encourage and teach your students to trust in themselves?

Step Eight - Walking Around and Following Through

What does ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ really do for us?  If you are expecting all students to participate and collaborate then they also need to be held accountable to those standards.  Our jobs during this time is to encourage, facilitate, and move around asking questions to help and guide students.  Students will pick up on the expectations you are laying down by holding them accountable for their participation.  With consistency, classrooms can become a place where students not only enjoy the interaction but expect it.  But follow through is necessary.  

Step Nine - Moving Away from Right & Wrong

In most scenarios that require students to display higher-order thinking, teachers will no longer be looking for the ‘right’ answer.  Instead, multiple possibilities often exist.   Allow students to evaluate their learning and justify their answers. Allow wait time, processing time alone or with partner/small group - more likely to get better whole group conversation. Students become invested in the different points of views being shared, learning how to agree and disagree with peers.  

So let's take a minute to reflect on these steps and your own classroom...

 *What are your thoughts on the importance of student interaction?

*What have you noticed regarding students who do and do not experience success in your classroom?

*What are the dynamics of peer rejection and peer acceptance in your classroom? What role can you play in promoting peer acceptance?

*How is trust evident in your classroom? what can you do this week to increase the trust and student confidence in your classroom?

*How can trust and accountability coexist within a classroom?
So there you have it. When something collaboratively doesn't go right in your classroom next time, stop and think about these steps and questions. Where could you support your students more to help build this culture in your classroom? What could you change/do to have the biggest impact on their ability to collaborate with one another? The smallest change could have the biggest impact. :)

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