I work with my students on their reflection and synthesis skills all throughout the year. Some of those opportunities include:
- students creating individual e-Portfolios with reflective blog posts (see this student post) (with teacher instructions here),
- end of unit assessment opportunities using photos, video, and a narrative (like this one),
- creating videos and posting to YouTube to explain learning immediately after an experience (see this post),
- reflecting on their time in class so far in the school year (see this post),
- Synthesizing learning to create a virtual debate on YouTube (see this post),
- classroom discussions to end lessons, making sure meaning has been made and stored, and
- individual or small group literature reflections (see these resources).
Also, here are some fun reflection activities students completed while learning about the Oregon Trail:
- Google Presentation
- Voice Thread
- Time Toast (Timeline)
- Photo Album
- Tableaux Vivants
- Video Journal
- Daily Travel Blog
- Unrealistic Travel Blog
Here are some of the specific reflection and/or synthesis skills I try to teach my students:
- whether time is given in class or not, take time to reflect and think about your learning,
- combine what you already know with what you are learning now to make it easier to understand,
- when given time in class to reflect, try to prove to your teacher what it is that you learned, and
- I created this web page to help my students make their reflections better.
By learning these skills now, students will have years to practice and get comfortable reflecting on and synthesizing their learning. They will remember things better, understand things deeper, and be a more valuable member of a team, classroom, or company.
In order to assess this skill, I have taken the guidelines from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. They are a wonderful resource, and have graciously allowed me to reuse their information on my 21st Century report card located at the end of this post. In addition, I have used many of the ideas from Habits of Mind by Art Costa in my behavior descriptors.
Below is a list of the two behaviors that I look for when assessing my students on "Reflecting and Synthesizing." Under the behaviors is a sliding scale that has ten marks on it where a dot is drawn to represent their current aptitude. The labels, "Beginning," "Developing," and "Secure" attempt to describe the relative position of the dot that is drawn, in terms that make sense. I have used this as a self-assessment with my students (which leads into setting appropriate goals), and I also complete one and attach it to their actual report cards.
When scoring my students, I preferred to look at a skill, look at the behaviors associated with the skill, and determine who in my class was performing at a "10" level. Generally speaking, no one was at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year I felt that several were! After recording the tens, I would go to the nines, etc. Wherever I ended up, that was the lowest score. I found myself having trouble giving out ones, twos, and threes at the end of the year, but they were fairly common early on.
I had some great discussions with some of my students about areas that we disagreed on last year. They thought they were a ten when I thought they were a three, for example. All I needed to do was point out the behaviors that were listed above. I would ask the student, "Can you give me an example of a time when you performed that behavior in front of me?" The answer was often, "No, but I do it all the time!" I would just reiterate the importance of doing it when the teacher can see it. At that point on, these students had more motivation to do the behavior because they had to prove me wrong!!! Either way, I was happy because my students were performing the behaviors that 21st Century students need to perform! And it's like dominoes. When one does it, they all start to do it. :)