Fostering Reflective Thinking

Reflection is a crucial part of learning. Taking time to think about how things are going helps people keep track of their progress, and, if needed, make adjustments and improvements. Teachers can help students develop the habit of reflection by building in opportunities for them to practice this skill throughout the day.

Everyday reflections can be simple and quick. For instance, at the end of writing workshop, a teacher might ask students to share how their work went by showing thumbs up or thumbs down. Or, at the end of Morning Meeting, a teacher could ask students how they’ve been doing at following classroom rules so far that day. This sort of reflective interlude is best kept brief; any follow-up needed can be done later.

In “Closing Circle: A Simple, Joyful Way to End the Day,” Dana Lynn Januszka and Kristen Vincent describe their routine for an end-of-the-day closing circle that includes a reflective component. They offer these ideas for brief reflection activities which could be used at closing circle or other times of day:

For young students, prepare five index cards, one for each of the five senses. (For instance, the “hearing” card could have an ear, the “seeing” card an eye, etc.)

Pass a basket with the cards around the circle. Each student takes a turn drawing a card and sharing aloud one positive remembrance from the day and connecting it to the sense on their card. For example, a student who drew the hearing card might say “I listened to Mrs. Januszka reading a story about bugs.” Or for the touch card: “I waited until it was my turn to take a book from the basket.”

For older students, a variation could be to use cards with “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” instead of the senses. Students would use the words in sentences. For example, “Someone who helped me today was Megan” or “I learned how to do multiplication a different way today.”

These sorts of structured opportunities to reflect have many benefits, not just at the end of the day, but any time when it makes sense to draw children’s attention to their accomplishments. Giving students frequent opportunities to name what’s going well, as well as to reflect on what could be better, can be affirming and motivating for children—and their teachers as well!


Tags: Closing Circle