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Reflection Activities

These activities can activate student prior knowledge, facilitate learning (cognition), facilitate thinking about and potentially improving learning strategies (metacognition), and build competency with content and skilss (through deeper reflection over time).

Reflection Activities for Prior Knowledge (used prior to engaging students in subject or topic)pie chart of 48% not familiar and 52% familiar



  • Story Board: Give students a blank “story board” and ask them to create a non-linguistic version of what they already know about the topic/essential question for an impending lesson, filling the blocks of the story board with stick figures, drawings, etc. in an appropriate sequence.

Reflection Activities for Cognition:

  • Concept Maps: Concept maps are visual diagrams representing how a particular concept or idea is related to other ideas, terms, topics, or processes. population_and_pollution_mindmapHave student build concept maps that visually represent the ideas and information that were covered in that’s week’s class. Students can do this individually or in small groups. Chris Ray, a student at Waterloo, explains how he used a concept mapping tool to take class notes here.
  • Force Field Analysis: Force Field Analysis is a general tool for systematically forces for change: driving forces and restraining forces (image of arrows representing positive and negative forces)analyzing the factors found in problems. It frames problems in terms of factors or pressures that support the status quo (restraining forces) and those pressures that support change in the desired direction (driving forces).  There are four steps to the process: (1) Defining the Problem, (2) Defining the Change Objective, (3) Identifying the Forces that Support Change, and (4) Identifying the Forces that Support Maintaining the Status Quo.

Reflective Activities for Metacognition

  • Exam Wrappers: After a graded exam, give students a reflective sheet where they can describe their study strategies, analyze the mistakes they made, and plan their study strategies for the next exam. These reflection sheets are returned to students before the next exam, so that they can make use of the ideas they had when the previous exam was still fresh in their minds. Students identified several new approaches they would use in future exam preparation.
  • Stop and Switch:  At the end of class, ask students to write down five things they have learned (2 minutes). Second, ask them to pair with a partner; tell one student to talk for 2 more minutes about what he/she has learned. At the end of those two minutes, call for a STOP/SWITCH. The other student now talks for 2 minutes, but is not permitted to repeat anything that has been stated by his/her partner. After those 2 minutes, call for a STOP/SWITCH. Begin the cycle again with new partners and the same rules (not repeating what another student has said) but now for only one minute. Do the same for the other partner for one minute (call STOP/SWITCH). Finally, at the end of those two, one minute intervals, ask each pair to now take 30 seconds to write one sentence that summarizes what they have learned (collectively).

Transfer Journal: Students fill out the chart for basic concepts learned in class to apply/transfer those concepts to new ideas or areas. Have students fill out the following chart for a concept or multiple concepts.

Reflection Activities for Competency:

  • Portfolio: This type of documentation has become a vital way for students to keep records and learn organizational skills. Students gather artifacts of their learning experience along with written responses and reflection to provide evidence of their learning. Depending on the course items may include: photographs, videos, assignments, transcripts of interviews, completed projects.  Require them to make this professional.  For service learning especially, student portfolios could contain any of the following: service-learning contract, weekly log, personal journal, impact statement, directed writings, photo essay. Also, any products completed during the service experience (i.e., agency brochures, lesson plans, advocacy letters) should be submitted for review. Finally, a written evaluation essay providing a self-assessment of how effectively they met the learning objectives of the course is suggested for the portfolio.
  • Concept Maps: Please see description above
  • Video Presentation: Have students develop a video that reflects their learning.
  • It’s Your Thing, Express Yourself: Tell the students that they will have the opportunity to create their own version of their feelings toward a project (appropriate for service learning). Examples could include poetry, visual art, (paintings, drawings, sculptures) music, (rap is a rather popular choice for this exercise), individually created games or puzzles, any form of creative outlet that gives the student the chance to perform or explain in front of the class is what you are looking for. Be sure to require that it must be some kind of individual work that he/she has created.

Reflective Activities for Personal Growth and Change

  • 3-Minute Pause: The Three-Minute Pause provides a chance for students to stop, reflect on the concepts and ideas that have just been introduced, make connections to prior knowledge or experience, and seek clarification. Questions image of a clockinclude:

I changed my attitude about
I am more aware of
I was surprised about
I felt
I related to
I empathized with

  • What? So What? Now What?: This process facilitates critical analysis of a given circumstance or experience.  It allows the student to begin to make meaning and take initial steps towards developing a plan of action to address the concern.

Note: All asterisked (*) items are formative assessment and thus can be integrated at any point in a given session or class.







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