Last but not least: How to reflect at the end of your lesson

January 4, 2016


Lesson stages

Beginning of the lesson | Discussing homework | Instruct students | Individual work | Group work | Lesson Reflection

Why so often forgotten?

Every teacher gives instruction. Most teachers discuss homework. Quite a few activate prior knowledge.

But when it comes to reflection activities in a lesson, you have to start looking for the select few teachers that actually reflect on a regular basis.

And I understand!

Not only is the practical application of a reflection activity not always clear (or at least in the students’ opinion) but it happens quite often that you simply run out of time.

“Is that the bell already?” – syndrome. It happens to me as well.

Yet, I still want to emphasize the importance of reflecting at the end of a lesson.

So why is it important?

Students have to be able to reflect on their own behavior and knowledge later on in their lives. So why shouldn’t we train that in class?

I know, the brain is not quite well developed during puberty. Even worse, the part of the brain that handles meta cognition (“what is my role and influence?”) is not fully developed yet.

So, should we stop? Absolutely not!

Students might still be struggling with this aspect of their development, they are quite able to determine whether their behavior was correct or wrong.

Or if they understand the task that is given.

Little children who steal cookies knowing it is wrong realize this, so our students can as well.

They might be reluctant though. I find that students sometimes have a hard time reflecting on their own work.

Not because they don’t want to. But because they don’t know how.

Scaffolding reflecting

Let me show you two examples on how to scaffold a reflecting activity so students can reflect on their own behavior and work attitude:

1. The Placemat

This activity is best done in a group, where a a-3 or a-2 sized paper is divided into four rectangles, each with a different question. This can be questions like “A question I still have is” or “Something I can do better next time is”. Students get a short period of time to write down their answer, after which the placemat is turned and the students get another question.

After four questions, time’s up.

2. Grading own behavior

Students get to grade themselves at the end of a lesson. To simplify this activity, they can grade themselves on a grade of 1-4 (don’t use an odd amount as they might go for the middle number). To help them even further, you can show what the different numbers stand for.

For example:

1) I don’t understand what we discussed today

2) I think I understand, but still have quite a few questions

3) I understand, I am confident I can most exercises

4) I completely understand, I am sure I can do even the more challenge assignment

For the record, this is just one way to do it. Feel free to change these lines according to your lesson.

But what if you don’t have enough time?

Okay, so we know reflecting is important. We have some tools, but they require some time.

What if we find we only have a couple of minutes left, not enough time to do an entire activity?

I know it happens to me!

At this point, I ask my students to answer one question. They have the answer in their notebooks and I quickly ask a couple of students for their answers.

This way, I know if what I wanted to teach actually worked. And I might just choose some students who I want to hear the answer of. For no reason at all…

Here are some example questions:

  1. What went well, What could be better?
  2. This lesson I learned …, The most difficult thing this lesson was …
  3. How confident are you? Do we need to discuss something?
  4. I worked/didn’t work hard, because …
  5. I got the answers by doing …
  6. What did you spend most time on? Why?

Thanks to Bernadette who gave me more example questions to help my students reflect!

One more thing..

Now, if you are really brave, you can ask your students something about you as well. For example, you can make one of the questions on the placemat to be “What could have been an improvement in this lesson?” or you can ask your students “If I could change one thing this lesson it would be..”.

Of course, asking them what they liked about your lesson is a great way to boost your confidence as well. In my experience, students rarely criticize their teachers.

They are much more likely to praise them, even if they don’t always act like it in class.


I hope I have made the importance of reflecting in your lesson clear. Feel free to respond on Facebook or in the comments below!

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