Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections in a Third-Grade Classroom

This month, I have committed to writing every day through the community at Two Writing Teachers. All are welcome to the March Slice of Life Challenge! It's not too late to join in or comment or just read... Many of my posts will be at my personal blog, Just Write, Melanie, but the posts that relate explicitly to learning will be on both blogs. 
Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of taking the time to slow down and process the learning that is happening. In one of the third-grade classes that I work in, I asked the students to do just that. 

"Before you go to your writing, I want you to just sit and reflect for a moment on the lesson you just experienced," I said. "You have a chart in front of you, as well as some work that you did in the last ten minutes. What did you learn? Consciously think about what you learned."

We did not ask the students to share their learning which surprised them. They are used to raising their hands and giving an answer. Instead, I told them to just take their learning with them to their work. Their classroom teacher gave students who wanted them Post-its so that they could write down their learning. I kept some of the responses and the different take-aways fascinate me:

 The first response is reflective of the lesson, as it was a lesson about planning and making sure that you will have enough to say about your claim, emphasizing the importance of front-end revision.
I learned that I should go back and rewrite things or add in more.

The next response was from a high level writer.  From her post, I can tell that she was thinking about and processing at the next level, contemplating the possibilities of revising her claim and thinking in terms of reasons and matching examples--high level thinking for a third-grader.

This third response is a great example of one that worries me. Where did the concept of character traits sneak in during an opinion writing lesson? This child's response gives me a clear shout-out to clarify the different types of writing and different purposes to keep in mind. I will make sure to circle back to her and try to clear up the confusion that may exist for her. Without her reflective Post-it, I wonder how long she would have written her piece and how she would have gone about structuring it.

Walking around and reading their opinion writing early on in the unit, I was impressed blown away at the level of their writing. Still with Maggie Beattie Roberts' wonderful voice in my ear, encouraging me to help students take charge of their own learning (she had worked with us the previous day), I asked the students how this amazing learning happened. How was it that they were writing such amazing opinion pieces so early in the unit? I jotted their answers on another Post-it and I wished that I had made a chart of what they said, but I am sharing a photo of my notes:
Here's what they said...

  • We have charts, checklists, modeled pieces, a strong purpose, and showing pieces (their term for mentor texts). 
  • Also, we can take all that we learned in the information unit and use it in this one. 
  • We know what the fourth grade standards are so we can set goals.
  • We are writing what we know a lot about. 
I'm not kidding.

Thank you, Maggie, for the reminder to take the time to think, really think, about the learning, and to remember to foster this important habit of mind.

Happy Slicing,


  1. WOW! That's very mature reflection. I find teaching this to be the hardest part of, well, everything. So often I get answers that show me they are just doing things because I am telling them too. I've been working making the reasons for learning things more explicit. I want them to see that it's good to learn, and not just because I want them to do it.

  2. Thanks for helping us truly see the process of reflection.

  3. When we ask, we learn. This is an eye-opener for all. I know I will be coming back to both posts to synthesize how I can share this info with teachers. Loved the kids thinking!

  4. I sometimes find that my kids throw in terminology without really thinking through what it is they mean - as though they think we expect to see such labels. But, that's a lesson all it's own.

  5. What powerful work you are doing. Asking them to reflect is such an important skill. The turn and talk move is something that needs to be looked at with a purpose. The talk needs to get at something that you can't get to on your own. I think what you learn is an internal thing we must reflect on internally. You always have such beautiful teaching moves. Love having you as a blogging coach!

  6. It's impressive that your students can articulate the standards they are working toward, their goals, and the tools that help them reach those goal. Wow!

  7. I love this. So wise to slow down and check in with kids, and I love that you emphasized for the kids that you wanted them to take their learning with them to their writing, not just say something to impress a teacher or answer a question!

  8. It looks like you are really getting through to your students-- they all sound like excited, willing learners which is refreshing to see. I am sure that they were all shocked that you asked them to do something solely for the purpose of their reflections benefitting themselves.