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The power of reading students' reflections

Reflection by Jennifer Ward, NBCT

English Teacher, Graduation Project Coordinator

I just wanted to share with you what's going on in my class right now ... It's by far the best "exam" I think I've ever administered. My students have been working so diligently on everything in their daybooks all quarter that I found it only fitting to have a "Daybook Check" as my exam. I approached my principal with this idea, and he said to go for it, so today is the day.

My kids, armed with Post-it notes, daybooks, highlighters, scissors, glue, and my very few guidelines, are having their "daybook conversations" with me. They are marking things they understand so well that they could teach someone else, things that they need more help with, etc., and then reflecting in no less than a page. My students have written page upon page for their reflections, and they have used Post-its throughout the daybook as mini-reflections/notes to me.

I've previewed some from my first and second blocks, and they are truly amazing. Let's just say I'll be doing a lot of reading and writing myself over the Thursday and Friday teacher workdays! I had only allotted 45 minutes for these "exams," but my students have taken the entire class period. I love it! Today is definitely a day in my teaching career that I will never forget!

Reading the daybooks was an inspiring and amazing experience! On one of the two teacher workdays in October, I came in to my classroom armed with Starbucks, Post-it notes, a good pen, and my reading glasses. I spent the entire Work Day – from 7:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – reading all 38 of my students' reflections, looking at what they had marked with Post-its and commented on throughout their daybooks, and writing back to them. For some, it was a simple "thank you for your hard work" letter, but for others it turned into a motivational letter that made them smile as I watched them read it upon their return from break.

The beauty of this daybook "exam" was that each daybook was unique – from the format, to what was marked, to their reflections – just like each of my students. Reading them provided me with deeper insight into the lives, the thoughts, and the learning of each individual student in my classroom. It also provided a time of reflection for me; I was seeing my students and their needs through a different lens, and it has proven to be most effective in my planning for the second quarter.

All-in-all, I'd say my Daybook "Exam" was a huge success!

NEXT: Self-assessment: A key to growth

reflectbooks

"The beauty of this daybook 'exam' was that each daybook was unique ... just like each of my students."

– Jennifer Ward

REFLECTION

Copyright 2016 by Karen Haag

A resource for people passionate about helping students write well, compiled by Karen Haag

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