05.Developing Reflection

Reflection as a learning habit.

The ultimate aim in a Learning Powered Classroom is to develop reflection as a learning habit, so that the children are constantly and naturally thinking;

  • “I wonder how I can improve this?
  • “I wonder what I would do next time?” 
  • “What did I miss? Who could help me?”

This builds on Assessment for Learning, and moves towards Assessment AS Learning – assessment which is lead by the children and facilitated by an adult. If you’d like to learn more about Assessment as Learning, please read this blogpost (Learning Power Kids’ most read blogpost to date!).

By understanding and taking charge of their own assessment, children’s progress will accelerate as they will always be seeking to improve and consistently produce their best work. In this way, and many others (such as “challenge”), learning power “turbo-charges” learning. In his book, The Learning Power Approach, Guy Claxton uses this diagram in his latest book to capture this idea:

This diagram shows how learning power turbocharges learning.
This diagram shows how learning power turbocharges learning.

You can teach separate lessons that focus on developing reflection, including planned lessons on editing writing and reflecting on skills and next steps in maths (or any other subject!). In a busy school day, it’s also an idea to get smart with use of time. For example, I often use plenaries, inputs and even the afternoon register to give children a chance to reflect on their learning. In this photo, children have thought about their next challenge in maths and have chosen to collaborate to practise counting back in 2’s during morning registration. In order to find the right level of challenge, they needed to think carefully about what they already knew and what would be a good next challenge:

Children practise counting back in 2's on whiteboards. They have reflected on which skills they need to learn next.
Children have reflected that they need to learn to count back in 2’s and have chosen to practise this skill.

You can also use frames and prompts to help children reflect. Ron Berger’s “Learning That Lasts” is full of ideas as to how you can structure feedback. It also includes a DVD, which brings many of the ideas to life. I would highly recommend this book to embed structured reflection and feedback.

A simple idea to build the habit of reflection.

One way you could build reflection in as a habit is through by using an interactive display like a “Superpower learners” display. This is a display which has a title, “Superpower learners say …” As the children verbalise good thinking habits, you can be ready to pick up on them. They can be displayed in speech bubbles with the children’s faces beside them. The children love it when they come in in the morning and see their face and wise words have been added to the display!

The display doesn’t need much space. Ours is above our whiteboard so that we can refer to it when needed during carpet time. Our latest one had:

  • “I wonder how I can make this better”,
  • “I wonder how I can help my friends learn” and
  • “I’m going to make this the best thing ever!”

Obviously, the first example is helpful for developing reflection skills, but they all help the children speak Learnish, understand themselves as learners and develop good learning habits.

Below is our Superpower Learners display from a few years ago (I particularly love, “I’m not the best at this but I’ll try”!)

Example of Superpower Learners wall. Children use these key phrases to reflect on their learning.

By developing reflection skills, children are learning that they can always improve, no matter how fantastic their learning has been. They are also learning to value and learn from mistakes and see them as part of the learning process.

Tools for developing reflection.

Balance/Reflection Wheel

A really useful tool to build reflection as a learning habit is the Balance Wheel. Here is a photo of ours:

Wheel with a scale from 1-9 to build reflection skills.
Reflection Wheel

As you can see, it’s a scale from 1-9 which children can use to assess how well they have grasped a concept.

The brilliance of it is that:

  • It can be used for anything – maths, writing, how accurately you can kick a ball, how quickly and efficiently you got changed for P.E., how your playtime was … It’s never-ending!
  • You can use it at any point during the day – for plenaries, fruit and milk time, when you have a spare 5 minutes.
  • If you have it on display (and I would suggest a few mini-versions on tables and/or scattered around the classroom), the children can use and access it whenever they want. In fact, I have had children do just that – go to pick up a Reflection Wheel card and independently self-reflect on their learning.
  • It creates the most fabulous reflective conversations amongst children.
  • You can use it as little or as much as you like. When I first introduced it, we used it sporadically, but the children still referred to it and used it independently – It never became wallpaper.

As a bonus, here is a wonderful learner in my year one class talking about how to use the Balance Wheel (from my YouTube channel – starting to dabble in Learning Power vlogs and videos – please do come and check it out and let me know what you think!):

Year one learner talks about how we use the Balance Wheel in our class.

Examples of building reflection into daily lessons

Developing reflection in maths:

One habit we have in our classroom is to reflect on our maths learning at the end of the week. We take photos of independent maths learning, print them out and leave them on the tables on Fridays with the children’s books. Their morning challenge is written on the board with the following questions:

  • “What were you learning?
  • Which bits were tricky?
  • What do you think you need to learn next?”

Children stick in the photos and write about their learning that week. Sometimes they astound me with how well they understand their own learning! Below are some photos of their reflections.

Examples of children's reflections in maths books.

Below are the transcripts of what the children have written. The first two are in Year One and the third one is in Year Two:

Reflection One:

“I was learning about numbers. I think my next challenge is to count backwards but we tried it backwards but we could not do it.”

Reflection Two:

“I was doing a number line from one hundred to zero. The trickiest part was when we finished a lot of ten (90, 89 …). Next I am going to count down from two hundred in fives.”

Reflection Three:

“We were learning to take away with high numbers. The trickiest bit was taking away with high numbers.”

Hopefully, you can see how astute some of these reflections are and the second child has definitely embraced the idea of challenge!

I have seen a similar approach taken in other schools I have visited. In Sandringham school in East London, children as continuously reflecting on their maths learning – it is built into lessons. I have written a blogpost about this here.

Developing reflection in English:

We teach reflection through editing our own and each others’ learning. One of my blogposts goes into more detail as to how we built this skill up and teach it to the children. I find that by far the most powerful reflection tool for the children is peer marking. I have noticed that peer marking is powerful in two ways:

  • children seem to remember improvements and tips given by their friends.
  • children seem to be better at noticing mistakes in their friends’ learning more than in their own!

Through peer marking, children also learn the important skill of positively and sensitively giving and receiving feedback.

That isn’t to say children shouldn’t notice and correct their own mistakes and learn to revise their own learning. I think a good mix of both peer and self-reflection and revision is healthy!

Developing reflection during “Planning Time”:

Planning Time is a time during the week when children get to plan and develop their own learning projects. The focus is on learning and on trying new things. We talk about practising skills we have learnt or challenging ourselves to learn something new. This is the children’s favourite time of the week because they know they are free to create or learn anything (it’s my favourite time too!).

The children come up with some fantastic creative and imaginative ideas, such as building ghost houses from paper, making puppet books and shows and selling tickets, designing and making dresses, using positional language to build racing car tracks … the list goes on! It is an excellent time for the children to learn all of the skills developed in learning power – collaboration, mimicking good ideas, listening to their friends …. this list also goes on! Built into this time, we keep aside 15 minutes at the end to review one or two pieces of learning. During this time, the children come up with questions; the children are encouraged to think about the process of their learning and what they might do next or what they would change next time.

Below, one child is using Planning Time to write and illustrate his own book. He came back to this book over several sessions, giving him the chance to plan, reflect on and edit his work.

Child plans to write a story during Planning Time. He has multiple opportunities to reflect and build on ideas about his book.

I have recently read Ron Berger’s “Learning the Lasts”, which is a veritable feast of ideas to deepen learning and has many links with the Learning Power Approach. One brilliant aspect of the book is that it comes with a DVD full of lesson examples and ideas. One of the videos shows Grade One children reviewing their learning in a similar way to how I would use it in review. I loved the anchor chart the teacher uses to help the children ask useful reflective questions. I will use this with my next class:

Screen shot of video from Ron Berger's Learning That Lasts. Children reflect on learning.
Hand holding book - Powering Up Children


You can now order Powering Up Children from amazon. A comprehensive guide to learning power with real teaching examples, and action steps to gently incorporate these principles into your own classroom.

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