Friday, February 24, 2012

Learning Showcase Reflection Posts--just another reason why blogging is awesome

Next Monday evening, our school is hosting a Learning Showcase Night, where students will take their parents to each class and lead a conference about their learning over the course of the year.

Today I put my regularly scheduled lesson aside to give my students a chance to stop, look back, and reflect on their learning, so they will be prepared to talk with their parents about it.

Fortunately, as much of student work for my class has been published on blogs, students had a chronologically organizaed portfolio ready for them. All they needed to do was sort through and make some sense of it.

In their daybooks students made the chart below, which they used to record notes about pieces of thier work that best hightlighted their ELA accomplighments to date:

Then, after having some time (most only needed about 20 minutes) to get their ideas organized, I told students that they would next take the inforamation on thier chart to create a new blog post, one that would assist them as they led thier parents through the conversation about their learning this year. Here were the guidelines that I gave:

I gave a brief demonstration on creating hyperlinks within their writing, something I've touched on before but never required, and gave students the rest of the period to work on it while I circulated the room and talked to as many kids as I could.  What I saw and heard was pretty amazing.

The first thing that initially struck me was how few issues came up with students being uncertian about what they had done that reflected areas such as creativity, growth as a writer, and themselves as a thinker and/or learner.  Figuring how ones work shows these characteristics requires some reflective and tough thinking.  But students seemed to know right away what parts they needed to pick and why.  After a talking with a few students about their process and selections, it became apparent that this reflection came so readily because they had already been through it a few times with the reflective self assessments that I have them complete after each piece.  Here is one they used with a narrative writing piece (using Diigo), and here is one they did with a Google form for a writing workshop piece.

One area in particular, students' growth as writers, was the most fun to see them write about.  For many students, this was the first time going back through everything they posted on thier blog since the beginning of the year.  And as they did changes in their writing seemed to jump right out at them.

Some of the students I talked with were able to trace changes back to a particular minilesson or conversation. Emeli, for example noticed how her sentence structure and use of imagery in her writing changed after we did a lesson using Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a mentor text. Jhonnatan pointed out to me how after I had a conversation with him about puntuation that his subsequent posts weren't written in the same multiple-run-on format that his earlier posts were.

And there were also other students who saw apparent changes in their writing but were not able to trace these changes back to any particular lesson or event.  Quite a few students just told me that that their writing just seemed to get better the more they wrote, such as Weston.   Erin is another such student, and while she wasn't able to pinpoint a specific influence, she was able to tell me that she could put her finger on the piece that caused her to move from being a hater of writing to discovering that writing was her calling.  She showed me the draft in her daybook, I snapped a picture with my phone and emailed it to her so she could include it in her showcase post.

Since I started having my studnets use blogs to publish thier work, I've been meaning to do a lesson like this to encourage reflection and direct thier attention to just how far they have come. I had honest plans to so something like this last year, but things got busy and I was too focused on the flow of learning moving forward to build in a day of looking back.    I can't say enough about how glad I am that today we finally did it.   After what I saw, I couldn't imagine any parent leaving Monday night unimpressed with the learning taking place; I sure am, and more importantly, so are the students.