When I was doing my talk on Writing in the Math Classroom at TMC18, I was asked if I provide a model of a reflection statement, or give an example.
I don’t – at least not a mathematical one.
As I’ve played with different ways to get students to learn about reflection, tried to sneak more and more writing and meta-cognition into my classroom, I’ve had lots of failures — giving an example of a reflection statement was one of my biggest.
Why? Because I ended up with ~120 journals with reflections that sounded remarkably similar to my example. And it was a lot of (unnecessary) work to break them from that pattern.
Instead, I tell them a “story.”
I am a tennis player. I’m very competitive and can be a little aggressive at times. I love to play at the net, when the play is very fast and unforgiving. However, sometimes I forget that aggressive play is only going to win games when I play smart and stick with my strategy.
But, in the heat of the game, it’s really easy to just go all out and play emotionally – it feels great to beat the heck out of the ball or hit a hard volley! … But if I’m not hitting the ball to the right spot, I put myself and my partner at a huge disadvantage. I lose when I play with the heart, and forget the brain. I am most successful when I play with both.
Then I ask a series of questions:
- What type of player am I? (competitive and aggressive)
- At the beginning, did I have a game plan? (yes: aggressive, play smart, stick with strategy)
- What happens sometimes during the game? (play emotionally)
- Why does this happen? (it’s easy and feels good)
- What’s the result of that? (at a big disadvantage and typically lose)
- What did I learn? (most successful when I play aggressively – and stick with the strategy)
Then I challenge them to take see how they can reflect about their learning and habits of mind. For some students, this is enough; for others, you might need a have a few more stories handy.