When I taught upper-grade students, one of our end-of-the-year activities was a reflection/evaluation letter. I asked my students to complete an in-class, two-paragraph writing assignment using the friendly letter format we had learned. In the first paragraph, I asked my students to tell me about things that worked — things they liked about our class, our projects, our games, our field trips, our room set-up. Anything they thought of as a positive experience during the school year and something they thought I should repeat again next year.
I wasn’t looking for praise or pats-on-the-back. But, who better to give me honest feedback than the children who sat in my classroom each day? It was because of my students that I continued certain activities like Science Jeopardy, Vocabulary Bingo, brain food (snacks during testing), and pen pal letters. Those activities made more work for me, but if my students were telling me that it worked, then I kept them in my repertoire.
Room for Improvement
In the second paragraph, I asked my students to tell me what didn’t work, what they truly didn’t like. I told them “homework” was required, so while they may not like it, every class would receive homework, but I was open to suggestions (such as writing spelling words 7 times each instead of my usual 10 times each). Many of my students complained about my monthly projects and our weekly quizzes — activities I did continue each year. But, it was also because of my students that I changed the placement of our cafeteria menus, and I began writing the morning journal question in a different spot on the whiteboard.
Many of my colleagues were surprised that I would give my students this assignment. Why would I solicit criticism? The answer was simple – I was a lot like my students; constantly learning.
Involve Your Child
As the end of the school year quickly approaches, you might ask your own children to complete a similar assignment, albeit with some modifications. (Not all teachers welcome criticism, after all). Have your child write a letter to his teacher, detailing specific memories from the school year, including all the things your child believes his teacher “did right.” Did your child’s teacher explain long division that finally made sense? Did your child teacher’s introduce the class to a new book, helping to ignite an interest in reading? Conduct a really cool science experiment? Take the class on a special field trip?
For the second paragraph, have your child write a self-reflection. What were all the things your child did well that he/she will continue to practice as effective study habits next year? Did flashcards help? Doing homework at the library instead of at home? And, what will your child try to do better next year? Wake up five minutes earlier so there isn’t a mad rush in the morning? Remember to raise his hand without blurting out a thought?
The school year may be coming to a close, but learning never does. And an activity such as this one, may help our children see that they are active participants in their own education.