Student Self-Reflections

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Over the past few years my teaching practice has evolved.  Growth in the teaching profession often occurs through experience and professional development.  As continuous learners, teachers generally hone in on their craft over time.  I believe reflecting on teaching experiences plays a role in the professional growth of an educator.

  • How often are teachers able to reflect on their craft?

I’d hope that it would be more often than not at all.  Personally, reflecting on past experiences can lead to better decision making and goal setting in the future.  They’re many ways in which educators can reflect.  Off the top of my head I can think of:  after a professional development session, reading or commenting on a blog post, participating in an education twitter chat, attending workshops, and many more.

  • If educators feel that reflecting on experiences is important, why not give students opportunities to reflect on their progress?

Absolutely.  One way in which reflection has been beneficial in my classroom is actually rooted in the formative assessment process.  Local formative assessments give quality information that can be used to drive instruction in the classroom, while other data (standardized assessments) are used for district/state/nation purposes.  Formative assessment data not only serves the teacher, but it also informs students of areas of strengths and concerns.  Last year I decided to have my students use a reflection journal to analyze their own achievement levels in class.  Students reviewed their formative assessments, usually in the form of exit cards, and wrote a short paragraph regarding how they performed.  I asked the students to write a few sentences related to how close they are in understanding the concepts observed on the exit card.  Every so often, generally after a grading period, students were guided to setting individual goals for themselves. These goals were based on the journal entries and learning experiences throughout the grading period.  This process required modeling during the introduction phase, but after two grading periods the students were ready to complete this independently.

I vaguely remember using journals during my K-12 experience.  The teachers that assigned the journal entries rarely wrote any comments back to me.  This peeved me as a student and I’m over it still does as an educator.  Therefore, I make a conscious attempt to review all the student reflection journals and write short individualized comments to the students.  The comments show the students that their teacher is aware and cares about their progress.  This action is especially important to students that might not be as assertive in class or might be embarrassed to state how they truly feel.  I place an emphasis on the student created goal. Student goals are highlighted  as I will often share them with the parents to ensure that we’re all working towards the same end goal.

I also find that the student reflection journals show student growth on a personal level.  When growth is evident, students often gain confidence in setting new goals.  Reflecting on progress made can be a tremendous opportunity to set goals.  These goals can empower students to own their learning.

Side note:

 Reflections can take on many different forms.  Incorporating various prompts throughout the entire school year also communicates to the students that goals don’t have to be directly associated with scores.  In the past I’ve used field trips, current events, literature, and problem based learning activities for reflection journal prompts.  

* Feel free to visit Helen Barret’s reflection for learning site for more information on this topic.

Web-Based Math Differentiation in Elementary Schools

Different Learning Paths for Different Students
Different Learning Paths for Different Students

It’s apparent that student achievement data, in many different forms (formative, standardized, norm-referenced, common assessments, etc.) is becoming increasingly valued by administrators and teachers alike.   Teacher PLC teams analyze this data to become more aware of strengths/concerns and differentiate their instruction accordingly.   Instead of whole group instruction, teachers are beginning, or already using guided groups to meet the diverse academic needs of their classroom.

Once needs are identified, teachers put together plans to address the needs in the classroom. Generally, teachers utilize guided reading/math groups, small groups, resource specialists, to meet the needs of individual students, whether the needs are remedial or for enrichment purposes.  One of the goals is to meet the need with some type of teacher support or intervention; although this is not always possible with time constraints and limited staffing.  Have time to be able to individualize instruction is vital for any teacher.  At times, time and staffing limit the amount of differentiation that can occur.  Teachers continue to look for ways to supplement their instruction for differentiation in and outside of their classroom.  Which leads me to this question …

What free online tools can be used to supplement math differentiation in and outside of the classroom?

Note:  All of the tools below are aligned to the Common Core Standards and can be accessed at school or home.  I’m not suggesting that these tools replace school interventions, but they may be helpful if used appropriately.  Click the pictures to enlarge.


MobyMax is an adaptive online curriculum provider that creates individual education plans for students.  Student take a pre-assessment that seems to be fairly accurate (at least in my opinion).  The pre-assessment determines where to start instruction and helps students practice skills that they haven’t yet mastered.  Student data is collected on every lesson and problem that is completed, so progress monitoring is quite painless.  Mobymax also has an app for easy access.

MobyMax - You can assign specific concepts for differentiation
MobyMax – You can assign specific concepts for differentiation


Scootpad is another adaptive curriculum provider that enables teachers to assign specific CCSS concepts to individual students.  Teachers determine the mastery level and they are able to keep track of individual student progress.  As of right now, there aren’t any lessons associated with the questions.

Scootpad - You can analyze performance on specific concepts
Scootpad – You can analyze performance on specific concepts


TenMarks is used to introduce or reinforce teaching in the classroom.  Students are able to review online lessons and are asked questions related to the topic.  Teachers are able to track student progress over time with TenMarks.

TenMarks - Allows lessons to be interactive with feedback
TenMarks – Lessons are interactive with feedback


Xtramath is designed to help students improve their math computation fluency.  This isn’t a program that’s for everyone.  I’ve found that students who need practice with multiplication/division tables benefit from this web-based intervention.  The program is very user-friendly and has a progress monitoring component which seems beneficial.

XtraMath - Students practice math computation facts
XtraMath – Students practice math computation facts

Photo credit: weesen via photopin cc

What tools do you use to differentiate instruction in/out of the classroom?