At the end of each quarter, I like to give my students the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve done and what they will do next. As a teacher, I always find myself telling students what to do and what not to do, but at some point, our students need to know what to do on their own. They will eventually need to know how to revise their own writing and come up with their own independent thoughts without our assistance.
In general, I try to avoid writing assignments that do not involve literature, ideas, and argument, the fun stuff. But I do think it’s important to allow students to set their own goals after they write. When I return an essay, I ask students to list three short goals. And then, at the end of the quarter, I ask them to look over the goals they set for themselves and reflect on their progress in a few paragraphs.
John Dewey, in Experience and Education, knew the value of prior experience and his ideas definitely apply to metacognition:
Every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and
modifies in some way the quality of those which come after.
My students often take the opportunity at the end of the quarter to reflect on their experiences – in this case, their experiences related to reading, writing, thinking, and speaking. They can think about how they learn, which includes where and when they read and take notes, how they contribute to conversations in class, how they take notes in class, how they prewrite, and then of course, they can think about the technical issues in their writing. It’s like a writing conference without the teacher.
No student wants directive after directive from their teacher. I’m sure it’s overwhelming for them to hear all the directions for classwork and homework, due dates, and expectations from a bunch of different teachers all day long. When we ask them to reflect, we’re asking them to think for themselves. Not to do the little minor thing we tell them to do, but to do the bigger thing … to create their own future.
A teenager in today’s world has so much planned out for them – when to wake up, what to eat, where to go, what to say, how to say it, and also all the no’s and don’t we surround them with, especially when it comes to writing - don’t digress, don’t be wordy, don’t repeat yourself … the list goes on.
Let’s let imagination and free will run the show and allow our students to map out where they want go next.
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