Metacognition for primary schools

by Rosendale Primary School

Getting the most out of reflecting

June 28, 2018

Now that you have been teaching the ReflectED approach for over a term, your children should be beginning to reflect regularly on their curriculum subjects. We know from our experience at Rosendale that embedding reflecting into your teaching practice and routine takes time, as does teaching children how to write meaningful reflections that are useful for both you and them.

Based on feedback from the hubs so far, we have put together some information and tips to help you develop reflecting in your classroom. We have emailed out the following:

  • Pre and Post Learning Reflections in Maths Notebook
  • Pre and Post Learning Reflections in English Notebook
  • Example of Spelling Strategies Reflection Template (this could be modified for times tables)
  • Mixed attainment talk activities (similar to co-operative learning structures)
  • Reflection sentence starter table mat

What makes a good reflection?

There are no hard and fast rules as to what makes a good reflection and it really does depend on the type of reflection you are writing, however as a guide reflections should ensure the child has assessed their performance against their goals/ success criteria. Ideally they should have Identified strategies that helped them learn and can assist them with future learning. Really importantly they should try and Identify failures and mistakes and include what have we learnt from these. Finally, possibly with your help, they should try to identify what they have to do to progress their learning in the future. Remember, reflections don’t have to be long, as long as they have some kind of an impact on future learning.

Adapting or moving away from templates

We created a number of templates for reflecting to help you get started. You are free to adapt these templates to suit your class and/or lesson, and we strongly encourage you do so. Although the templates support children in the early days of reflecting, they can also end up being rather limiting and once they become routine children can become rather formulaic when filling them out. For children in year four and upwards, we suggest moving onto reflection sheet KS2B without sentence starters as soon as you feel your class are ready.

Some schools have already moved away from templates and (as we do in years 5 and 6 at Rosendale) are getting children to reflect straight into their books in a different coloured pen. If you find this easier and you feel that you can support your children with talk and modelling, then feel free to do this also.

Model it and write as a class

At primary level the children are just beginning to learn to process of reflecting and will therefore need practice at mastering this skill. The best way to do this is to model how to write a good reflection as a class. As you teach the lesson write down strategies that the children use so they can include these in their reflection. At the end of the lesson write the reflection as a model and offer the children next steps as they will find it very difficult to do this. If you have walked around and assessed during the lesson you may have noticed all the children making the same mistake e.g. not lining up their numbers correctly you can suggest this as a general next step.

Another way to do this is  look at a reflection from a child – preferably not in your class – and suggest how it could be improved. This way the children will begin to see what a good one should look like.

Make it meaningful & choose when to reflect

Don’t reflect for the sake of it – plan your reflections into lessons where you know children will be learning something new and will have something to write about. Don’t be afraid to let them dictate when you need to reflect – some of the best reflections come when a lesson goes a bit wrong and you have to adapt what you’re doing. You can work with the children when this happens to find out what will help them understand the learning better.

Building it into your routine

As mentioned above, we have attached to this email two Smart Notebook files with examples of pre and post learning reflections. These slides can easily be copied and pasted into your lesson Smart Notebook templates and edited to suit the lesson. If these are build into your planning templates, it makes it easy for you to add to your slides during planning.

In maths, it takes very little time for children can give themselves a colour at the start of a lesson by colouring in a square in their book when you show them the learning outcome. If you have time, children can have a go at answering a sample question of something they will be doing in the lesson, to help them (and you) assess where they are at the start of the lesson. If you’re short on time, a coloured square at the end of the lesson will help you and children see progress, and if there’s time a more detailed reflection. Some teachers at Rosendale then get children to put their books into piles depending on their colour at the end of the lesson – this helps you know which books to reach for first. The more routine it becomes, the quicker the process takes and the more useful it is to you as a teacher.

In KS2 we understand that writing is done across a week or two, therefore you only need to reflect at the start of the block of lessons and then at the end when they’ve finished their writing. Some teachers are building reflections into their response marking at the end of a ‘big write’ to encourage reflecting, with questions such as: ‘How would you improve this?’ or, ‘Reflect on a challenge you faced in this writing.’

Keeping it simple – ask a question

Every reflection the children do doesn’t need to be a long, in depth analysis of the lesson. Depending on the content of the lesson, you can ask one or two simple questions at the end of the lesson. For example, you could ask children which activity or resource helped them the most or why doing a practical experiment was better than reading about it in a book.

In maths, a simple but effective reflection is to ask children to find one mistake they made and explain why they made it – i.e. they don’t know their seven times tables, they lined the numbers up wrong or they had the protractor round the wrong way. By identifying the why, this helps children understand what they need to do next time.

For a longer piece of writing, you could ask children to identify their favourite sentence and explain how they came up with it, or ask “Is this piece of writing a good standard for you and why?” and give children the freedom to explain how they feel.

There are some examples of the types of questions you can ask on the Smart Notebooks we emailed out to schools earlier this half term.

Oral Reflections

Not all reflections have to be written, they can be done orally through activities such as corners or simply by sharing with a partner. It is the act and language of reflecting that is important rather than the recording of it.

Reflecting on strategies

Throughout your curriculum lessons, ensure that you highlight to the children every time you’re using a strategy in the lesson – e.g. using a multiplication grid, working with a partner or setting your work out in a certain way. If you know you’re going to ask them to write a reflection at the end of the lesson, keep a note of all the different strategies you’ve used in the lesson as you teach, and refer to it when you reflect.

Some schools have made spellings and/or times tables a focus for their reflections, and are going to use a different strategy to learn their spellings or times tables each week. You could test children at the start of the week, introduce a new strategy for them to use across the week, then test them again at the end and ask children to reflect on the effectiveness of that strategy. After trialing a number of strategies as a class, children could then be free to choose the strategy that works best for them in the future. I have attached a sample template to help with this.

Responding to reflections

Reflections don’t need to be marked, but children will appreciate knowing you have read it, and they can also open up a dialogue between you and your pupils if responded to when you feel the need. You can suggest next steps if they are stuck for ideas or have simply put “do more work”. Also try to correct any misconceptions regarding what makes a good learner. For example, if a child writes that their next steps are to get everything right first time next time’ it may be worth having a discussion about how that is a fixed mindset statement and that actually if we are getting everything right first time we are not really challenging ourselves as a learner.

Next Steps

Sometimes us teachers have a hard time coming up with next steps, so it is unrealistic to expect children to be able to do this straight away. We often write some suggested next steps on the board – e.g. learning times tables, setting work out clearly, moving on to two digit numbers. In the early days of reflecting children may often suggest next steps such as ‘practice; or ‘do harder sums’. Try to encourage them to give more details of what they mean by this. How will they practice this and when? When will they do harder sums, and in what way will they be harder? This will encourage children to become more accountable for their progress and to take ownership of their learning.

Expectations in books and on SeeSaw

The tasks for the week outline our expectations, based on what we feel will have an impact on children’s learning. For KS2 ideally children should be aiming to do a minimum of two reflections a week as a class – ideally one in English and one in maths, however only reflect on lessons where you think it is useful and will add value. We strongly encourage incorporating reflecting into other subjects such as P.E. and art – especially when children are learning a new skill. When reflecting as a class you will get the best results if you model and share ideas.

We also encourage you to allow children time to choose their own moments to reflect on – if you have the capacity to allow every class in school some time with SeeSaw, then this is an ideal time for children to look back over the week and do a multimedia reflection on a learning moment of their choice. This is particularly useful for upper KS2 children.

Although we suggest that all paper reflections should be uploaded onto SeeSaw, if you do not have the capacity to do this (you have limited iPads in your school) then do not spend time doing this as time is better spent allowing children to do an independent reflection to get the best use out of SeeSaw. This is at the discretion of your lead practitioner, who will have spoken us about what works best at your school. Although in ideal circumstances children will have all their reflections saved in one place to allow them to look back and see their progress, we understand this is only feasible with the right amount of technology.


Growth mindset in the classroom

April 23, 2018

The terms fixed and growth mindset were coined by Carol Dweck as a way to describe the way that learners need to feel about themselves and their abilities in order to become successful learners. Dweck describes a fixed mindset as a focus on ability rather than achievement and effort. Individuals who have a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenge, gives up easily, sees effort as pointless and ignores useful criticism. On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset embrace challenge, persist in the face of feedback, embrace effort and learn from criticism.

Central to growth mindset is the concept of neuroplasticity. This is the idea that we aren’t born with fixed intelligence but instead that when we learn our brains make new neural connections and we can actually become more intelligent. “Your brain is like a muscle. When you learn, your brain grows. The feeling of this being hard is the feeling of your brain growing.” – Carol Dweck Research has shown that the more you engage in a task, the more parts of your brain develop. When taxi drivers studying for ‘The Knowledge’ were scanned, their hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with spatial awareness and memory, was shown to have grown significantly. Therefore it is important that children are taught this concept as it then allows them to have the self-belief that they can get better and ultimately have a growth mindset.

There are a few key aspects we need to teach to ensure children develop a growth mindset so they can become successful, independent and resilient learners.

The first of these is to teach the children the power of yet – this simple word can have a big impact. There is a huge difference between saying “I am not good at this” and “I’m not good at this yet”. By adding the word yet it suggests you will get there with some hard work and resilience.

Teaching the appropriate reaction to mistakes is also essential. Everyone experiences mistakes and failure at some point but having a growth mindset and reflecting on your learning helps you realise that you can learn from failure by receiving feedback and using it to improve. We should encourage children to ask themselves what they would do differently next time. This stops them dwelling on the past and helps them focus on what needs to be improved in the future. Michael Jordan is arguably one of the greatest ever basketball players ever. He offers an interesting insight into his growth mindset when he says, “I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Effective feedback is also important in promoting a growth mindset culture. In one of Carol Dweck’s most famous studies, students were praised for effort or ability. Those who were praised for ability were more likely to ask for feedback on how they did on a task compared to others. Those who had been praised for effort wanted feedback on how they could get better. In addition to this teachers should also be conscious of not purely praising children as this may feel children good at the time but isn’t actually giving them any constructive feedback. Instead professionals should make sure they are giving constructive feedback that informs future learning.

However there are several pitfalls we have to be aware of when promoting a growth mindset culture:

The first of these is that growth mindset shouldn’t be something that you teach once and expect the children to adopt, it has to be something that encompasses your whole approach to teaching and pervades all areas of the curriculum. Your words and actions must be consistent with its concepts – for example if you teach that making mistakes is okay as we learn from them and then react to them as if they are problems, rather than this being helpful to students you will in all probably only assist them in developing a fixed mindset.

As practitioners we also have to be careful that we don’t just give out the message that if you keep trying you will succeed. As we all know if you continually practice something wrongly you will always do it wrong and never improve. Instead we must send out the message that with practice and guided instruction you can improve. We must make it clear to students that they need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they are stuck, then use and apply these.

Finally, it is essential that schools engage their parents in this process as it important that children receive a consistent message from those around them. Encourage parents to follow the schools example and praise for effort, hard work, persistence and learning from mistakes and not for being smart. If children are getting mixed messages from home and school it will be hard for them to develop a mindset for success.

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Welcome to ReflectED 2018

January 25, 2018

This website can only be accessed by treatment schools taking part in ReflectED Trial 2018. If you are a treatment school and would like to access resources, please log on using the details provided by your lead practitioner.

Applications to take part in the trial are now closed. For more information about the trial and metacognition in the classroom, please see the information in the About pages.