So you’ve made it to the mid year point! Woot woot!
I feel like this time of the year we finally catch our breath from all the holiday hustle and bustle, which heads right into mid year assessments. It’s a great time to reflect on instruction and our routines.
5 reflection questions I ask myself mid year
1. What is working well?
2. What is the most challenging thing?
3. How can I encourage independence?
4.How can I keep it interesting?
5. How can I support them as they “level up” their skills?
You can read more below (and get the free reflection sheets at the bottom of this post)
Reflecting on what is working well:
Looking at the things that are working well in your classroom will help you to first, reaffirm that you are an amazing teacher (even if you’re tired… even if you’re stressed… even if you just “know” you could be doing more.). This is also a great time to look at what’s working and do more of it…. or look for ways to pivot what you’ve been doing so it can apply to other areas during the day.
As an example: My first year teaching I noticed that my students loved having small group work. With a class full of diverse learners receiving lots of supports within and outside of the classroom, the best parts of the day were the times that we were all working in small groups. Originally I had been having students work independently on tasks as I called groups over for reading.
During math time, however, we rotated through with a group approach… and they LOVED it! Students were engaged and they were making tons of progress. Switching my literacy block to the same format made a world of difference. Students were more engaged in discussions, skill practice, and READING, which was the whole goal to begin with.
Reflecting on what is challenging:
This is the hardest thing for me to do because challenges are… well.. challenging! It is sometimes defeating to feel like you’re doing all you can and there are still some major challenges. Some years the challenges I’ve faced have been academic. Some years (most years) they have been behavioral. Other years they have even been personal (like the year I had to be out with surgery for thyroid cancer) and I have needed to plan for a long term substitute. When you sit down and reflect at a scheduled time, rather when you’re melting into your chair after a long and exhausting day, you can start to really pinpoint what the challenges are. You can put them into perspective and decide if it’s routines that you could focus on. Maybe it’s a good time to revisit routines and expectations. Maybe you need to look at your schedule to try to leave on time a few days a week so you can take care of yourself!
This part of the reflection has always opened doors for my students and I. It turns out that I can often use what is working to build independence in those areas. It often opens up time and space to address the challenges. Most importantly, it empowers my students to really make progress and take ownership of their learning.
One of the things I really try to build independence with is classroom routines. Yes it’s painful to teach them to hang their stuff up in cubbies at the beginning of the year. Yes it’s easier to just do it for them… BUT it’s so much easier in the long run if you take the time to teach them and then you can cross that task off your list.
The same goes with academic routines. For example, During my reading groups, I choose some basic discussion prompts with picture cues that I taught the children how to respond to. I would have students take turns picking the prompt for the book or story they were reading. By the springtime, students ( even first graders) were able to use this routing to independently engage in reading discussion groups.
Whatever your routine is, take some time to analyze if there is a way to encourage independence.
Keeping It Interesting:
By this time of year, students should be pretty used to routines. In fact, this is how we encourage independence to begin with. However, you can definitely jazz things up to reengage students with some fun little twists in your lessons. One of my favorite ways to get students excited is using sticky notes. I like to print their focus or discussion prompt on sticky notes in order to remind them of their task. If I am being honest though, it’s partially also because they just love sticky notes so much that they just seem to be instantly engaged.
Another thing I will sometimes introduce this time of year is gallery walks. Since they are typically writers now and have had some time sharing ideas and responding to others, just hanging those literacy or math prompts around the room and having them respond is another great way to get them moving while keeping the tasks fresh.
Helping students level up!
As you move towards spring it’s likely that you’re also moving into some more independent and complex academic demands. Maybe you’re working on making inferences now. Maybe the focus is on connecting two texts. Perhaps you’re really delving into characters. Whatever the skill might be, don’t forget about old favorite strategies, techniques, and even favorite books.
By this time in the year, my students have a pile of mentor texts that they practically know by heart. For example, I like to use fairy tales to teach identifying story parts and retelling. I also pull out those fairy tales later in the year when it comes to drawing conclusions about characters and making connections. When you take an old story that they already have experience with and pull it into the mix, it lessens the demand of knowing the basic storyline and lets them really dig into the new skills and practice.
The same is true for math skills. Pull out those old skills and build on them for new learning. For example, maybe your students are transitioning from using a provided numberline from 1-20 to drawing their own open number line. Making those connections to the strategies and tools they are already comfortable with will help them to continue to grow as learners into the spring.
I’ve created a basic mid year reflection worksheet if you’d like to grab it here!