Ends and beginnings call for reflections, and though I'd argue reflection is always useful, there is something natural about looking back on a year and looking forward to another. As educators, we get to do this twice as we live by two: the school year and the calendar year.
I believe in the power of reflection, especially meaningful and prolonged reflection. I didn't see much quality in the “What did you do over summer?” and “What will you remember from 2018?” journal responses. Resolutions are an ineffective tradition and often do not focus on the intrinsic.
But we also don't want to bypass the chance to have these discussions with our students. We want meaning and purpose.
In January 2017, students could create any project which reflected on 2016 and the Your Year in Reflection projects were, of course, insightful and memorable. Any student choice opportunity usually does result in insightful and memorable products.
The students did think, synthesize, collaborate, and create, but it wasn’t as skill-full as I’d like it to be.
Last year, after seeing Google’s video reflection of 2017 and seeing so many OneWord choices on social media and from friends and family, I decided we’d merge all three: our Your Year in Reflection project, Google’s video, and OneWord.
In the two weeks before the semester’s grade conferences, students reflected on the year, looked forward to the next, and created videos with evidence and theme. The process included research, collaboration, creation, critiques, writing, and technology. Students practiced autonomy, creativity, taking initiative, reflection, and optimism. As an ELA teacher, I have to also mention their narration included some of their very best writing of the school year.
This was their final project and I’m glad it was: all of my content- and soft-skills for the semester are here.
Here’s our Your Year in Reflection process:
1. Review the components of a year and how we spend our time.
2. Journal about the biggest moments they remember, personal or otherwise.
3. Reflect on each month globally, nationally, locally, and personally. (Click here for a Your Year in Reflection Event Chart)
4. Find thematic ideas in those months and narrow it to a handful.
5. Decide on a thematic idea to leave behind as we enter the new year.
6. Carefully select a One Word to serve as a compass for the next 12 months.
7. Write the message for each half of the video. Revise, revise, revise.
8. Collect visual evidence for each main point of the message. Compile the images and videos so they correlate with the narration. (Students used different programs depending on what they knew. For some, this was entirely new. Some used a presentation and then Screencastify to record as they spoke and clicked through the presentation slides.)
9. Record the narration. Revise, revise, revise.
10. Submit via Google Forms to collect and view the videos, or collect and share on another program!
Does this project take time? Yes.
Does it require a variety of skills? Yes.
Does it include student choice? Student voice? Yes. Yes.
Does it help students gain confidence? Yes.
Does it create community? Yes.
Does it support my ultimate goals as a teacher?