5 Strategies to Help Students Reflect on Their Writing
For students to improve as writers, it’s vital for them to take ownership of their work. Students must understand what they do well, what needs improvement, and how they can improve these skills.
Of course, teachers can tell students the answers to these questions—but it’s far more effective if students take the time to reflect on their own writing.
Reflection allows students to understand areas of weakness in their writing and purposefully take steps to address them. As a result, students become better and more confident writers. Here are 5 strategies you can use to encourage reflection.
1. Require Multiple Drafts
Writing multiple drafts naturally inspires reflection. As students polish a rough draft, they must decide what to improve and how to improve it.
Asking students to reflect on their writing as a whole can be too abstract and overwhelming. You can instead guide students to focus on specific aspects of their writing by providing a rubric. Your rubric might include categories such as organization, transitions, evidence, clarity, etc.
Another option is to ask students to upload their rough drafts to WriteLab. WriteLab will provide suggestions related to four key areas: Concision, Clarity, Logic, and Grammar. Students can accept or dismiss suggestions as they see fit. This way, they maintain ownership of their writing while still receiving helpful guidance.
As your students edit and revise their initial drafts, they’ll be pushed to think deeply about how to improve their writing.
2. Ask Reflection Questions
After you’ve graded your students’ writing, you can have them respond to reflection questions. These questions help students process your feedback and the grade they’ve received, as well as come up with “next steps” for their writing.
Reflection questions can include:
- What did you do well on this assignment?
- What can you improve next time?
- What grade did you receive? Why?
- What will you do differently on your next essay? What will you keep the same?
- In what area of the rubric does your writing need the most improvement? How will you work on improving this skill?
When it comes to writing, you don’t want your students to focus solely on the grade at the top of their paper. You want them to understand why they received this grade and how they can score higher in the future. This way, students can work toward continuous improvement as writers.
3. Provide Sentence Starters
For some students, reflection is a new and tricky skill. Students aren’t sure how to go about evaluating their own abilities.
To help these students, you can provide sentence starters such as:
- One thing I did really well was _______________________________________.
- One thing that needs more work is _________________________________________.
- Next time I write an essay, I will __________________________________ in order to improve.
- I received a grade of ___________ because _______________________________________.
These sentence starters are training wheels that will prepare your students to start reflecting on their writing independently in the future.
4. Have Students Grade Themselves
Before you grade students, asking them to grade themselves provides a great opportunity for reflection.
Give students the same rubric you’ll use to grade the assignment and ask them to evaluate themselves honestly. Putting students in the role of teacher/evaluator forces them to critique and reflect on the quality of their writing.
You can also offer students the opportunity to revise after grading their own essays. If desired, you can have students write a brief reflection about what they changed and why.
5. Organize Students to Provide Peer Feedback
Similarly, peer feedback allows students to step into the teacher’s shoes and evaluate writing. Students may be more objective in evaluating their peers’ essays than in evaluating their own.
As students recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their classmates’ writing, they may also make realizations about their own writing.
Additionally, students will receive feedback about their own writing from a classmate. Students are often more receptive to accepting advice from a peer than from a teacher. They’ll likely take this advice into consideration and spend some time reflecting on what their partner has said.
You can also incorporate reflection questions here, asking students what feedback they received from their peer and what they think about it. How will they respond to this feedback, or what will they change as a result?
Despite its importance, reflection is often overlooked in the Language Arts classroom.
You can incorporate opportunities to reflect in your own classroom by requiring multiple drafts, asking reflection questions (with sentence starters, if needed), and asking students to grade themselves or their peers.
These activities help students recognize their strengths and weaknesses as writers and decide how they can continue progressing.
WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.