I just finished reading the First Semester Final Projects from my mainstream ninth-grade English class, and am just incredibly impressed and touched by the caliber of their reflections. You can see it here

I spend a lot of time in class encouraging students to reflect on what they’re thinking and doing; what they’ve thought and done; and what they’re going to think and do. The final slide in the presentation I posted last week (see Update on My ELL Book) says “No Cockroaches” with an illustration representing Kafka’s Metamorphosis. That’s because one of the reasons I think the main character in that novel turned into a cockroach is because of his functioning in the world without any kind of reflection on the world and his role in it. It’s something we emphasized a lot in my community organizing career, too.

I talk at length about using reflection in the classroom in my upcoming book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work. In fact, there’s an entire chapter devoted to it.

One of the best parts (in my opinion) of the final project entails students completing this section:

________________________________ was my best moment in class because ________________________________. I helped

make it my best moment by _______________________________________.

_______________________________was my worst moment in class because ______________________________. I could have

made it better by _____________________________________.

Two answers particularly struck me tonight:

One student wrote:

Seeing my first grade was my best moment in class because I had never got an A before. I helped make it my best moment by studying and turning in all my work.

Another wrote this (some background: each Friday I highlight a student and share reasons why I’m glad he/she is in the class — everyone gets this “Student of the Week” designation during the year):

Standing up to get a sucker was my best moment in class because I got to hear some good things about myself. I helped make it my best moment by working hard all week.

One of the other questions on the Project asked students to reflect on some of the “experimental” lessons we’ve done so far this semester – on the brain, self-control, goal-setting and visualizing success (by the way, my upcoming third book will be sharing a lot more ideas and lessons like these).

The ones on the brain, self-control and goal-setting were all quite popular (the visualizing success one — not so much). Here’s what one student wrote about the goal-setting exercise:

I liked the goal settings because when you set goals it seems like it makes me work harder to accomplish my goal.

In addition to this final project, this week students wrote an essay response to a writing prompt, completed two clozes, and each of them read to me to assess reading fluency (all are done several times a year to measure growth) . Most of the ninth-grade English teachers at our school use similar assessments.

I believe that these kinds of assessments provide an accurate measurement of student academic growth and their increased ability and willingness to be life-long learners — much more so than multiple-choice standardized tests.

It would be nice if the Obama administration’s supposed national competition to identify better assessments would take this sort of thing under serious consideration, but I’m not holding my breath.