What is meaningful reflection and why should you do it?

Note: Often I read articles written for adults and think, hey, I wish they had written this for kids! I started this blog is to present really important (and cool) information about learning to kids. If your parents are interested in reading the adult article that I based this blog entry on, you can send them this link. No need for you to read it, though, unless you want more details than I offer below.

It used to be sort of a mystery how people learn. But in the last few years, researchers have been finding out more and more about how our brains work and what helps them work better.

Here are some ways that you can help yourself when you are learning something new, whether it’s math, literature, or learning to jump your bike!

IMG_0627Metacognition—thinking about thinking!

OK, whether you call it “metacognition” or “thinking about thinking,” it sounds pretty complicated. But actually, it’s pretty simple.

Say you draw a pretty darn good picture of a horse and you think, “That’s a pretty darn good picture of a horse.” Then you put it in a drawer and that’s the end of it. What happened? You drew a nice picture.

But metacognition is when we think about our thoughts: When you looked at the picture of the horse, you thought, “Pretty darn good.”

But what is good about it? What makes it a better picture of a horse than other pictures you’ve drawn? If you wanted to improve it, what might you change next time?

Simple, right? But really powerful. You don’t have to be negative about your skills. Just look at what you did and wonder what more you could do.

Thinking about your thoughts helps you learn more deeply.

To do:

  • “Chunk” your work on a project so that you stop and think about what you’re doing on a regular basis.
  • Keep a journal and try to write in it every day.

Reflection—thinking about the past and future

jcarole12So you’re learning something in math, and you’re getting pretty good at it. Then you set it aside and don’t try to use that skill for another two years. What happens?

Everyone knows what happens! You go to use it, and it’s like you never learned it in the first place.

Reflection is key. Think about something you’re learning in terms of how it builds on what you already know and how it might fit into what you learn in the future. Do this often.

Reflection strengthens the connections between all the different things you’re learning. If you want to be an architect, for example, you could think about how knowing the history you’re studying will help you be a better architect. Or you can think about how many fewer math skills you had before you started using an online math course.

To do:

  • Keep a record of what you’ve done. Some people keep paper portfolios; others keep blogs. Whatever is the best way for you to keep your work.
  • Put a task on your calendar for maybe twice a year to review your portfolio or look back in your blog. Think about what you’ve done and what you want to do next.


IMG_8430The way school used to work, you would write an essay, give it to the teacher, and get a grade. But what’s the point in that?

Although writing the essay might help you learn, until you share it with others and get feedback, you’re not doing the real learning.

Sharing is an essential step in learning. Try to figure out how you can share what you learn or create with other people and give them feedback on what they learn or create.

To do:

  • The great thing about the Internet is that we’re able to find people to share with. Even if you just put things on a blog that six people read, you are reaching out and sharing your work.
  • You can also share things in person. My kids always loved the science fair because they got to share their work and see other kids share their work. Find ways to connect with other people who will be interested in what you did.

Thanks to Mind/Shift for the inspiration for this post!


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