DRIVING QUESTION: How do students articulate and reflect on what they’ve learned?

Mr. Aringo: “What did you learning today?”
Student 1: “I don’t know.”
Student 2: “How to fill out a worksheet?”
Student 3: No response.

It’s a struggle asking what our students learned when all they might be thinking about is filling out a worksheet or doing a group activity to earn a deserving grade. When I ask students what they’ve learned, I sometimes get a blank response or an “I don’t know” which makes me question my practice — How am I giving my students the time and structure to think about what they learned, how they learned it, and why they learned it?

In a previous blog, “The Untamed Road to Mastery”, I’ve emphasized that the teacher holds the big pictures and deconstructs the big picture into small manageable pieces so that the learners can pick up those pieces and piece them together into a model that they understand. Part of picking up those pieces and trying to connect those pieces together is providing a structured routine where our students are always articulating what they learned in writing and orally not only as a formative assessment but as a practice they do daily. It becomes part of our classroom culture and it becomes part of the the student’s learning craft.

Unfortunately, in our educational culture of standards, we like to smush everything together without having our learners stop, take a step back, look back at their learning journey retrospectively, make sense of the learning, and reflect on their success, challenges, and areas of needed growth. In order for our students to own their learning journey and lead the next step of their next learning journey, they must review and reflect on their craft.

Expressing What They’ve Learned

In our STEAM class, I’ve built in a number of structures where students are routinely explaining, reflecting, and articulating what they’ve learned.


Learning Log from a Science Class

This is a very personalized log that our students write in their notebooks. After I ring my chimes, which signals the last 10 minutes of class, students clean up and put away their materials and write a sentence or two on what they’ve learned, how they learned it, and questions they might have. Our learners have some structured time to pause, look back, and reflect on their progress that day. Something I want to integrate is daily or weekly goal setting and make that routine at the beginning of class and checking in on that goal at the end of class. No structure has been set in place but there is room to play around with that thought. Another aspect that I want to integrate into the learning log is for our learners to not write about what they’ve learned but to artistically draw what they learned. All of these are wonderful ideas, they just need to be modeled and reinforced within the routines I set in place.



Just like a role-playing game, the player needs to save their progress for the next time they play a game. At the end of every quest, our learners reflect on their learning journey of that quest before they move on. They save a piece of those memories in a blog that they record at the end of every project cycle. In the save point, they:

  • Review the purpose of the quest. In other words, “why do you need to do this quest (other than Mr. Aringo made you do so or so that I can get an A). ” In asking this question, I’m asking our students to pick up those instructional pieces and put together their big picture so they can articulate the reason why they NEED these skills or knowledge to move forward. Once they figure out the real reason why they went through this quest, there is an appreciation for the learning experience as they are able to use what they learned as a gift, treasure, and tool to help them in the next part of their journey.
  • Answer the driving quest and how they got to that answer. Every quest starts off with a driving question. Throughout their quest, we review the driving question and connect how that driving question connects to each of the learning moments that our learners experience.
  • I also ask them to pick 3 missions from the quest. With these three missions, they must describe what they did, how they did it, and why it is important for them to do this mission. Again, I’m emphasizing the review of those instructional pieces.
  • In the last part of the save point, they reflect on their successes, challenges, and areas of growth. In doing this, they look at their own progress by celebrating things they did well on, challenges they experienced and overcame, and areas that they need to work on themselves as a way of setting goal(s) for the next part of their journey.

Below is an example of SAVE POINT from our Jedi Initiation Quest:

In Conclusion

In acting on these structures, my hope is for our learners to internalize the skill of reviewing what they’ve learned, celebrating their successes/challenges, and reflect on their progress so they are able to develop and set goals for themselves. The outcome of these strategies for our learners to own and lead their learning journey. My other hope is that if anybody from another classroom, another school, or an educational leader comes into our classroom and asks our learners what they’ve learned, our students able to apply those structures to articulate what they’ve learned in a thorough manner.

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