I Used to Think,...Now I Think...1st Graders Reflect on their Learning

Do you wait until the end of a unit before you assess students' learning? That seems to be the "traditional" way to evaluate what a student has learned, but learning is more than the accumulation of knowledge; learning is a consequence of thinking. How do you teach your students to become more thoughtful? Well, today I'm sharing how I used a Visible Thinking routine as a formative assessment on my students' learning about cycles. My goal was to get them to be reflective about how their thinking had led them to learning by asking them how their thinking had changed.

To read more about Visible Thinking from Harvard's educational research group, Project Zero, click HERE. If you have not read Making Thinking Visible, I highly recommend it!

At the beginning of the unit, my pre-assessment was very simple; I asked students to draw and write about what the thought "cycle" meant. Responses ranged from reasonable definitions and diagrams to "I don't know".

We are about halfway through our unit of inquiry. Along the way we have talked about the inquiry cycle and what our focus has been.

This is the inquiry cycle that I have posted on the wall.
I use a little star to mark what stage we are in during a given lesson.

While inquiry usually follows a cycle, it is not always so; imagine arrows crossing through the center, pointing to each stage, back and forth. Learning is not usually linear, or even cyclical, but interwoven- at least that's my word for it! Having said that, it is still helpful for students to "see where they are going" with their learning.

So, today we discussed how we would consider how our thinking has changed during the course of the unit. I referred back to the "Tuning In" stage and reminded students that many of them didn't really understand what a cycle was. I explained that they would reflect on what they thought they knew NOW about cycles. Like the pre-assessment, I asked them to write and draw about their knowledge of cycles.

Once they finished, I passed out students' pre-assessment and asked them to consider how their thinking had changed. Then they shared by putting their papers on the easel and using the language of the thinking routine, "I used to think... and now I think..."

It was an excellent exercise. I could see some students' "lightbulbs" going off as they looked at the two papers- a subtle realization like, "Yeah, I have been learning!" The goal of this thinking routine is to help students realize that understanding is the result of changes in thinking, and I think it did just that.

I also like that this thinking routine helped students to grow in confidence. Take a look at one students' thoughts:

By stopping to reflect on his thinking, this student was able to see that he had grown an understanding of what a cycle was. I think it was so powerful for him to see this.

So, what's next? I will continue to use "I Used to Think, Now I Think" in other subjects. I'd like to see this thinking routine become a sort of "thoughtful" classroom routine.

How do you help students reflect on their thinking?

Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Thank you so much for this post - I really like the idea of having them track their own learning and love your cycle anchor board.

  2. This is such a fantastic idea on self reflecting and really honing in on what they've learned! Great ideas Karli~Thanks for sharing!
    ~Christy & Tammy
    Fluttering Through First Grade

  3. Really interesting post and honestly reflecting back is not something I make time for during our busy days. However it sounds like a simple and useful learning activity.
    Thanks for the info.

    School Is a Happy Place

  4. I know what you mean about getting busy! I'm trying to "build in" reflection times so it's not an add-on- there's already so much to do. I like the visible thinking routines because the can become a part of your classroom routines.

    Thanks to all of you for stopping by!


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