Tackle Time

Weekly time/routine for students to think about, articulate, and investigate a self-generated challenge, problem, question, or puzzle.

Photo of Darcy Long
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I would build in short weekly time and simple procedural routines for students to reflect on what puzzles, stumps, or challenges them.  Time to further investigate what they articulate enables purposeful, personal application of their creativity and problem solving.   This approach to challenges or "problems" might increase tenacity to better understand quandaries, puzzles,  or confusions that arise.   Having a routine activity of naming a challenge and then coming back to it after further thought reinforces the procedure of what people do when they don't immediately  know what to do, or have an answer.   Empowering children with more opportunities to confidently and freely express uncertainty about topics of personal interest builds the kind of community igniting self-motivated learning.   Participating in this activity as a whole class builds team problem solving and trust.

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First page of the daily reflective journal I did daily with my 3rd graders. At the end of the day we listed the basic topics /events covered that day. The next morning students reflected on what they learned, what they needed review on / challenge work, and further questions. The journals helped inform my lessons and differentiate better.

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First page of the "Got Goals?" monthly goal-setting log.


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Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

"Empowering children with more opportunities to confidently and freely express uncertainty about topics of personal interest builds the kind of community igniting self-motivated learning" <--YES, love this! So true! Would love to hear a bit more about how you might help your students identify and delineate their challenges. It can sometimes be difficult to articulate that which puzzles or evades us. What are some tools or systems teachers could create and use to help their students achieve this?

Photo of Darcy Long

I observed that my third grade students engaged in creative problem-solving with increasing ease when offered consistent opportunities to reflect on their learning/goals/school experiences. I participated as well, and vulnerably at times, to ease them into more freely expressing perplexity or uncertainty. I practiced 2 year-long reflective and meta-cognitive routines with my students: A 'Got Goals?' log, and a Daily Reflective Learning Journal. 'Got Goals?' was done on the first day of each month. My students and I set 7 goals for different life areas, for example, 'career,' 'physical fitness,' and 'character.' Each month we'd revisit the prior goals and revise as necessary. The goals were a mix of short and long term, and they were shared with peers and family. We brainstormed together how to accomplish the goals. We used the 'Daily Reflective Learning Journal' twice daily: At the end of the day to list the day's general lesson topics/events of note, drawing an "emoticon" for each entry. The next morning, students would spend 5-10 minutes detailing what they remembered about their learning or activities, lingering questions, or any other feedback salient in their minds. As with 'Got Goals,' we'd problem solve as needed. My students sat in table groups, so sharing out with peers was a norm of my classroom culture. At the end of the year my students had a binder of all their learning and goals and they took tremendous pride in that personal record of growth.

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph


This is so cool! I love that you are so intentional about creating reflective and meta-cognitive routines for your students and I think it must be tremendously helpful for them to see you model the behavior you want them to engage in. Could you update your post to include your thoughts and learnings on the Got Goals Log and Reflective Learning Journal--you can do so by hitting the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. I think it would be very helpful for other teachers interested in prototyping some reflective routines in their own classrooms to have you share the intentions/systems around the Got Goals Log and the Daily Reflective Learning Journal right in the body of your post.

I'm interested to know how you think this might scale school wide? How could this culture of reflective and meta-cognitive routines be brought outside of your classroom and to the whole school? I'm especially intrigued to know if you have any thoughts on how teachers might build in some of these routines for themselves. I love that you've made the reflective process a collaborative endeavor in your classroom, wouldn't it be great if the adults could enjoy a similar opportunity?

Photo of Darcy Long

I'm wondering about the feasibility of setting aside school hall/wall space for teacher or student curated "idea walls" where students from every grade level can contribute questions to investigate or experiments to try. "Got Goals?" wall space would be great too: Students post their goals and have space to celebrate their accomplishments.

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