The beginning of a new year provides an excellent opportunity for students to reflect on their performance to date as well as their goals for the future. Although students might find it intimidating at first, self-reflection can strengthen learning and success both inside and outside of the classroom. Getting students into the practice of contemplation at any age provides a lifelong tool for development, growth, and self-awareness.

But what is the best way to help students self-reflect? The most effective self-reflection activities are those that get students motivated and engaged. Patience is also key — self-reflection is a skill that must be developed and exercised regularly. Here we’re providing you with tips and strategies to get your students in a reflective mindset that promotes ongoing improvement and learning.

Provide Students With a Framework 

Often the most intimidating part of self-reflection is knowing where to start. Teachers can support students by providing a clear framework and outlining specific expectations. Consider what you want your students to focus on. Academics? Personal behavior? Motivation? Effort? Etc.

Providing a template can also further guide students. Examples include “When ____ happened, I felt ____ and I did ____” or “What are three things you could improve on next year and how will you do this?”. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for students to settle into the exercise (Curletto, n.d.; Kobialka, 2016).

Make It Fun!

Self-reflection doesn’t need to be a chore. It should be an opportunity for students to get excited and involved in their own personal development and growth. One way to make self-reflection more engaging is to turn it into a game or creative activity. You could write self-reflection questions on a die, incorporate apps and other technology, or challenge students to create an art piece based on how an event made them feel, something they’ve learned, or a goal they have for the future.

For older students, it might be helpful to start an in-class journaling routine or develop a journaling activity specifically for new year reflections. Creating a portfolio is also a great way for students to review the projects they’ve completed and what they’ve learned throughout the previous year (Curletto, n.d.).

Encourage Collaboration

Although self-reflection tends to be a more solitary activity, making it collaborative can encourage student interaction. Not only does it turn it into a social activity, but it allows students to bounce ideas off another person and gain a different perspective. In order for students to feel comfortable and build trust to open up, teachers should be mindful of personalities when pairing students together and provide a specific framework for the activity (Curletto, n.d.).

Be A Role Model

Students are more likely to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions if they see that you’re willing to open up too. Teachers can reflect out loud on mistakes they’ve made, lessons that didn’t go as planned, and teaching successes. Teachers should be the leaders and role models of self-reflection environments and activities. 

Build a Culture of Ongoing Learning and Improvement

Self-reflection shouldn’t be exclusive to annual exercises, but integrated as a core classroom value. Curletto (n.d.) recommends helping students develop a growth mindset and teaching that people are constantly changing, improving, and learning. Kobialka (2016) suggests having students regularly reflect on pluses and deltas, or things that went well and things that could change. Pluses and deltas have a more positive tone than pros and cons or strengths and weaknesses, which can help students reflect deeper without feeling intimidated about confronting their mistakes.

Engaging students in the self-reflection process might take some trial and error, but it’s important to incorporate these activities into your lesson plans. For students and adults alike, self-reflection is a powerful tool that can encourage self-awareness, lifelong learning, and the achievement of personal and academic goals. 


Curletto, A. (n.d.). Strategies & Activities to Teach Students How to Use Self-Reflection. James 


Kobialka, J. (2016). 7 Reflection Tips for Assessment, Empowerment, and Self-Awareness. 


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