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Sample Field Notes

et502's picture

In-Class activity: Writing reflections about a group project

Last year, I observed a class taught by two teachers. Teacher M was the primary teacher for this 6th grade class, and Teacher L was a support for students with language learning needs. Just to preface this excerpt – the students had just finished working on a multi-day group project, and the teachers were explaining their expectations for the reflections.

I was struck by this lesson, because I think it clearly demonstrated the focus of the school, and the values that teachers intentionally incorporate into their actions and expectations every day. I was really impressed that teachers could work together this efficiently, without a weird power hierarchy. Also, students, at least by this point in the year, seemed to be very responsive to the high standards and methods used for self-reflection.



Teacher M used the Smartboard to show what she expected students to do. There were some glitches, but she appeared to be comfortable with the technology. Students were all watching the screen. A student who had been told to sit in the back complained that he couldn’t see.

The students were much more attentive during this portion of the class, despite the low lights – I’m guessing that they really like the new technology and respond well to it.


“Just like in your literacy classes…” – Teacher M compared the reflection exercise to work that the students did more regularly in different subject areas.

Teacher M told me later that they are trying to incorporate students’ previous understanding from language arts classes (writing skills) into science classes.

She made some clear connections to work students have done in the past – this could make the science-writing less intimidating…



Teacher M split the assignment into two parts. The first part was about students’ learning. “These are some strategies for writing” – Teacher M went through the first group of sentence starters that meant to help students write about their personal learning. The second group of sentence starters was based on the second part of the reflection: how well students worked in their groups. After she’d gone over her sentence starters, she asked for suggestions and wrote them on the board. 3-5 students raised their hands. When one student gave a suggestion that she misheard, and wrote down incorrectly, another student corrected her and she changed the Smartboard to the original/intended suggestion.

Very explicit – I liked that she included students and let them become self-advocates by letting them choose from many available options. Also, since this reflection was a self-guided exercise, I think it showed the teachers have high expectations for what students should be able to do >> also, by dedicating time to this, they show that personal development is valued



Students really liked to see their own ideas respected and displayed

Teacher M asked the group, “How long do you think this reflection should be?” 3 or 4 students raised their hands – A girl answered, “A page?” “That’s right, about a page long.”

Not only should teachers have high expectations of the students, students should also expect a lot from themselves. They know what they’re capable of - they’re in 6th grade and they know what kind of work they should produce. Teachers then just have to hold them to their own standards

After Teacher M had explained the assignment, she walked over to the back of the room where Teacher L had started reading the Sun Cluster’s notebooks. A student raised her hand with a question – “Will we be getting a grade on these?” Both Teacher L and Teacher M confirmed that the reflections were not graded, but rather, a way to understand the students’ viewpoints and make changes based on what worked or didn’t work. “This is the first time we’ve taught group projects and we’re learning – just like you’re learning how to work in these group projects… We value what you have to say,” Teacher L told them.

Ungraded assignment – and I saw several students write more than a page…

Again, the teachers are including students in how the class is run. Students’ opinions are valued and needed... Also, they had a specific space to complain/explain/think about what happened in their groups.