Recurring Lesson

Involving Students and Families in Ongoing Reflection and Assessment

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time
5-10 minutes per session
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Create a partnership with families by structuring student reflection and family response through daily and weekly student self-assessment. Students begin by writing a sentence or two each week reflecting on what they have learned, what they have done, or what they liked in class that week. Later, they progress to daily reflections and records of their school activity, in which they create and monitor their own learning goals. Families respond to these student reflections, which become the basis for discussion among family, teacher, and students. The reflections are also a key resource in regular student-family-teacher conferences that take place during the term.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Involving students and families in assessment can be a powerful way to encourage student ownership and responsibility for classroom work. Further, by connecting students' work in the classroom to their out-of-school learning, involving families in assessment validates and supports home learning-whether home language learning, out-of-school literacy experiences, or other formal or informal educational activities. Perhaps most rewarding in this system is the ways that it connects families to students. Alice Kimura explains in the School Talk article "Involving Parents in the Assessment Process," which is the basis of this lesson plan, that such systems "keep parents involved and informed and invite them to become stronger advocates for their children and their learning needs" (6). Additionally, "regular opportunities for slowing down and thinking about what has taken place at school helps students to focus on their goals for learning, on what they have done well, and on what they need to continue to work on the next day" (6).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

General classroom supplies and writing materials




  • Make copies of the Tips to Share with Families and distribute the list to families, if desired. Additional tips and resources for families are included in the Websites listed in the Resources section. These materials can also be shared with families as you prepare for this reflective assessment activity.

  • Make a copy of the Weekly Progress Form for each student each week, once you transition from weekly to daily reflection. Print the forms front and back so that students can record all information on a single sheet of paper.

  • Arrange for Student-Family-Teacher Conferences (see details below in the Instruction and Activities) as appropriate for your school system. Conferences can take place at any point during the term and should tap the reflection pieces that students have written as a focal point of the discussion. Make copies of the Student-Family-Teacher Conference handout. Fill in the information on the time and place of the conferences; then, send the handouts home to families.

  • If desired, make copies or an overhead transparency of the Conference Procedures. Alternately, you might create a custom list for your class, recording the information on the board or on chart paper.

  • Test the Letter Generator on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • reflect regularly in writing on their work in the classroom and at home.

  • review and analyze their reflections.

  • discuss their reflections with their families and the teacher.

Preparing Families

  1. Introduce the reflection process and families’ role in the process in an open house or similar meeting if possible.

  2. Explain your teaching philosophy and the place of reflection and family participation in the curriculum.

  3. Be sure to include the following tips, adapted from Helping Your Teenager to Write Better and Parent’s Guide to Literacy for the 21st Century: Pre-K–Grade 5:

    • The more we write, the better we write. Encourage your child to write and let your child see you write.

    • Language play and writing can be fun—in fact, they should be fun. Have fun with language and share language play with your child. Play naming games, sound games (e.g., finding words that rhyme or begin with the same sound), and word scavenger hunts (e.g., find a particular word in your local environment).

    • When your child shares writing with you, rejoice in the effort she put into the piece.

    • When you read your child’s writing, feel free to ask questions about parts that aren’t clear, but resist the temptation to be critical. Encourage, rather than correct.

    • Offer a wide variety of opportunities to read, both educational and entertaining texts. Talk about those things that you have both read. Read aloud to your child, encourage your child to read silently and independently, invite your child to read aloud to you, and read texts aloud together.

    • Read all sorts of material aloud: billboards, signs, flyers, brochures, letters, commercials, ads, magazines, newspapers, comics, software dialog boxes, Web pages.

    • Spend time each school day discussing what happened in school that day with your child. What did she work on? How did she work? What did she enjoy? Encourage her to tell you lots of interesting details about a short period of time or a single event to increase her focus on specific information and memory.

    • Write together, creating grocery or shopping lists, to-do lists, messages to family members, and so forth. Encourage your child to write her own notes and lists independently as well.

    • Students make age-appropriate errors in spelling, grammar, and usage. Look for patterns in their errors and discuss the pattern rather than simply “correcting” her work. Always feel free to ask the teacher if you are not sure about an error that you see.

    • Provide a special folder or notebook for your child and encourage her to save her writing and other work in it. Nothing can replace the good feeling of reading something we wrote months ago and rediscovering how good it is (or how much we have learned since!).
  4. Pass out and share any additional resources from the Resources section.

  5. Explain the role that you want family members to play: families should be involved and informed advocates for their children and their children’s learning needs. Emphasize the importance of supporting students and exploring classroom topics and events together.

  6. Be sure to indicate how families can get in touch with you if they have a question or concern about their children’s work or progress.

Beginning the Process: Weekly Reflections

  1. Explain to students that each week, they will have a chance to think about the things that they have done in class and for homework and write about what they have done.

  2. On the last day of class for the week, quickly review the activities and events of the week as a class.

  3. If you have a word wall, you might point to words and phrases related to the week’s work. Alternately, you might write key words on the board or white paper for students.

  4. Pass out paper and pencils (or other writing supplies); or have students write their reflections in a writing notebook or journal.

  5. Ask students to write a sentence or two about what they learned, what they liked, whom they helped, and what was difficult. If students are beginning writers, invite them to draw illustrations instead. Further, students of any age might illustrate the sentences they write if desired.

  6. Emphasize that any comments students want to make are appropriate.

  7. Read each student’s reflections with him or her, and provide support for the reflections. Encourage students to add details or explanations as appropriate.

  8. Have students take their reflections home and share their reflections with their families during the weekend. Urge families to discuss the reflections and provide supportive feedback. Point to suggestions on the Tips sheet as appropriate to help families frame these discussions with students.

  9. Continue this weekly reflection process throughout the Fall semester. The process should become a regular routine.

  10. As time passes, ask students to add more details and talk about their feelings. Encourage them to move beyond simply repeating the events that have happened each week to write about how they worked, what they enjoyed, and when (and why) they did well on projects.

Extending the Process: Daily Reflections

  1. In the spring, during the first class session of the week, explain that the reflections will take a new format and students will have time every class day for reflections on the day’s activities.

  2. Pass out copies of the Weekly Progress Form, and review the form together.

  3. Ask students to add their names and date on the top of the form.

  4. Have students write their goals for the week on the next lines, as indicated. Talk together about reasonable goals and activities that will be completed during the week to help them shape their goals.

  5. Using the classroom calendar, add the dates for each day of the week to the form.

  6. As with the weekly reflections, at the end of each class day, quickly review the activities and events the class has completed. (As students become accustomed to these reflections, you may be able to spend less time reviewing activities or skip this step altogether).

  7. Demonstrate how to fill out the form by projecting an overhead transparency of the form or creating the three columns on a sheet of white paper.

  8. Be sure that students understand the difference between listing the activities and events in the first column and reflecting on the activities in the third column.

  9. Because reflections should regularly take only 5–10 minutes per session, encourage students to work quickly.

  10. At the beginning of each day of class, ask students to review their Weekly Progress Forms and look for details on projects they need to continue work on as well as to review their goal for the week.

  11. Repeat this process each class day during the week—writing reflections at the end of the day and reviewing them at the beginning of the next class day.

  12. At the end of the week, ask students to read their goals and review the list of activities and events as well as their reflections. In the available space, ask students to write a weekly reflection on their work during the entire week. This is students’ opportunity to think about everything that they have accomplished and to think about how well they have met their goals.

  13. Collect students’ forms, review their comments and add your own sentence or two in the space allowed before students leave. Direct your comments to the students (not the families).

  14. Return the forms to students and ask them to take the forms home to share with their families. Encourage families to address their comments to the students as well. This process may feel awkward at first, and you may find that families direct their comments to you as their child’s teacher. Alice Kimura explains that “As the year progresses . . . parents follow [her] lead and begin to direct their comments to their child, showing support for what we are doing in class” (6). Be patient as families become comfortable with the system.

  15. Ask students to bring the Weekly Progress Forms back to class on the first day of the following week. They refer to the forms as they begin their new forms each week. Provide a place for students to collect these weekly forms (e.g., a portfolio, folder, or notebook), so that they can refer to the forms later in the term and when meeting with their families in conference.

Sharing the Process: Student-Family-Teacher Conferences

  1. Prepare for Student-Family-Teacher Conferences by sending home information that describes the conference format and each person’s role and that confirms the date, time, and place of the conference. A simple handout can provide this information. You may want to send home two copies, one for families to keep and another for them to return to school.

  2. Ask families to note any questions or concerns that they would like to discuss in the space provided, and return the brochure to school several days before the conference.

  3. Gather work samples and information appropriate to reply to the issues that families have identified.

  4. Before the conference, ask students to write an informal letter to their families that explains what they feel is important about their learning in school.

  5. Begin by asking students to review their reflections (whether weekly reflections from early in the term or the Weekly Progress Form from later in the term).

  6. Encourage students to take notes or make lists of issues they want to use in their letters.

  7. Introduce the Letter Generator, and have students use the interactive tool to write and print their letters.

  8. Meet with each student to look over the letters.

  9. Using the letters as a resource, set goals and plans of action that will help students meet those goals.

  10. As a class, create a procedural chart that outlines the sequence for sharing during the conferences. Generally speaking, the conference structure would include these steps:

    1. Students greet their family members at the classroom door, and sit down at a table together.

    2. Return the family brochure to family members, so that they have the tips and their questions in front of them.

    3. Students and families read the conference letter together.

    4. Students share their progress portfolios (which include the Weekly Progress Form or weekly reflections) with their families.

    5. Students also share work samples from their recent class sessions.

    6. To support students, share your own observations and comments as appropriate.

    7. Together, review the student’s goals and the next steps they need to take to work on the things that are hard for them.

    8. Share any details on important upcoming projects, classroom activities, field trips, and the like.

    9. If families want a few minutes alone with you at the end of the conference, excuse the student so that you have private time to go over any additional concerns.
  11. Role-play and rehearse how the conference will take place with students. Arrange students in small groups, and ask them to take turns being the student, teacher, or family members.

  12. When the conference time comes, follow the procedures included on the chart. If possible, set up a waiting area for families that arrive before a previous conference ends, and have classroom activities ready for students to work on independently while waiting their turn and/or waiting for families to finish speaking to you privately. Have the classroom list of Conference Procedures posted, for students to refer to during the discussion.


  • Send daily bookmarks home to inform students and families about school activities—homework, future activities, major projects, open houses, and field trips. Alice Kimura explains, “These brief daily reminders communicate essential details that children often forget. Each year parents tell me that they grow to expect and rely on these bookmarks . . . which alleviate the need for multipage newsletters that parents may not have a chance to read” (6). See the sample Homework Bookmark for the kinds of details shared with families using this strategy.

  • Take advantage of newsletters to send additional information to parents. Focus on materials that can be read quickly and easily, rather than on creating a text-heavy explanation of events. Alice Kimura suggests sending newsletters to families twice a month or every other week. She explains that “photos, captions, and articles in the newsletters provide a view into the classroom. Sharing what the students are learning and providing suggestions on how parents can follow-up on the activities strengthens the home-school connections” (6).

  • Ask students to think critically about their reflections during key weeks during the Spring semester. Using their completed Weekly Progress Forms, ask students to map their daily work using the Graphic Map. Ask students to list their details by Time (on the first screen of questions in the interactive after entering their name and title for the project). Students can use the information in the Feelings column on the Weekly Progress Forms to rate their activities each day. Once they have entered the information for all five class days for the week, students can print out their maps and use the information for further discussion with their families and classmates.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Feedback on students’ reflections may be verbal or written. Space is included on the Weekly Progress Forms for specific feedback. Follow these guidelines in your response:

  • Encourage students to include concrete details. For instance, ask students to say exactly what they enjoyed and why they enjoyed it, or what was challenging and why it was difficult.

  • Ask students to reflect on the events of the day or week, rather than simply listing the activities that they complete. To help students focus on reflections, you might ask them questions about how they feel, why they feel as they do, and why they think what they do about the activities that they have completed.

  • Focus on the information that students provide in their reflections, rather than correctness of grammar and usage. Students’ reflections should be simple, informal writing.

  • As you review students’ comments look for places that students are proud of their accomplishments and echo their feelings. Provide support and encouragement for their positive assessments of their work.

  • For places that students indicate they have faced challenges, you might offer some simple advice on new strategies or ideas to help them meet the challenges. Additionally, you might note these areas and take them into account as you design classroom activities for future class sessions.


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