Pull From the Reflection Pool


Beyond major strategies like portfolios, journals, presentations, diaries, blogs, etc. as facilitators of reflection we often want quick tools to provoke reflection. Below are some ideas that can be completed in 20 mins or less.

Guest Post courtesy of Stuart MacAlpine and Anna Carr

Inspired in part by Jennifer Moon’s work
Creative Commons Image from Pexels

Model reflection before expecting it

A first move is to share some examples of reflection with students, and perhaps ask them to rank or organise them according to critieria, such as ‘depth of reflection’.


Students identify a particular moment of learning or event. Invite students draw footprints (or stepping stones) and write five chronological events or learnings that lead them to that moment or event. A good making thinking visible strategy for awareness and analysis.

Descriptive, Personal, Reflective

Ask students to write a description of an event they were involved in using an objective and third person voice.

Then ask students to rewrite the event in first person including their feelings and perspectives

Finally as them to write about what impact that experience has had on them.

Five Whys

In pairs, one students makes a statement about an experience of event.

The other student asks why, awaits until the other student has finished their response, then asks why again… and repeats until they have asked why five times.

Four Corners

Name 4 corners or the classroom Self; Others; Community; Society and the World

Ask students to think about a recent experience, then go to the corner that you connect with the experience. The corners represent the focus of the connection you had in that experience and the main learning you may have had.

In the corner discuss the experiences you have had.

SELF- thoughts, ideas, values, feelings, strengths, ethics, opinions, values, actions, hope

OTHERS- peers, people, meet/interact

COMMUNITY- places to interact, noticing concerns, successes, trends, ideas, culture, value

SOCIETY and the WORLD- big picture, insights and understanding.

Walk and talk

Take a group walk, with students talking and walking with a partner.


Ask students to bring in a quote that is reflective of a recent CAS experience. Randomly select several and place them on the wall. Students gather around the quote that most represents their thoughts or feelings regarding a CAS experience. This can also be done with song lyrics or melodies. This can be repeated with other quotes, lyrics and melodies.

Silent Drawing

Spread out large sheets of paper. Ask students to enter the room and ask for silence. Students consider a common group experience or simply what has been occurring in CAS and draw, in silence. This typically lasts 3–5 minutes. Then ask the students to add two words. Based on the words, students can select three words from anywhere on the paper and use these to write a short poem or haiku.

Cartoon or Meme

Ask students to create a meme or cartoon to represent an event or moment of learning, and share and explain to a a partner or the group.

Capturing the moment

Ask students to come to a CAS group meeting and to bring a photograph that captures, without any additional words, something meaningful in a CAS experience: a photo that says it all. Share without commentary from the photographer.

Using a scale

Invent a scale, say one to ten, for a particular feature of an experience like ‘how important was this experience?’, ‘how bad was this experience?’, ‘how much learning was there’. Invite students to pick a level on the scale and explain.

Using a graph

Same as the above, but invent a graph to show feelings over time, or learning over time, or intensity of engagement (awareness), and support students in identifying why it was at this level (analysis) and then what they might do to make it more as they wish (application)

Compare accounts

As two students who shared an experience, to record it in first person, including feelings and thoughts. Then invite them to read and compare each other’s accounts.

Act it out

Ask students to act out a scene from their service learning and explain why it is important. Good for awareness and analysis.

Pick an object

Either from a group of objects curated by the facilitator, or brought in by students for this purpose, students choose an object that represents their experiences and explain why it does (awareness).

Concept map

Ask students to create a concept map with all the important actions, emotions, and thoughts connected to a particular event.

Writing a letter you will not send

Invite students to write a letter to a real or imaginary person who is connected to their experiences – this could be cathartic or clarifying for students.


This is a technique from Pinar. The task is to write briefly about an event and how it relates to your past in one paragraph, your present in another, and your future.

Path not taken

Invite students to write about something they did not choose to do, and explore what that might have felt like or lead on to compared to what they did choose to do.


Ask students to draw doodles that reflect their thinking and ideas, and then share them with a partner and explain what they see in their doodle.

Draw yourself or your project as a tree

Invite students to draw a tree that represents your project or yourself and explain the choices they made

Blob Tree

Use a blob tree image and ask students to identify who they are in the tree and why

Road Map

Ask students to draw a road map, with road signs, of their current situation.

What if?

Ask students in pairs to ask each other ‘what if’ questions about their current situation.

Me, My relationships, my community, our world

Ask students to think about the significance of an experience through these concentric circles of influence.

Metaphors and Similes

Ask students to create similes or metaphors for an event. “This event is a boulder rolling down hill” and then share why they chose that metaphor.

SWOT Analysis

Use a simple ‘strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats’ grid to reflect on a current situation or a prior one.

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