Becoming A Better Teacher: How Reflection Can Improve Instruction

Take a look at two teachers: Mrs. Smith and Mr. Wise. These teachers are both teaching the same two-part ELA lesson.  Let’s examine the following scenarios in each classroom and see how the lesson plays out…

Scenario 1

Mrs. Smith: Alright scholars, first, I would like you to review your character “webs” that you completed yesterday. In your reading journals, please draft a two-paragraph essay highlighting three characteristics of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.

The students begin writing, and turn in their journals at the end of the day. Mrs. Smith begins reading the journals, and realizes that only a few students successfully completed the assignment. Some students even left their journals blank. Mrs. Smith begins to wonder…”Did I do something wrong?” “Why aren’t my students understanding?”.

Scenario 2

Before class, Mr. Wise sits down and reviews his students’ character webs they created yesterday for their Charlotte’s Web unit. He realizes that the students incorrectly completed their character webs, and some students even wrote question marks next to some sections. He reflects, and concludes that the character web needed to be revised. He creates a more clear and concise graphic organizer for students to write about each character.

Mr. Wise: Students, I noticed that some of you had difficulty in completing your character webs. I am passing out a new organizer for us to fill out together as a class.

The class completes the character graphic organizer.

Mr. Wise: Now, I’d like you to review your organizers and draft a two-paragraph essay highlighting three characteristics of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web in your reading journals.

Mr. Wise then collects the journals and sees that the students have successfully completed the assignment. He writes on his lesson plan that he needs to swap out the “character web” for the “graphic organizer” for his future classes.


In scenario 2, Mr. Wise learned through reflecting that his character web was not an effective tool and improved his teaching practice to become more confident.

Image result for quotes about reflection

“How do I reflect? When do I even have the time?” “I have standards to meet!”Image result for teacher going crazy meme

Reflecting on our own teaching can be a challenging task. Teachers tend to be highly critical of themselves while already feeling overwhelmed by standardized testing, state requirements, IEP’s, and lesson plans. However, there are simple ways to reflect on our teaching. By implementing a few of these reflective teaching techniques, we as teachers can become more confident in ourselves and improve our teaching. This will in turn eliminate a lot of future stress!

Upon doing more research, I came across a journal that provides more information on this topic.  Lydia Foong of University of Malaya and Andrea Nolan of Deakin University did a study addressing teachers’ reflective thinking.

“It has been argued that reflection skills are crucial for teacher development, and improvement of student learning” (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Korthagen, Loughran & Russell, 2006).

The study also mentions collective reflection, an interesting concept. Why not learn from our peers too?


For starters, here are a few simple reflective teaching examples to try:

  1. Ticket Out The Door:

Students can complete a ticket out the door responding to a simple question. The question can be, for example, “What did you enjoy?”, “What didn’t you understand?”. This way, the students are participants in their learning, and you as the teacher can inform and improve your own teaching practice. And–it takes less than five minutes!

2. Reflection Section

Allot a space in your lesson plans for reflection. After a lesson, simply jot down what you want to add or change based on how the lesson went.

3. Have a buddy observe 🙂

Have a colleague or mentor come and observe your classroom. Sometimes we need to receive constructive criticism from others and reflect on it for ourselves. We are not perfect-but we are growing and learning how to become better teachers for our students.



Reflection can be a powerful tool for educators. Becoming a reflective teacher will take time, and some reflective strategies work better than others. The bottom line is that if we take time to reflect, it benefits us as well as our students. Reflection can help us grow and build confidence in our teaching. Please feel free to leave comments so I can reflect on this post…see what I did there?


Thanks for reading!

Consider The Kids: Meeting The Needs of Diverse Learners Through Differentiated Instruction

As humans, we naturally have the tendency to question things. We have all had this particular question, at some point in our lives as well. This particular question pops up across every line of work, across every region, and is asked by almost everyone. The question is: “Why are we doing it this way?”… and almost always, we are given the fallacious answer of “Because we’ve always done it like that”. Then, we go on with our lives.


When it comes to the early childhood classroom, we limit children to thinking and learning about one content area for an entire hour. Take for example this typical first grade schedule:Image result for first grade schedule

So, from 9am-10am they must think, breathe, eat, drink, and sleep math? Meanwhile, we discipline the student drawing in their notebook, shush the student who is humming a song, redirect the student who is writing a poem, and start to lose our minds! So why must we teach this way? The answer we receive, more often than not, you guessed it: “Because we’ve always taught this way”.

The Big Question

This traditional approach is not meeting the needs of our diverse learners. We as teachers “Need to take into consideration not only the subject we teach, but the learners as well. All learners do not make progress at the same speed rate, or with same learning techniques, with same behavior, or interests”(Ismajli & Imami-Morina 2018). Time for the big question: How can educators meet the needs of all students?

The Answer

We can meet our diverse learner’s needs through differentiated instruction! Differentiated instruction simply means tailoring instruction to meet individual student needs. It entails that “Instructors are flexible in their approach towards teaching and adapt their syllabus and teaching to learners, and not adjust learners to the syllabus” (Ismajli & Imami-Morina 2018).

A Call To Action

We are not all alike, and neither are our students. So lets give those students opportunities to draw, to sing, and to create while delivering content. We can even go a step further and practice an integrated curriculum, incorporating multiple content areas into one lesson. We simply have to take the time to get to know our students, their learning styles, and what works best for them. Utilize differentiated instruction and watch your students blossom. Please, consider the kids.

How will you utilize differentiated instruction?





Ismajli, H., & Imami-Morina, I. (2018). Differentiated Instruction: Understanding and Applying Interactive Strategies to Meet the Needs of All the Students. International Journal of Instruction,11, 207-218. Retrieved March 31, 2019, from


A Mile In My Shoes: How Early Childhood Teachers Can Develop Students’ Empathy

“Kids are so empathetic. We can learn a thing or two from them” said no one ever. Have no fear, there are steps we can take as teachers to develop our students’ empathy. Empathy is one of the most significant precursors for skills like collaboration, cooperation, and communication (Berliner & Masterson 2015). When children lack empathy, classrooms can be come a bit hostile. By allowing children to freely express and shift between their emotions, prompting them to take on another perspective, and incorporating positive classroom management, we can help develop empathy in the early childhood classroom.

I observed a preschool-age classroom and overheard a conversation between a three-year-old boy and a three-year old girl that went something like this:

Girl: “Mine”

Boy: “Hey! I was playing with that!”

Girl: “I need more. It’s mine.”

The boy proceeded to cry. Through his grief and anguish, he managed to seek my help as the girl continued to play with a smile on her face. Naturally, I went up to the girl and explained why the boy was upset. Understanding she was three, I knew empathy may not be a skill she had developed. I asked her to think about what it would feel like if she had gotten a toy taken from her. She responded with “sad”. I asked her to think about a time when she felt sad and if she liked it or not. I then suggested that the students could share the toys and collaborate. Both students agreed, and began playing peacefully. By taking on a different perspective and allowing the children to feel their emotions, I felt that the girl began to develop some form of empathy.

Teachers can also foster empathy development through daily classroom routines. Teachers who model empathy and exhibit characteristics of warmth and responsiveness, similar to authoritative parents, could help promote empathy in students.  (Berliner & Masterson 2015). Kids are like sponges and soak up whatever their teacher is modeling, whether we know it or not. By incorporating empathetic classroom management, encouraging emotional expression, and having students gain a new perspective, we can create a community of learners.







Berliner, R., & Masterson, T. L. (2015). Review of Research: Promoting Empathy Development in the Early Childhood and Elementary Classroom. Childhood Education91(1), 57–64.