Making Curriculum Pop

Because everyone here works in education I'm guessing that - like me - you have an infinite "to do" list. Most of us are so caught up in "doing" that we rarely have a chance to stop, breathe, and reflect on what we're doing, why we're doing it, and what we learned in the process.

This practice of "thinking about our thinking" is more often referred to as metacognition. As I'm breaking ground on my dissertation I realized my need for a mini-lit review of quotes explaining the value of metacognition. This is so high on my infinite "to do" list that I recently I made a crowdsource post on the topic. While I have not yet accumulated all the best scholarly quotes about metacognition, most of us have seen the value of this practice in our classes. Furthermore, I continually find the term "reflective practice" popping up in literature about teaching and learning in many contexts - especially business books.

One of the best ways we can help each other and our students develop these reflective practices is by modeling. Today's "Year View Mirror" Learning Experience Organizer (aka LEO©) was something I made for one of my final staff meetings at the high school I worked at in the Bronx. With so many testing mandates for teachers to panic about at year's end I thought it would be groovy to pull back and share (in pairs, groups and as a whole) about our most interesting experiences that year. This LEO was created for modeling as I wrote it so that we (the staff) could use it and then instantly Xerox© it for use with students.

The questions allow folks to choose from the following prompts, leading off with my favorite end of year question...

1. What was the funniest thing that happened in your class this year? Please describe it below in 3-5 sentences.

3. What is something you wish you had done differently this year? Please describe it below in 3-5 sentences.

5. Please list 3 things about class that you liked, learned, or surprised you.

6. Please list two questions you would like to have answered by the end of the year.

7. Please list your two saddest memories this year. Is there anything you can do to improve these situations?

8. Please use the space below to reflect in any way you see fit on your learning experiences this year.

The "Year View Mirror" LEO© can be used in any discipline and adapted for any audience. Like the "Three 4 Thinking" LEO it is differentiated in that folks can choose what to answer and they have a wide range of ways they can respond - my favorite being the mini cartoon option (like the "Cartoon Did You Read Quiz." I also think these open ended questions are fascinating because you can plan greatest teaching objectives and essential questions in the world - a practice I'm in favor of - but unless you create open spaces for feedback you'll never know what students really learned.
Case in point, when Ice-T spoke at our Teach, Think, Play conference at Columbia one of the things he learned from his teachers (and I'm paraphrasing here) was that, "I didn't ever want to be a teacher because they dressed like crap."

Again, you might know what goes in but you never really know what comes out unless you ask.

I think this is great tool for metacognition but I've also taken the "Year View Mirror" questions and used them as prompts for a Connect the Minds (CTM) year-in-review as well.

Note that the "Year View Mirror" is designed so that you can simply use the first two pages. The third page starts off with the "saddest memories" question, which unfortunately, was the type of question that really spoke to the experiences of our teachers and students in the South Bronx. Our school was Title I and located in one of the poorest urban congressional districts in America; "sad" was something we dealt with on a regular basis. That said, sad things happen everywhere and I think it can be a very interesting and revealing question.

You can download the full "Year View Mirror" LEO below this post. Hopefully, you'll find this LEO as useful and you'll take a hot minute to share how and when you used it below.

As always, any feedback (including info on typos above) is always appreciated!

Good Vibes,


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