A Can-Do Attitude Toward Student Self-Reflection

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience” is a paraphrased quote from John Dewey. Even though these were not his exact words, the meaning behind them is true.


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience” is a paraphrased quote from John Dewey. Even though these were not his exact words, the meaning behind them is true. There is a strong connection between experience, reflection, and learning. We, as teachers, need to help teach the value of self-reflection as a tool for deeper learning.

Whether you are using EntreCulturas, EntreCultures, or InterKulturell in your language classes, there are tools built into the program to help you help your students self-reflect on their learning more deeply.

Wayside Publishing's resources provide ample opportunities for student self-reflection by including communicative and intercultural Can-Do statements throughout each unit. These Can-Do statements align with the unit goals and allow students to intermittently check in on their progress.

There are a few ways you can have your students interact with these Can-Do statements.

  1. Post Can-Do statements: At the beginning of each unit, post both the communicative and intercultural Can-Do statements on your classroom wall. There is a list of each unit’s Can-Do statements in Appendix A of both the student and teacher textbooks. These are great reminders for your students on how they are learning to use both their new language, cultural knowledge, and skills. Refer to them often throughout your lessons to help students connect the learning activities and tasks that they do to the end goals of the unit.
  2. Start the lesson with your Can-Dos for the day: Share the Can-Do statements that students will be working with in a particular lesson by posting them on the board or creating a slide to project at the beginning of the lesson. These statements can be referred to throughout the lesson.
  3. 1-2-3 check in with a Can-Do statement: Each Can-Do statement is aligned with a task. These tasks can provide evidence of student progress toward that Can-Do statement. After students complete one of these tasks, have them do a quick 1-2-3 check-in by holding up, next to their chest, the number of fingers to indicate their progress toward reaching that Can-Do.

    a. One finger = I’m struggling to do this and need a lot more practice.
    b. Two fingers = I can sort of do this with a little help. I need a little more practice.
    c. Three fingers = I got this! I can do this independently.
  4. Exit tickets: Have students rate how confident they are with any Can-Dos that were worked on in class with an exit ticket. The exit tickets could be prepared ahead of time in either a printed or digital form. Another option is to have students write down the Can-Do statement(s) on a half-sheet of paper and do a quick self-reflection.
  5. Printable can-do statement graphic organizers: Use the printable document of the Can-Do statements found in the Resources folder in Explorer® Content within Learning Site®. Students can record a short reflection about their learning by writing on a printed copy or digitally by typing directly into the fillable PDF.
  6. Review Can-Do statements pre-assessment: Students can review the Can-Do statements pre-summative assessment. This allows students to reflect on all the learning they did throughout the unit. Reviewing the Can-Dos before the summative assessment provides another opportunity for students to go back and review any of the Can-Dos that they need a little more work on before the assessment.
  7. Record progress of the Can-Do statements in Learning Site’s Portfolio: The most comprehensive way to have students self-reflect on their progress with the Can-Do statements is by using the Portfolio within Learning Site®. In the Portfolio, students can write a reflection and add evidence of their learning. The evidence could be a task they have completed within Learning Site®, or they can create new evidence right within the Portfolio itself. The evidence could be added by typing a reflection, making a recording via audio or video, or uploading an external file (Word, PDF, PPT, etc.).

The practice of self-reflection in classroom learning may not come naturally to students. Teachers can encourage this practice by modeling and supporting these steps for students.

  • Discuss the importance of self-reflection: Talk to students about why self-reflection is important, whether they are reflecting on their schoolwork, playing a sport or instrument, or any other aspect of their life. This is not just a one-and-done conversation. Bring it up regularly in your classes. Model how you self-reflect on your work and the effects it has on your improvement of whatever skill you are working on.
  • Teach students how to rate themselves: Students will often rate themselves lower than the teacher would. Consider sharing the NCSSFL-ACTFL Performance Indicators with students for their proficiency level to help them understand what is expected.
  • Do self-reflections in class: Make time in class for student self-reflection. Often, if this piece is assigned to be done at home, students will just do it quickly to get it done. However, in class, when all the other students are also working on reflecting on their learning, students will spend more time and put more thought into the task. This can be done whenever a Can-Do statement comes up in the lesson or on a weekly or other regular intervals. You might want to have students update their Can-Do PDF or Portfolio on Fridays to end each week, or on a Monday to start the week off thinking about their goals. Another idea is to have students update their Can-Dos before a formative assessment (En camino, J’avance, or Unterwegs).
  • Use anchor charts with reflection sentence starters: Create an anchor chart to put up in your classroom with some sentence starters for self-reflection, such as:
    • One thing I did to help me learn how to X is…
    • I’m getting better at X, but I still need to…
    • I am proud of how I can…
    • I want to get better at X by…
  • Schedule 1:1 mini-conferences with students: Find time to meet with each student throughout the quarter (or semester) to discuss their progress with the Can-Do statements. This is a great opportunity to see how they view themselves as language learners and to share strategies to build on their strengths and weaknesses.

If adding in student self-reflection seems overwhelming, start small! Choose just a few of the Can-Do statements to focus on for the first unit or two that you begin to incorporate them.

  • Use Can-Dos from the formative assessments: Choose a few Can-Dos from the formative assessments that will be like what students will do on the summative assessment and focus on those to get started.
  • Student choice of Can-Dos: Allow students to choose one or two of the unit’s Can-Dos for each mode of communication that they want to specifically work on.

As Hall and Simeral say in their book, Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice, “the more reflective you are, the more effective you are.” Using Can-Dos can help our students become more effective language learners by becoming better self-reflectors.