How to Reflect on the School Year With Students Using Paint Swatches


Paint-SwatchesFrom field trips and field days in some places to state-level or Advanced Placement (AP) testing in others, May is a time for us to culminate the school year and reflect on what we learned.

It’s springtime, and that means another school year is coming to a close. For some, the time flew by while for others the wrap-up couldn’t come soon enough. What did you learn? What were the best parts? What challenges did you face, and how did you respond to them?

Whether this was the best year ever, just an okay one, or a school year that challenged you in ways you couldn’t imagine, reflecting on what took place is key to moving forward and improving as educators. Come to think of it, it’s not just important for educators to reflect, it can be quite valuable for students to look back on all that happened as well.

paint swatch 2With so many different ways and opportunities to reflect, what can give you the best feedback as an educator and also help students celebrate what was memorable about the school year? Chances are, you reflect regularly throughout the year on how things are going, but In addition to the quiet internal conversations or journaling you might do, engaging students in an open discussion about the school year can benefit everyone and provide you key ideas to inform your preparations for the next year.

That’s why I love this paint-swatch feedback activity. It’s fun, easy, organized, and generates great conversations! As a bonus, it provides an artifact for teachers to use student feedback to develop action steps going forward. It could even be a fun way for a school staff to reflect with their school leaders on the year together.

Here’s how it works:

Get some four-color paint swatches from your local painting supply store. The samples are free from the paint companies, but it can feel funny grabbing enough for all your students; so, if you let them know you’re a teacher using them for class, they typically won’t call security on you when you take several of each color!

Distribute the paint swatches to students, either randomly, or let them choose their own colors. Provide your students with a template (modeled after the one below) for reflecting on the school year. As they look back on class, It asks them to write a little about four different aspects of what they recall:

  • Oooh! – something that was interesting or stood out to them about class
  • Aaah! – something that cemented in their understanding about the class
  • Hmmm… – something that left them thinking or sparked a lingering curiosity
  • Huh? – a question that remains for them or something they are still wondering

Paint Swatch Reflection

Note: You can choose to focus this on the content of your class, the way your class was organized or run, or some combination of process and content.

After students write down their ideas, have them form groups with other students whose swatches are in the same color family, e.g., all the reddish swatches together, and discuss their responses. Bring the activity home with a whole class discussion that summarizes some of the most stand-out comments that arose during the activity. You can collect the swatches (anonymously created, of course) to review more thoroughly on your own later to inform your own further reflection on the year.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the things that students notice about your class and the conversation that stems from this activity. We all want to reflect, and this is a great way to close the school year and help everyone look back in a productive manner on class.

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Gary is an influential teacher leader with extensive experience educating students at the high school and university level. He is a regular conference presenter, education speaker, and leader of staff development for educators. His classroom practice embraces a collaborative environment centered on constructivist teaching, project-based learning, classroom branding, Modeling Instruction, standards-based grading, and mobile device technologies.

About Gary G Abud Jr

Gary is an influential teacher leader with extensive experience educating students at the high school and university level. He is a regular conference presenter, education speaker, and leader of staff development for educators. His classroom practice embraces a collaborative environment centered on constructivist teaching, project-based learning, classroom branding, Modeling Instruction, standards-based grading, and mobile device technologies.

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