Reflecting to Grow: Helping Kids Think About Reading

to read without reflecting

One of the most important skills for kids to learn is how to write reflectively. Kids need to be able to respond to reading in thoughtful ways. It’s simply not enough to write “It was good” or claim “I can’t think of anything to write.” Even if a student doesn’t like a particular piece of literature, he can still write a meaningful response that explains his thinking and articulate “why” he didn’t enjoy reading that piece of literature. Students can reflect by referencing evidence from the text and commenting on the author’s style or use of language that may have distracted them or “turned them off” while reading. When we model thoughtful reflecting and provide strategic opportunities to interact and think profoundly about the text, we in fact prepare children for the rigorous thinking and writing that is encouraged by The Common Core.

 Reflecting is NOT…

• Summarizing the text
• Using words like “good,” “nice,” “bad,” “dumb,” “boring” or other such vague and meaningless language.

When asking kids to “respond to” or “reflect on” a text, I  expect them to write about:

• Connections they make to the reading
• Parts that confuse them or make them wonder
• Thoughts and opinions about the reading
• Their personal “take aways” from the reading. Everyone will take away different messages or details from reading the same exact text.
• Interpretations of the reading…what does it mean?
• Questions that develop as they read
• Analysis of particular lines or parts in the text

Here’s a reflection by Asfia, one of my 9th graders, in response to “Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff. The student is able to demonstrate her opinion about the critical topic of biracial marriage that is the essence of the disagreement between the husband and wife in the story. The reflection shows deep thinking about the topic and the characters in the story.

Reflection Asfia


This is a reflection by Katherine, a 4th grader, in response to The Boy in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park. In this reflection the student voices her opinion about Howard’s overreaction about moving with his family from Arizona to Massachusetts. The student also adds her opinion about the character’s behavior.    

response to The Boy in the Red...1 001

Below is another reflection about the same book where the student makes a thoughtful response about a touching part in the story. The student clearly makes the connection between Molly’s deprivation of her parents from her life and Howard’s apparent “disrespect” or his mental urge for vengeance on his parents for forcing him to move. 

The Boy in the Red...2 001

One of my first graders, Gianna, wrote this reflection following a shared reading of “Toto,” a short picture books about a heroic dog who rescues his owners from a fire. Here she makes a personal connection by writing about a time when she was brave like the dog in the story.

Response to reading- Gianna 001


I have used these prompts to inspire thoughtful reflections in my students…

After reading, I now realize …
• I think that…
• I can see what the author is saying. However, …
• I used to think that…, but now I know…
• While reading this text I felt… (use feeling words such as disappointed, saddened, frustrated, happy, excited, afraid, hopeful, etc. ). Explain the    reasons the reading provoked these emotions in you by referring to evidence from the text.
• The line “ ____ “ made me stop and think. I believe it means…
• I love the author’s use of special language throughout this text. One particular example is …
• Reading this text I started remembering …
• I believe that there is a strong message in this text. The author is trying to teach us that …
• I’m intrigued by…

Reflecting prepares students for the scholarly reading and writing they will experience in high school and college.

Reflecting about reading allows children to delve deeply into the text and make thoughtful connections with what they’re reading. Reflecting prepares students for the scholarly reading and writing they will experience in high school and college. It promotes critical thinking and the ability to synthesize what they read. Moreover, reflections are opportunities for students to voice their opinions and raise questions about what they’re reading.

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