Taking action, making change, experiencing new adventures… these are awesome reasons to get out and do something. But the richness of the experience and the learning from the experience, these are equally important if we are going to transform society through action.
Reflection is important for youth changing the world and their adult allies since it helps build self-awareness, strengthen personal and team growth, and improves action in the future. There are many different ways that people experience and learn from the same situations.
Different Ways Youth Learn
Keep in mind these different ways that youth learn.
- Linguistic Learners – Like to read, write and tell stories
- Interpersonal Learners – Like to have lots of friends, join and talk in groups
- Intra-personal Learners – Like to work alone and pursue own interests
- Spatial Learners – Like to draw, create, daydream and see pictures
- Musical Learners – Like to sing, hum tunes, listen and respond to music
- Bodily/ Kinesthetic Learners – Like to move, touch, talk and use body language
- Logical/ Mathematic Learners – Like to do experiments, figure things out, asks questions and look for patterns and relationship
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.― Søren Kierkegaard
The following are a list of reflection activities that are relatively easy-to-use, with few materials needed.
1. Emotional Go-Around
Participants are asked to show with a word, their body, or a facial expression how they feel right at the moment. Let people show their reaction, one at a time, and then have participants explain their reaction. This activity can give the facilitator a sense of the group mood and gives the participants a chance to express how they feel at that moment.
2. Service Skits
Split the students into groups of three or four and ask each group to portray their service experience through a skit. Give each group 10 minutes to plan what they will do and up to five minutes to share their skit with the rest of the group. After each group’s presentation, have the whole group process reactions, give suggestions for effective future projects, and give positive feedback to the actor/actresses. This activity could take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
Take your students on an imaginary tour of their service experience. Ask participants to find a comfortable position (lay on the floor, rest your head on the table, lounge in a chair) and close eyes. Play relaxing music at a low volume. Ask participants to become aware of their breathing, ask them to leave their present thoughts and clear their minds. Once the participants appear to have relaxed, ask them to begin remembering their service experience. To assist them in remembering their experience mention common events, allow participants to remember how they felt before they did their experience, what their expectations were, what happened in their preparation, how they felt during their service experience. To stimulate their thinking you might mention some of what you remembered. Slowly bring them back to the present. Ask them to become aware of their surroundings, again concentrating on their breathing, and open their eyes when they are ready. Ensure that a quiet tone is maintained. Continue to play music, and ask participants to share their recollections with another person and finally have people make comments to the whole group.
4. Group Banners
Using a large pieces of banner paper and markers, ask students to get into pairs and depict their experiences using a combination of words and pictures. Give them about 10-15 minutes. When completed ask each pair to share their banner with the whole group. Use their banners as a jumping off point for processing the experience.
5. All Tied Up
Have the group stand in a circle. Holding the end of a ball of string, hand the ball off to a participant. Ask them to reflect on a particular question (e.g. what was something new you learned today?). Once they have answered the question ask them to hold onto their piece of the string and to pass the ball onto someone else. Continue the process until everyone has reflected on the question, and has a section of string in their hands. When completed, you should have something that looks like a web. When they are all done talking, make some points about the interconnectedness of people, how they are all part of the solution, for if one person had not contributed to their service projects the outcome would’ve been different, etc.
6. Service Journals
Ask students to keep a journal of their conference experience through regular (after each activity) entries. Provide framework for the journals (e.g. who will read it, what should they write about, how it will be used). Variations on the Activity Journal include team journaling, and circle journals. You can also provide particular questions to respond to, and use hot topics from activities to reflect on. You may ask participants to reflect on conference topics, including quotations and readings from authors, music groups, etcetera.
7. Time Capsule
As students are being introduced to your conference, have them put memorabilia and initial attitudes related to Peace Jam and their school’s projects on paper to start the time capsule. This could include a short project description, an agenda for your conference, or anything else relevant to what’s going on. Have the students write down how they are feeling at the start of the weekend, how they feel at different points of their school’s projects (e.g. what they expected at the beginning of the year, how they felt about your topic or conference before this weekend, what they feel/felt (before, during or after) their project as a whole. Put everything into a “capsule” that will be opened and read aloud and discussed (perhaps anonymously) at the end of the your conference.
8. Stream of Consciousness
After lying down, relaxing and allowing their minds to wander, encourage students to begin free word association around their service experience. Guide participants through the process by offering refocusing words, but allow them to say what comes to their minds, without censor or restriction.
9. Collage of Words
Using a large sheet of paper, have students write words that described their experience. Provide plenty of creative material (e.g. markers, crayons, colored pencils) and a large sheet of paper on a smooth surface. Give students twenty minutes, and have them explain their work when they’re finished. Explain how without everyone’s contributions, the work wouldn’t be as rich and varied as it is.
10. Service Interviews
Encourage students to see their projects through the public’s view by conducting media-style interviews with one another. Remember to cover all the bases: who, what, when, where, why and how. Or go Oprah and ask the hard-hitting questions!
11. Rap and Rhyme Responses
Divide the group into small teams, and give students 10 minutes to write a rap or rhyme about their service experience. The teams must incorporate all of their members into the production.
12. Show and Tell
Individually or in pairs, have students describe items they’ve collected or used throughout the activity, including their reactions and emotions regarding the item or the activity it was used in.
13. Human Sculpture
In a large open space, divide your group into two halves. Each half creates a sculpture around a word or phrase (e.g. peace, service-learning) with few props. Then each group displays its ‘art’ for the other group. The watching group can interpret the sculpture, without disruption, for two minutes. When they’re finished, the sculpture group can explain its work.
14. Group Poem Writing
Like a circle journal, this will bring your group together in a reflection on their service. Circulate a piece of paper around your group with the title across the top “For Love of Service”, encouraging each student to write a line in response to the previous until everyone has written. When finished, have a volunteer read the work to the entire group, and then discuss it.
15. Questions Left Unanswered
In pairs, ask students to write down any question they feel is unanswered from the activity you just completed. Encourage participants to ask anything, and then report their questions to the large group. Refrain discussion until all the questions are read, but then allow for an open exchange between students.
16. Imagining the Future
Ask students to imagine that the year is 2020, and the participants in the group have rejoined for a reunion. As a group, reflect on all of the changes that have happened because of the service you’ve completed, and the difference that work has made on your life
17. Graffiti Museum
Glue a wide variety of magazine pictures on construction paper, and post them down a hallway wall. Have participants look through all of the pictures, and chose one that represents their impression of the previous event (e.g. an activity, the day, or the whole weekend). Gathering in a circle, have students quietly circulate the pictures, and write why they do or don’t relate with the picture.
Sharing and Celebrating
Reflection should never just finish and be done, forever and ever. Instead, it should be an ongoing process that we encourage others and ourselves to engage in. All of these different reflection activities can be used across age groups, settings, purposes and outcomes. What would you add to the list? Share your ideas in the comments!
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Freechild Institute Youth Toolkit
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in reflection in your community or organization, contact us.