Every week provides two distinct opportunities for educators. Specifically, as far as Daniel Pink suggests, they provide opportunities of timing. The first is a chance for a new beginning, a great time to make a change or renew a commitment.
The second, and the focus of the moment for us, is a natural ending. As we tend to remember the beginning and end of things the most, this is a chance to make a lasting memory. It is also a good time to remember, reminisce, and reflect.
One simple yet compelling strategy for capturing all of the above, remembering, reminiscing, and reflecting, is “Because, But, So”.
Because, But, So: Look at One Idea in Three Ways
Written about in The Writing Revolution (Hochman & Wexler, 2017), Because, But, So is a guided, brief writing activity that can be applied to any content or age. The subject of the activity is entirely up to the teacher, so the exact nature can be as simple and lighthearted or complex and challenging as desired.
It goes a little like this:
- Start with a fairly simple sentence, like “I ate the cookie.”
- Give students three lines with sentence starters that use that sentence plus one of the conjunctions, because, but, and so. E.g. “I ate the cookie because …”, “I ate the cookie, but…”, and “I ate the cookie, so…”
- Have students complete each sentence, noting how the conjunction changes the focus of the response.
In short, it is a simple strategy for growing analytical thinking whatever the material.
End the Week the Right Way
Leveraging this strategy, we find a powerful opportunity for an end-of-week strategy. Consider this:
- Give students the sentence, “This week was a good week.”
- Ask them to complete each of the sentences: “This week was a good week because/but/so”
Look at what students are thinking about when they complete each of these sentences.
This week was a good week because… Here the students are reminiscing about what was positive about the week, definitely the right place to start the reflection.
This week was a good week, but… Here the students are remembering a challenge or obstacle or difficulty on the week but only after they have considered the positive.
This week was a good week, so… Finally, the students reflect on the consequences of the week and their experiences or activities.
This example can yield academic or personal reflections, so it may be desirable to have students focus specifically on the class or the learning. Alternatively, use something like “My learning was good this week because/but/so…”.
At times, it may be desirable to add another layer, either to challenge students’ thinking further or to change up the experience a touch. Starting with a subordinating conjunction or preposition can make a big difference. E.g. Although my learning was good this week,… or Until this week,…
Why Take the Time, Anyway?
Although we readily recall the truth about memory and information recall, let alone skill development, we often find it hard to devote time or attention to activities that don’t feel like they are moving the curriculum forward. In truth, we probably should be spending a lot more time on such things and a lot less time pushing forward.
Either way, though, a simple strategy like Because, But, So accommodates both endeavors. It is brief and focused, structured and scaffolded, and easily adaptable. What better way to end the week than with a concise reflection that any teacher can use in any situation!
Looking for more reflection or writing strategies? Check out our Instructional Strategies Library for more activities and ideas!