5 ways to improve students’ self-reflection skills

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual occasion that we take seriously at Along. Part of the reason we built the tool was to help students develop connections and to strengthen their self-reflection skills — two things that boost happiness and improve mental health. It’s in that spirit that we’d like to take a deeper look at self-reflection.

Self-reflection is an incredible practice that promotes awareness, gratitude, and a more positive outlook on life. When students regularly engage in self-reflection, they are more likely to succeed academically, listen to their teachers, and form close friendships with their peers.

So how do you help your students improve their self-reflection practice? We’ve got 5 ideas — and it all begins with checking in…

1) Check in with Along

Through reflection questions in Along, educators give students a moment to pause and look within. From asking students to create personal goals to explaining why a certain meal is special, teachers provide a pathway for students to think deeply. (In some cases, this might be the first time a student has tried to put words to a certain feeling.) From there, students can open up about their opinions, passions and experiences. They’ve been given the chance to reflect and that reflection creates a road for more connections.

2) Get writing

Have you ever been asked a question and didn’t know how to immediately answer it? We’ve all been there. Your students also experience those deer-in-the-headlight moments. Writing is a valuable tool that will help students sort out their thoughts, identify certain emotions, and better understand how those specific feelings came to be. It’s an effective method for students to discover where they’re at.

Ready for your students to practice self-reflection through writing? Here are 50 writing prompts for all age levels to start.

3) Go to nature

Whether it’s finding a beautiful flower at its peak bloom or admiring a picturesque landscape, mother nature never fails to inspire. Like practicing self-reflection, engaging with the great outdoors reminds students to slow down and appreciate all that’s around them. It helps put things in perspective and gives students a different context to understand themselves. This practice doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. Even just bringing in a bouquet of flowers and asking students to write about what they see will work the same self-reflection muscle.

Teacher tip: You can also use nature to engage students in learning and to help build a successful classroom community. 

4) Take a deep breath

Between schoolwork, extracurriculars and family engagements, students are constantly bouncing between different activities. In all this hubbub, it can be easy for students to lose track of how they’re feeling and to ignore signs from the body. Deep breathing exercises help them stop, slow down and focus on the moment. Use the following classroom activity to introduce productive breathing: Finding “calm” with belly breathing. This activity shows how deep breathing can help bring students back to themselves, release stress, and create calm amid the hustle and bustle.

5) Say “Namaste” 

Speaking of slowing down, yoga is a great activity to help your students connect with their bodies and minds. Try starting the week with three yoga poses. This gives your students an opportunity to live in the moment and focus on what’s ahead. Teaching students how to pause their thinking gives them the ability to feel more clear-minded and have better control of their feelings. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to dive straight into a handstand. Check out this video on 5 Yoga Practices for School-Day Transitions as a good place to start.

Each of the above activities works directly or in a complementary way to the skill of self-reflection. They all bolster one another. When a student tries these five activities, they’ll find that each one becomes easier as they work on the others. 

The result? A clearer mind for self-reflection and the tools to improve mental health.