Like many of you, I am always looking for ways to engage students in conversation with each other.  After we finished reading Act II of Macbeth together last week, I wanted to give students a conversation structure to help them discuss their review questions as well as some bigger questions related to theme, what they perceived as important passages in the play, and questions or wonderings they were contemplating.

I did some strategic organization of small groups and gave each group one unique set of reflection tasks and then four common reflection tasks; I christened this activity reflection squares.  After reviewing the instructions and providing students with 11×17 paper and Sharpies, they began talking to each other as they worked through their reflection tasks.  This simple structure and set of tools generated some rich conversations and gave every student opportunities to contribute to their group’s understandings and collaborative responses.


After working together for about 30 minutes, groups finished their work and had a mini-poster to present to the class.  Roughly half the groups presented during the remaining time on Friday, and the other half presented their ideas and responses this past Monday.

The beauty of reflection squares is the flexibility and simplicity of the structure.  You can have whatever number of reflection squares you want and plug in discussion/talking points or questions of your choice.  If you are working on a budget and can’t purchase chart or tablet pads, you can easily punt with 11×17 paper.  You can also adapt it to any subject area and most age groups.  Most importantly, students are participating in meaningful dialogue with each other.  As I walked around and listened to what groups had to say, it was clear many were thinking critically; they also were actively listening to differing ideas with respect and responding to each other.   I also love that this activity creates small group conversation that then provides students low stakes presentation/public speaking opportunities to share and field questions from their peers.