The Purposeful Pause: 10 Reflective Questions to Ask Mid-Lesson

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Much has been said about growth mindset and grit this year and for good reason. When learners begin valuing growth and learning over grades and the production of perfect final works, great things happen. When they’re able to persevere, even through moments of frustration, they typically meet with success. It makes sense that teachers are compelled by these topics, and I’m grateful to those who have brought these conversations to the forefront. Even as people debate their origins and share cautionary tales about interpretation, we’re learning much that can influence practice in critical ways.

For instance, I often wonder if human beings are naturally inclined toward these dispositions. I also wonder how much of what we do inside of schools inadvertently compromises their development. What would we need to do in order to help them thrive–organically?

I don’t know about you, but in my experience, the way some schools strive to embrace a growth mindset and coach perseverance feels more a bit more like indoctrination than education. I worry that in the end, we’re reducing beautiful things to buzz words and oversimplified lists of dos and don’ts. I worry that in the end, we’re doing more harm than good.

Coaching a growth mindset and deepening any learner’s ability to persevere has everything to do with reflection and deepening our relationships with our students. Rather than telling kids what a growth mindset is and talking at them about perseverance, reflective work often nudges me into my seat, quiets my voice, and invites me to listen closely to what kids are saying. This enables us to practice a bit of appreciative inquiry. After all, we can’t impose a growth mindset or the ability to persevere on our students. These are things we awaken them to. Reflection is a vehicle for this.

Earlier this month, I shared ten reflective questions to ask at the end of class. Mid-lesson questions are equally powerful. Taking a purposeful pause helps students consider the influence of mindset and perseverance on learning. It also helps them consider the influence that their learning experience might be having on their mindset and ability to persevere. When we give kids time to reflect mid-lesson, we buy ourselves a bit of reflective time as well. These prompts are intended for students, but here’s a challenge: pretend they are questions that your students are posing to you as well. I promise you won’t regret it.

Ten Reflective Questions to Ask Mid-Lesson

1. When you sat down to learn with me today, what expectations did you have of me? What expectations did you have of yourself? Are they being met? Explain.

2. What stories are you allowing your frustration to tell you about yourself, about me, or about the learning and work we’re doing together? Do those stories serve you well? If not, how will you flip that script?

3. What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far today? What else do you want to learn before this lesson ends?

4. If you’re bored, tell me why.

5. What am I doing that’s helping you learn? What am I doing that’s interfering with your ability to learn? How can you tell me about this in a way that is respectful?

6. What contributions have you made to our learning today? How could you give a little more?

7. What’s piquing your curiosity? What can you do when you leave class today to satisfy this curiosity?

8. Where do you need greater clarity? How will you achieve this? Who can you talk with? Where can you seek better information or more opportunities for practice? What could you ask right now?

9. Where do you anticipate struggle between now and the end of this lesson? What can you do right now to deal with that struggle productively?

10. Create a metaphor for your learning experience so far. Explain the comparison you are making.

If you choose to use these questions for your own reflective purposes, I hope you’ll stop back and let me know how this influenced your learning and your work with your students. In the mean time, I’m wondering what other questions we might ask learners to reflect on mid-lesson. Thoughts?

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at

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