This post originally appeared on the blog Core Inspiration by Laura Santos.

Establishing consistent accountability when using the workshop approach to teaching and learning may seem daunting at first. After all, your students are producing, and consuming an immense amount of content during workshop on a daily basis… far more than you can (and want) to grade. The good news is, you don’t have to grade every activity.

Pile of reading notebook ready for grading. Reading notebooks are composition books filled with notes taken during reading workshop.

I know what you’re thinking… ”If I stop grading every single thing… there won’t be enough accountability.” The reality is, there are other far more efficient ways to establish accountability and boost meaningful student growth. One of these ways is routine student self-reflection.

If you’re ready to bring more student reflection to your classroom, these tips can help you establish routines that maintain consistent accountability in your workshop classroom.

Creating Rubrics Together

A foundational rubric will help you and your students create a common language that can make ongoing assessment more meaningful and fluid in your classroom. Begin by pulling the rubric your district requires you to use, or write a rubric that communicates your parameters for each level of understanding in your classroom.

Rewrite this rubric in your own student-friendly language so you can share these parameters with your class. Making a slide or poster for each level on your rubric so it is easier for students to digest may be helpful. Set aside time in your schedule each day to create a one-week series of work sessions when you and your students can rewrite the rubric again as a class using language that is actually produced by your students. You may opt to:

  • Have all slides/posters on display simultaneously while students rotate to stations where they work in groups to make meaning of each level of understanding. Students can then write their interpretations on the slides/posters, which can be aggregated on the final day.
  • Display one slide/poster each day and host a class conversation that facilitates meaning-making for each level of understanding. Record student ideas as you work toward a common, and final definition for each level of understanding.

Student notes about their understanding of the district created rubric. Notes help students write their own student rubric filled with their own student-friendly language. Making self assessment easier for students.

At the end of these series of work sessions, you and your students will have a rubric that is unpacked by them, rewritten by them, and ready to be used by them. Working together as a class to write a final rubric that will be adopted as the foundation makes conversations about assessments more meaningful and productive.

Student written levels of understanding resulting from shared rubric creation activity. Levels of understanding include 1-4 along with a description of each.

Rubric Drawers

Once your class rubric is created, you can make it easy for students to consistently reflect on their work by submitting any assignments to “rubric drawers” that are marked with the definitions for each level of understanding. This built-in practice of self-reflection builds students’ intrinsic motivation to reach higher and produce quality work.

Close up shot of green drawers with levels of understanding rubric labels

If you notice your students have a tendency to submit work to the “wrong” drawer, this signals they need a follow-up lesson on the type of work quality required to achieve each level of understanding. Using exemplars (examples of each level of understanding from a particular subject area or activity) can help students build a stronger definition for what work quality looks like.

As students build their ability to accurately assess themselves, you can also have them attach a short note of justification for their self-scoring. This will provide insight about any misconceptions they may have about their work or the rubric levels your class has written.

Student self-reflection score and justification for score.

If you want to track the score students give themselves on an activity, provide a special pen or stamp that allows them to mark their score before placing it in the drawer.

In addition, you can have students submit work with the help of a partner. Once an activity is complete, a student can briefly confer with their assigned partner to get feedback, and make a decision about which drawer a piece should be submitted. This provides an additional layer of motivation for students to reach higher, as they know a peer will be reviewing their work quality.

Reflection Letters

Another routine that can boost student growth through self-assessment is the writing of reflection letters on a routine basis. Students thrive when they know they have an important role in their assessment process, and will be eager to read your response.

Student reading notebook with reflection letter. Eraser and pencil laying on the notebook with the reading rubric in the background.

Begin by creating a prompt that asks students to reflect specifically on different areas of the assignment that will support their goal setting and goal progress. Also direct students to refer to their rubric to self-assess, and provide justification for their assessment as part of their reflection process. This routine will remind students the importance of keeping the rubric in mind as they complete their work each week, which will foster stronger performance.

Notebook reflection letter prompt to support student self-reflection. Teacher asks students to score themselves and provide justification for their score.

Set aside time to read these reflection letters and write brief responses which may include your own score using the same rubric, and comments that support your scoring. This written dialogue further emphasizes the value you place on student work and growth.

If you find the need to differentiate this letter writing process to support the unique needs of students in your classroom. Here are some differentiation ideas:

  • Have students dictate as you record their reflection.
  • Have students circle their score on a rubric and mark evidence with color-coding or sticky notes.
  • Provide sentence frames to scaffold independence.

Self Assessment & Reflection In Your Classroom

Ready to give self-reflection a try in your own classroom? Here are a few editable tools that will help you get started. Once you’ve established student self-reflection routines in your classroom, stop by and share your experience. I look forward to hearing about the growth your students will make, and the freedom you feel from teaching in a workshop classroom where accountability and engagement are off the charts.

Cover image for Core Inspiration Student Self Assessment and Reflection Tools

Cover Core Inspiration Reading Notebook Rubric Toolkit Resource


Laura Santos [Core Inspiration by Laura Santos], is an elementary teacher in California. During her 7 years as an educator, she has taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. She enjoys creating resources that help teachers create a self-directed learning environment that incorporates project-based learning and enrichment activities. Another passion is creating organized classroom spaces that promote productivity. To take a look at her classroom and instructional approach, visit her blog, Core Inspiration. You can also find her resources at her TpT store, Core Inspiration by Laura Santos. Connect with her on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.