How ecosystems change

Help your students realize just how much they've learned after a science lesson! These notebook exercises and sentence starters give students a sense of what they've learned and an opportunity to revise initial misconceptions.

About This Guide

Student writing

Below, you’ll find prompts and techniques for reflecting on content learned, including:

  • 3,2,1
  • Write it, Draw it
  • I used to think/Now I think
  • I learned/I wonder/I noticed/ I think

Because we know teachers appreciate seeing the results of using these strategies, we've also created an example gallery containing student work.


3, 2, 1


There are multiple versions of the 3,2,1 prompt [i]. They include:

  • 3 things I learned, 2 interesting facts, 1 question I still have
  • 3 things I observed, 2 things I wonder, 1 general rule
  • 3 things I noticed, 2 questions I have, 1 analogy

You can tailor the prompts however you like. This exercise is designed to give you and your students a sense of what they learned and what they are thinking about now. 


Write It, Draw It

draw it write it

In Write It, Draw It, students communicate their ideas in two columns: words in one column, pictures in the other. When students include both writing and drawing, they notice how each element contributes to their explanation. If the columns feel too restricting, students can abandon them, writing and drawing without boundaries.

“Write it, Draw it” can make student thinking visible in ways that writing alone cannot. For example, it’s difficult to explain moon phases without a visual representation. A drawing can also reveal invisible things; while we cannot see electrons, we can still draw a schematic of a circuit, and show the path we believe electricity is traveling.


At first I thought.../Now I think...

At first we thought

In this reflection, students use the sentence starters, “At first I thought…” and ‘Now I think….” to describe their thinking before and after a science activity. This prompt showcases the progression of students’ thinking.

First, students get a chance to re-evaluate their initial thinking, debunking the notion that to understand science, you need to always be right. These sentence starters enable students to revise initial misconceptions such as, “the phases of the moon are caused by the earth’s shadow.” Offering these frames to students gives them permission to change their minds when faced with new evidence.


I learned/I noticed/I wonder/I think

Reflecting on food chains

Use these four phrases as sentence frames, where students can select which ones and how many they would like to use without limitations. They may have a lot of ‘wonderings’ and no ‘learns’ and you can ensure them that is fine.

Here is an example of one student using several frames to reflect on a decomposition investigation. These sentence frames give students a chance to communicate what they are taking away from an experience. You can also have students make a K-W-L chart in their notebooks on a given topic. ("I know... I want to know... I learned...")


How To Make It Happen

  • Introducing many different reflection strategies all at once may be confusing for students. Start with one strategy. Give students opportunities to get both peer and teacher feedback. Repeat the strategy several times before introducing a new one.
  • If possible, let some of their wonderings and questions drive further investigations.
  • Use the same reflection strategies across subject areas – they are not limited to science.
  • For more tips on reflecting on content learned, refer to our page on Reflecting on Essential Questions.

Notes from the Classroom

girl writing

Helena was teaching her 4th grade class a lesson on “What makes a rock a rock?” Her students compiled a list of characteristics that they thought defined a rock. She left the list up on the board, while she allowed students to play with many different types of materials, including ceramic tiles, a nail, and sand. After some investigation, students settled on a final set of criteria.

Later that week, Helena referred back to the original list and the final set of criteria, and asked students to reflect with the sentence frames: “At first I thought.../Now I think...” 

Students could see how their thinking about what makes a rock a rock had changed over time. Students could also see that they may not have been correct at first, but they came to a more complete understanding of rocks over time.



[i] The 3-2-1 strategy and others are described by Visible Thinking, from Harvard's Project Zero.