A reflective essay is a type of essay that is widely used in the academic environment. Since reflection essays may be complex and intellectually challenging, they are widely used by teaching institutions to boost students’ thinking and writing skills. Nevertheless, students who first come to work on such assignments often end up in a dead end, not knowing where to start or how to write a reflective essay at all. This article attempts to explain some basic notions of reflective essay writing.
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What is a Reflective Essay?
A reflective essay is a type of essay that requires you to analyze your own ideas, experiences, and insights and then put them together in writing. Essentially, writing reflective essays is all based on reflection and self-reflection: human’s capacity to exercise introspection and willingness to explore one’s inner thoughts and/or experiences.
Why is Reflective Essay Writing Important?
Reflective essay writing can be a very challenging task. The impact of such essay writing is multifaceted: starting from the obvious essay skills enhancement to the more complicated transference of self-reflection skills into real life. If taken outside the academic setting, the ability to self-reflect and find the root-cause of a given event is of great help to just about any individual.
For example, you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the path. When you try to sit down and reflect on it, the reasons and root causes of such event become obvious to you. This, in turn, will allow you to avoid making similar mistakes in future. This is the power of analysis and self-reflection outside just the classroom setting.
Reflective Essay Outline Format
From the point of view of essay structure, any reflective essay is still a typical essay, requiring anyone working on it to maintain the basic essay format: introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
The introduction should be the part of the essay that grabs a reader’s attention to make them interested in the rest of the story. It should include your thesis statement and some general background information about the topic. It’s here that you present your basic essay idea which is then elaborated in the body paragraphs. The introductory part of your essay (any essay, not just reflective one) serves the eye-catching purpose: if the reader finds your essay boring after the first couple of sentences, your paper won’t be read any further. Academic essays, however, are different: your professors will definitely read them till the end, however, if they find them irrelevant or not to the point, your final grade will go down.
The body is the next part of the essay and provides the story itself. Body paragraphs should enumerate your main ideas and provide from three to five supporting sentences. The body is arranged to make the story flow while containing the essay’s important points. The description provided in the body should be brief enough to portray the picture and long enough to make the story interesting.
Ultimately, the conclusion should summarize the main ideas expressed in your paper and finalize it. It contains the lesson learned from the writer’s reflection. The conclusion of the reflection essay should address:
• Whether you achieve your aims
• What would you like to change if you were to repeat the process
• What were the key learning outcomes
• Will and how would you apply the gained knowledge in future work
• How will you propose to make improvements
Reflective Essay Graphic Organizer
A graphic organizer is an essential visual aid that helps a writer accurately plan his/her essay. Most reflective essays comprise of an incident, the response and the reflection. The three parts when graphically displayed portray a clearer picture where the writer can easily see how everything fits into the big picture which is the essay.
A graphic organizer is a great tool that assists a writer to get a better understanding of how to move from one part to another of her recollection. An organizer saves time since once does not have to go back to correct mistakes which will have been eradicated by the planning process.
Reflective Essay Writing Tips
TIP 1. An author should not seek to include all of his experiences in a single essay. A reflective essay should contain a single event that holds the most valuable lesson or has had the biggest impact on your life.
TIP 2. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to writing reflective essays. The essay should not be exaggerated to the point where a reader can tell it is unreal.
TIP 3. A reflective essay writer should ensure there are no contradicting elements in his story. Moreover, the article should be the author’s experience and no other’s.
TIP 4. A student may decide to order a reflective essay from an essay writing service. The reasoning behind the above decision may be that professional writers would be a lot better at telling stories than the student which would make the essay more attractive.
As such a reflection essay is usually undertaken at the graduate level, you are expected to carry out your reflections professionally, and objectively and write your reflective essay using appropriate vocabulary, and in suitable writing style.
If you want to entrust the writing process to professionals, we are ready to help you write your essay effectively.
Just write about a small moment from your life. Include enough details, but not too many. Don’t forget transition words! And you better make it interesting. You have 30 minutes. Go.
After hours of mini-lessons, anchor charts, and extensive modeling, I imagine that these words are all that echo through my third graders' minds when the time comes to write a personal narrative. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who has seen children on the verge of tears because they don’t know how to get started on their writing or what to include once they do. These may be reluctant writers or even perfectionists afraid that their story won’t be good enough. There are also those students whose stories include every minute detail they can remember as they create a narrative that seems to go on forever without any real focus. To help out these students, along with all the others, I use a few different graphic organizers that have made a world of difference to my young writers. This week I'm happy to share with you some of the tools I use to help make planning and writing narratives that are focused, sequential, and interesting a bit easier for my students.
Each year my students create an authority list in their writer’s notebooks, an idea that came from a writing program we use. This list is supposed to include areas of expertise for the students that they could readily write about. As you can imagine, when you are eight years old, there are not a whole lot of things you consider yourself an authority on, and many of my students never really seem to make a connection with their list. Therefore, I decided to have my students create an additional organizer in their notebooks called The Heart of My Writing. Each student draws a heart, then divides it into sections based on what matters most to them — family, hobbies, friends, special events, and more. I find this is the graphic organizer my students turn to first when they are looking for an idea. Many students leave blank spots on their hearts so they can fill them in as the year goes on.
Prewriting Using Graphic Organizers
I’ve discovered the key to helping my students write a narrative that tells an interesting, sequential story is using graphic organizers for planning. While I use several different organizers, there are three I created that are especially popular with my students. The organizers allow students to establish their purpose and effectively plan how their story will unfold.
The following graphic organizer is made for legal-sized paper. My more proficient writers tend to prefer this organizer because it gives them more room to expand upon their ideas.
Mini Anchor Charts
Whenever I create anchor charts with my class during our mini-lessons, I have my students create versions of the chart in their writer's notebooks. I have noticed that when the mini-charts are right there at their fingertips, they tend to be used more frequently.
Graphic Organizers I Use for Character Development
When we focus on character development, my students use these graphic organizers in both their writing and reading. Read more about how I use them in my post, "Bringing Characters to Life in Writer's Workshop." Click on each image to download the free printable.
Scholastic Printables for Personal Narratives
Click on the images below to download a free printable.
Other Great Resources for Narrative Writing
Alycia Zimmerman's post, "Using Mentor Text to Empower Student Authors," is a must-read for your narrative unit. Her guidance on using mentor text has improved my teaching, as well as my students' understanding of the personal narrative immensely.
Beth Newingham's tips for writing leads (and a lot more!) in "My January Top Ten List: Writing Lessons and Resources," are an invaluable resource to any writing program.
Julie Ballew's "Planning Small Moment Stories" shows a developmentally appropriate approach to narrative writing for young authors.
Hopefully you have found a few ideas to make narrative writing easier for your students. If you have a tip for writing narratives or you would like to comment or ask a question, I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. For more tips you can subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.
Common Core State Standards for Writing
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3a Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3b Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3c Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3d Provide a sense of closure.