Debriefing and reflecting on an experience is an opportunity to identify what students have learned about themselves and others. The technique of debriefing is extremely beneficial for students following the completion of a lesson. A structured reflection helps students to:

• Think about what they accomplished and learned during a lesson

• Consider ways that the experience could be adjusted to improve the outcome

• Develop ideas of how they could use this experience in other aspects of their lives

• Share their ideas and feelings with other students

• Communicate the value of their participation with themselves and other students.

As a teacher, your aim is to lead a thought-provoking and safe discussion by asking meaningful questions in a pre-planned sequence. There are endless possibilities for incorporating reflection activities into students’ experiences. The following activities are designed to provide quick; fun and effective debrief ideas for students and teachers.

The following are my three favourite debriefs using an object. The three of them are great as they can be used with small groups or the full class. Hopefully they will come in handy after a lesson when you are reflecting on the learning that has taken place.

TV Quiz Show

Equipment: None

Group size: 20 or more

Description: Students are divided into four to six teams for this activity. Each group must come up with a ‘buzzer’ noise such as mooing, beeping or screaming a word. The teacher asks a series of questions and the first team who has an answer to the question ‘buzzes’ in and provides their answer.

After the first team has given its answer, other teams may buzz in as well; however, a team may not repeat an answer given by a previous team. The quiz game is continued until all the questions have been asked and answered. To help the students reflect on the activity, the answers given for each question may be summarised or expanded upon.


Partner Time

Equipment: Cards with questions; fortune cookies

Group size: 10 – 30

Description: With this activity, students are asked to find a partner. These sets of partners then discuss a debriefing question together. This technique works well because the students get a chance to practise their answers before sharing with a large group.

The following icebreaker games can be used as a part of pair and share debriefing activities:

Icebreaker wheelies:

This is a unique collection of questions that the students can ask each other as an icebreaker exchange. Give one card to a student and ask them to find a partner to share their response to the question on the card. Then, have the students change cards and find a new partner, encouraging about six partner exchanges. Some question examples are: ‘What is your favourite restaurant?’ ‘Who is your favourite teacher and why?’ ‘What is a television show you enjoy watching?’ ‘If you could possess one unique super power, what would it be?’ ‘What is your favourite movie and why?


Debriefing wheelies:

This is designed to help teachers ask debriefing questions in a proper sequence that makes sense to students. It can also shift some of the responsibility for successful processing to the students. The sequence of (a) ‘What happened?’ (b) ‘Why is this important? and (c) ‘How can I use this information? not only takes students through a progression for processing a lesson, but also presents a fun and unique way for students to debrief themselves.

In this debriefing exchange, cards are placed in three piles according to colour. Ask students to choose one card first from the Orange Pile and find a partner. Students are to share the response to the question with their partner and then exchange cards and find a new partner. After three or four such exchanges, change to the Green Pile and then the Blue Pile. At completion, students return all cards and form a circle. This process allows the students to walk themselves through the debriefing sequence.


Fortune cookie debrief:

Spontaneity can be added to the question and answer session with intriguing treats. These cookies can be easily filled with reflection questions or closing quotes. Have each student choose a fortune cookie then pair and share the question with a partner.


Traffic `lights

Equipment: Symbol for traffic lights

Group size: 3 – 20

Description: Negative behaviour from some students can sometimes result in the necessity of more serious conversations to address it. The three colours on traffic lights can be used as metaphors for behaviours: ‘What are you doing well?’ (green light) ‘What do you need to be careful of?’ (yellow light) ‘What do you need to stop doing?’ (red light). When students begin to show negative behaviour patterns or if there are conflicts, use the metaphor of traffic lights to debrief the situation.

Some examples of processing questions and information that relate to traffic lights are:

RED: ‘What things are happening in our class that need to stop so we can be more successful?’ (e.g. teasing, horseplay, put-downs, blaming, etc.)

YELLOW: ‘What things do we as a class need to be careful of as we continue?’ (e.g. keeping students safe, listening to all ideas, being aware of personal choices and boundaries, etc.)

GREEN: What are the things that we as a class want to aim for? This can include group goals, as well as behaviour suggestions. Examples could be showing respect, greater encouragement and setting time limits.

If practical, one student can monitor these ideas for the class, reporting on what they observe at the end of lessons. If necessary, he could then call a class discussion.