Touchstones is a reflection activity that is used to assess student opinion and understanding at the beginning, middle or end of a unit of inquiry. Touchstones provides a structure for asking questions and responding to topics through an active, student-driven process. Since participants are able to choose which prompt to explore and to speak when they are ready, they have more agency and autonomy within the structured dialogue.
Prior to the activity, write an open-ended statement on large piece of paper; create 3-5 statements total that relate to a similar topic, content area of shared experience. For example: My favorite moment in the story was… If I could talk to one character in the story, I would like to speak to… This story makes me think about… Everyone gathers in a circle. Read each paper and put them on the ground in the center of the group. Invite a volunteer to pick up one piece of paper, read it, respond to the statement, then, crush the paper into a ball and throw it to someone else who indicates that they want to answer the prompt. The new participant catches the paper and responds to the statement. This is repeated until all participants who want to speak have spoken; then the group allows the paper to hit the floor, ending that prompt. Next, another volunteer chooses another paper, reads, responds, crushes the paper into a ball, and throws it to the next speaker and the process repeats. Participants choose how often and when they participate and whether all statements are used.
Example statements to use at the beginning of an inquiry: A question I have about this topic is ____ ; One way to explore this topic could be____; Something I know about this topic is_____.
Example statements to use at the end of an inquiry: I am proud of____; I learned or discovered ______; Now, I wonder____.
What did you notice about yourself in this activity?
Which statements/comments got the most speakers? Why?
- Are there specific words/phrases that we heard multiple times? Why do you think this happened?
You don’t have to talk for every piece of paper, but I would like you to speak to at least one prompt.
- Raise your hand if you want the paper/prompt thrown in your direction.
Create prompts related to specific content. For example: One thing I learned about the Industrial Revolution ______; or One fact about right triangles _______;
Create prompts related to a specific moment in a book or text. For example: If I were in the book’s main character’s shoes, I would______.
- See “Snowball” for a similar strategy.