Reflective Writing Exercises

This page sets out a range of exercises designed to facilitate critical reflective practice through recording and analysing professional experience. I aim to develop this collection to provide you with practical ideas, knowledge of reflective models, and to demonstrate the breadth of literature advocating reflection as a tool for professional learning.

The approaches included here are developed from a range of sources (acknowledged at the end of the page) which often document complex learning theories. Therefore it should be noted that these exercises are often simplifications of far more complex conceptual frameworks. Also, although these examples occasionally refer to teaching or education, they may assist professional development in other fields.


1. Write a quick list of 20 words or phrases about your work (allow yourself to write anything; everything is relevant, even the seemingly insignificant).
2. Reread; underline ones which seem to stick out.
3. Choose one. Write it at the top of a fresh page. Write anything which occurs to you.
4. Add to your list.

The story of your work

1. If your work were a book, film, play or radio programme what would it be? A romantic, detective or fantasy novel, diary, roadmap or atlas, telephone directory, DIY manual, Desert Island Discs, reality television show?
2. Describe it.

The film of your life

1. Write the title of the film of your life (or work).
2. Write the advertising blurb.
3. Write the cast list.
4. Chose a ‘character’ from this list, write their name on a fresh sheet and fill the page about them.
5. In this film, which actor will play you?
6. Where will be the shoot location?
7. Tell the story of one of the scenes in detail.


1. Make a list of your characteristics, values and beliefs.

Who am I?

1. Complete as many or as few of the following sentences as you wish:
a. I am…
b. I believe…
c. I want…
d. I know…
e. I think…
f. I wish…
g. I hope…
h. I understand…
i. I wonder…
j. I imagine…
k. I’m surprised that…
l. My dream is…
2. Reread with care. Choose one to write more about.


1. Choose a particular aspect of your work.
2. Respond to the following questions:
a. What do I do?
b. Why do I do it?
c. How do I do it best?
d. For whom do I do it?
3. Reread. Choose one answer to expand on

Positive and negative

1. Write 3 sentences describing the sort of person you are.
2. Reread. Make a note of characteristics you think you excluded.
3. How many ‘nots’ are there (for example, I’m not good at numbers) compared to positives?
4. Rewrite these negatives as positives.

Wild solutions

1. Describe a work problem, occasion or person which puzzles you.
2. List your hunches about it.
3. Reread. Choose one to write more about, thinking: What if….

What makes me tick?

1. Make a list of words of phrases which make you:
a. Focused and productive, or
b. Furious, or
c. Happy, or
d. Serene, or
e. Lazy or unproductive, or
f. Uncooperative, or
2. Reread and order with most important at the top.
3. Choose one to write more about.

Another point of view

1. Think of someone you really admire; it does not matter if you do not know them personally.
2. Describe the person briefly.
3. List observations they might make about your work.
4. List questions they might ask you about your work.
5. List any questions you would like to ask them.
6. Write their reply to you, as a letter.

The six-minute write.

1. Write whatever’s in your head. Write continually, without stopping to think or to be critical, however disconnected it might seem.
2. Reread.

The story

1. Choose one of the following themes to write a story about:
a. Changes, or
b. A conflict, or
c. In control, or
d. A dilemma, or
e. A celebration, or
f. A sensitive subject, or
g. A time I took a risk, or
h. A clash of interests, or
i. A misunderstanding, or
j. A moment of joy, or
k. A missed opportunity, or
l. A beginning, or
m. Your own choice.
2. Write a fictional account or autobiographical narrative based on your chosen theme.

Mentoring from a helpful observer

1. Think of a puzzling or unsatisfactory work event.
2. Think of an object generally in view in your workplace, such as:
º A glass or mug, or
º A chair, or
º A picture.
3. Write a narrative from its point of view.

Really perceiving a person

1. Describe a student/pupil/colleague/tutor you know well.
2. Write phrases including these characteristics:
a. Gesture or movement
b. Way of walking or sitting
c. Turn of phrase, or saying
d. Habitual mode of greeting
e. Anything or anyone they remind you of
f. What they make you feel
g. And so on…
3. Write as if by this person: a letter to someone other than you (for example to their child, mother, or the local newspaper).

An uncritical episode

1. Allow an event to surface in your mind (rather than reaching for the most critical, or striking episode).
2. Write about the occasion as descriptively as you can, including all detail.
3. Give it a title as if it were a story or film.

Have a proper look

1. Describe entering your school or classroom. What do you observe as you arrive? Note everything, considering all your senses.
2. Reread, marking aspects which strike you the most.
3. Choose an aspect to write more about how you would like to change things in the space, or the way you use or respond to the space.

The classroom

1. Write about entering the classroom of a colleague you admire.
2. Note what you observe as you arrive, considering all your senses.
3. Reread, marking aspects which strike you most.
4. Choose an aspect to write more about, considering how it makes you think or feel.


1. Write ‘assessment’, boxed in the middle of a page.
2. Write words or phrases, facts or opinions, around the word.
3. Write a piece of prose based on your notes.


1. Thinking about your work, answer the following questions:
a. What was most helpful?
b. What were you surprised by?
c. What will you take with you, for the future?

Learning observation

1. Think of a teacher, tutor or lecturer from any time in your life, whom you admire.
2. Describe them; include all characteristics negative and positive.
3. Write a narrative about an occasion of their teaching you remember well.

Personal Learning Goals

1. List your goals, targets or aims.
2. Reread and order with most important at the top.
3. Choose one to write more about.

Hopes and dreams

1. Write a wish list, including hopes and realistic dreams.
2. Reread, and choose an item to write more about.


1. Think of a pupil/friend/colleague you found difficult.
2. Who do they remind you of?
3. What would you really like to say to them?
4. What do you wish you had not said to them?
5. How might you characterize why they irritate (for example, childish, bossy, demanding)?
6. Write an ‘unsent letter’ to this person.
7. Write their response to you.

Internal mentor

1. Think of an event you found either challenging or rewarding.
2. Imagine receiving a response or advice from your ‘internal mentor’, whom observes what is going on all the time, supports, comforts, and can advise on difficulties and problems. (They might be modelled on a real person, but give them a fictional name.)
3. Write their response to you in the form of a letter, beginning ‘Dear [your name]…’

Giving advice

1. A new trainee has written to you asking for advice.
2. Write back to them, remembering what it was like when you first started training, and what kind of letter you would have liked to receive.

Reflection Prompts

Write down the best advice anyone has ever given you about teaching.

Describe your job as if to a child.

Why did you become a teacher?

What does your profession mean to you?

When someone says ‘I think you’d make a great teacher!’, what do they mean?

What do your parents/carers/colleagues/pupils think of you?

Describe your idea tutor/mentor/colleague/pupil.

What are your professional ambitions?

What would you like to hear people say in their speeches at your retirement party?

What are the 3 most important things we should teacher young children?

What does 'education' mean to you?


References & Further Reading

Ayres, D. (2013) Writing to Learn. Available at:

Bolton, G. (2010) Reflective Practice: Writing & Professional Development. (3rd edn.) London: Sage.

Ewens, T. (2014) Reflective Primary Teaching. Northwich: Critical Publishing

Ghaye, T. (2011) Teaching and Learning through Reflective Practice: A practical guide for positive action. (2nd edn.) Oxon: Routledge.

Hayes, D. (2011) 'Establishing your own teacher identity', in Hansen, A. (ed.) Primary Professional Studies. Exeter: Learning Matters, pp. 118-133.

London Providers Harmonisation and Development Group (LPHDG) (2012) Areas for Discussion: TS2. LPHDG. Available (via Sheffield Hallam University) at:

Pollard, A. (2014) Reflective Teaching in Schools. (4th edn.) London: Bloomsbury.

Race, P. (2010) Making Learning Happen. (2nd edn.) London: Sage.

Sullivan, S. & Glanz, J. (2006) Building Effective Learning Communities: Strategies for Leadership, Learning, & Collaboration. California: Corwin Press.

Tripp, D. (2011) Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement.  London: New York: Routledge Falmer.

Whitebread, D. (2012) Developmental Psychology and Early Childhood Education. London: Sage.

Citing this page?

Ayres, D. (2015) Reflective Writing Exercises. Available at: (Accessed: [Date]).

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