Volunteer Experience, Volunteers

The Power of Reflection: 5 Easy Ways to Debrief After an Activity!

One of our Girl Scout traditions is to ask girls to reflect on the activities they’re participating in as they learn by doing. We ask them questions about their experience like “What did you like? Was this easy or hard? Why? If we did it again what would you change?”

These questions help them process their experience and we call this activity reflection, or debriefing. So why is reflection so important?

According to a publication by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, “structured reflection helps participants…

  • Consider what they accomplished and learned during an activity.
  • Contemplate ways that the experience could be adjusted to improve the outcome.
  • Formulate concrete ideas of how they can use their experience in other facets of their lives.
  • Share their ideas and feelings with others.
  • Communicate the value of their participation with themselves and other participants.
  • Reflection is also a key component in the Experiential Learning Cycle (or “Learning by Doing” model). This learning model is a researched-based, effective method of structuring positive youth development activities.”

Those are excellent reasons to incorporate some reflection in your troop activities, right? So how do we do it?

There are many different ways that you can help girls reflect on their experiences. You can lead a discussion by asking simple questions about the activity like the ones mentioned above. You can casually interject some questions into conversations on the drive home. Or you can get more creative, incorporating the simple ideas below into your discussion and activity times, as you debrief after an activity.

Five Senses

Print cards with various body parts on them– enough for each person in your group.  Mix up the cards in a basket or bowl and have each girl choose a card.  Go around the circle and have each girl answer a question based on the card in her hand.

Cards can include:

  • Hand: What did you feel during this activity?
  • Ear: What did you hear during this activity?
  • Eyes: What did you see during this activity?
  • Heart: What did you love during this activity?
  • Brain: What did you think during this activity?

Spider Web

Have girls form a circle and ask them questions about the activity. As girls answer, have them pass a ball of yarn across the circle. When the yarn is passed to them, girls should hold on to part of the yarn, and then toss the ball to a new person. This will leave a trail of yarn behind the ball that creates a spider “web” pattern.

Once girls have each answered a question (or several questions depending on time), ask them to pull the web taut while you pluck a section so it vibrates. Ask girls if everyone felt the vibration. Discuss how, like our web, we’re all interconnected and have an impact on those around us (either positive or negative). Ask what would happen if someone dropped out of the web and then have one girl drop her yarn to illustrate that we are all part of a larger whole and each person’s contributions impact our results.

Roses and Thorns

Go around the circle and ask the girls what their rose and thorns are for the activity that they just completed.  A rose is the thing they liked the best, while the thorn is something they either did not enjoy, thought could be better or felt uncomfortable with.  Once everyone has shared, you can ask for the girls to elaborate on their roses and thorns if they like.

Toss the Ball

This is a variation of the talking stick idea. Have the girls form a circle. Bring a soft toss-able object, something cool or odd like a funky stuffed animal or oddly shaped squish ball, and tell the girls that the person holding the ball is the only one who can talk.

Ask a question about the activity and have girls who want to answer raise their hands. Toss the ball to a girl and have the group listen to her answer. Once she’s done she can toss the ball to someone else who also wants to answer. When everyone has spoken who wants to, have girls toss it back to you, briefly summarize what was said, and then ask another question.

Question Ball

Prior to the activity, write common reflection questions on a large beach ball. Have girls form a circle, toss the ball up in the air, and then have girls pass the ball back and forth by bumping it with their hands (like volleyball). After every third pass, whichever girl catches the ball has to answer one of the questions on the ball that her thumb is touching. Keep playing the game until each girl that wants to has had a chance to answer at least one question.

As with all reflection games and conversations, it’s important during these activities to remember to let the girls steer the dialogue.  Start with a few prepared questions, but be sure to tailor the conversation based on what you see and hear during the activity. You may end up wandering down a few rabbit trails as your girls discuss and process, but that’s all right! It’s all part of learning by doing!

So which of our favorite ways to debrief and reflect will you use? Try them all (just not all after the same activity) and find your troop’s favorite!

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