Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Metacognition? Priceless!

To be honest, I had never heard the word metacognition until I was in graduate school (again!) adding an endorsement in PreK-12 English as a Second Language. In that program with the fabulous Dorothy Craig and Barbara Young as my professors, I was required to complete a metacognitive unit for English Learners.

In my ESL classroom, I talked to my English Learners about how they learned best. I would ask them: do you understand and remember better if you
  • hear the information? hear it with pictures?
  • read it yourself? read it with pictures?
  • read it yourself while hearing it with pictures?
  • write or draw it? 
  • hold something in your hands (use manipulatives)?
  • talk about it with a partner, along with some or all of the above?
  • move while you learn? (for younger kiddos especially, the unspoken answer was "ya think?" :-)

They were not really accustomed to thinking this way for themselves, because they were elementary students with good teachers who differentiated their learning experiences by addressing every modality as much as possible. But as we discussed the different ways they might learn, they soon began to tell me what worked best for them. They had begun to think metacognitively.

There is more to metacognition than simply thinking about thinking; it also involves monitoring your learning and controlling it. But simply recognizing their own learning style was a great start.

If you want to start (or continue) working with your students on their metacognitive skills, you may find some of these sites I found useful: 

I love how Amanda, over at The Teaching Thief blog describes how she teaches active reading strategies to her 4th graders using metacognitive modeling. Amanda recommends the video below as an introduction to metacognition, and displays this anchor chart to guide her kiddos.

The positive effects of deliberately teaching metacognitive reading comprehension strategies are described in this research report over at Reading Rockets - Instruction of Metacognitive Strategies Enhances Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Achievement of Third-Grade Students. PLEASE read this article - it will impact your teaching and your students' learning!

Another important resource is Melissa Taylor's Imagination Soup: Teach Kids to Think About Their Thinking - Metacognition. Melissa offers ideas on HOW to scaffold and direct this skill development for your students.

Finally, if you are an ESL teacher or teach English Learners in your content classroom, you might want to read this more scholarly article from The Reading Matrix: The Effects of Metacognitive Reading Strategies: Pedagogical Implications for EFL/ESL Teachers.

Once you read all of this great information, I'm sure you'll want to work on developing metacognitive skills with your students. It will make a difference in their comprehension now, and in their success in the future!


  1. Hi, Nancy
    How awesome! Thanks for the "props" - enjoyed the blog entry! ;-)