Metacognition is often defined as “thinking about thinking”. . Kids need metacognition for learning so that they can improve their reading, thinking and learning.
- Metacognition increases students abilities to transfer or adapt their learning to new contexts and tasks.
- They can think about the task and the context of different learning situations.
- It can help them think of themselves in different contexts.
- It can help kids become aware of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, writers, readers, test-takers, group members, etc.
- It gives kids the awareness of problems that need to be solved -- whether knowledge gaps, behavior issues, or social concerns.
The short argument is that metacognition helps kids learn. It helps them remember what they learned last year (or yesterday) and combine it with what they’re learning today. It helps them apply strategies from one lesson to another. It helps them know their own strengths and weaknesses -- and then strengthen the weaknesses and build on the strengths.
The end-goal is for kids to become self guided. We can’t always do all the guiding. Someday, our little birdies will fly out of our nests and they need to be able to assess the situations that may arise and make to make in-flight decisions on their own
It makes kids become a part of their learning process. It helps us make learning something we do WITH them not, TO them.
It is an executive skill that helps kids MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
But it’s not a natural thought process for all kids. So how can we teach them to think about their thinking?
We can intentionally build it in to our classes, particularly with Formative Assessment (i.e. checks for understanding).
- Misconception Check: Give kids a common Misconception statement about a topic. Have students quickwrite to explain why they agree or disagree with it.
- Anticipation Guide: Choose several statements from the lesson you are about to teach that can be answered as True or False (make sure to have a few of each). Before the lesson, ask kids to give their best guesses and answer each statement. AFTER the lesson, ask kids to answer the same statements -- but this time, their answer should be based on learning. THis helps kids see where they learned and grew within a lesson.
- Muddiest (or Clearest Point): At the end of a lesson, ask kids “What is the ‘muddiest’ point from today?”, meaning, what are you still confused about. You can drill down further and ask “what do you find unclear about the concept of Manifest Destiny?”. Alternately, you can ask about the “clearest point” and discuss the portion of the lesson that your students DO understand the most clearly.
- Four Corners: Have students choose a corner based on their level of learning for a particular topic. Once students have chosen their corners, allow them to discuss their progress with people who are in a similar point in their learning. Then, pair Corner 1 & 3 and 2& 4 for peer tutoring. For example, choose a corner based on your knowledge of the impact of Constitutional Rights:
- Corner 1: The Dirt Road (There’s so much dust, I can’t see where I’m going!)
- Corner 2: The Paved Road (It’s fairly smooth but there are a lot of potholes)
- Corner 3: The Highway (I feel fairly confident bbut have occasional slowdowns)
- Corner 4: The Interstate (I’m travelling along and could easily give directions to someone else)
How can you teach your kids to use metacognition? It will increase everything from their reading to their content knowledge to their test-taking to their real-life problem solving! I love to hear how you teach metacognitive skills in your class! Email me email@example.com