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Making Thinking Visible

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Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

I Think, Therefore I Am?

“Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."
"An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
Agatha Christie, Peril at End House      

I've always been fascinated by metacognition. Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon defines metacognition as "awareness and understanding one's thinking and cognitive processes; thinking about thinking." When Howard Gardener's Theory of Multiple Intelligences came out, I was most excited about the Intrapersonal Intelligence...the knowledge of self.  This intelligence has always seemed like the "Big Kahuna" of all intelligences because without it, our other "smarts" seem shallow. So, for the past five years, I 've focused my professional goal setting on pedagogical practices that would develop student metacognition.  I wanted to know, "Is my questioning doing what I think it is?"  and "How are my students responding to my questioning?" And, I specifically wanted the answers to these questions in my math workshop.

On a rainy September Sunday with coffee cup in hand, I created an observation chart that, when used, would focus the observer's attention on the frequency of my questioning, the quality of my questioning, the frequency of my students' metacognitive responses, and the quality of those responses.  As a former literacy coach, I know how powerful it can be to work with one.  I contacted my colleague Jeanine, "pitched" my goal to her, along with my questions and observation chart...and the year's journey began.

Jeanine entered my classroom during math workshop on a weekly basis.  She sat off to the side with my observation chart and wrote furiously.  We met about once a week to look at the data from the charts.  This one little observational activity blew the doors off our minds!  We began to ask, "What student responses are truly metacognitive?"   We began to recognize a continuum of metacognitive responses.  There were the student responses like "This is the answer I got...and I think this because..."  And then, there were responses like "I tried the problem this way...but had trouble with it because the numbers were not jiving, so then I tried it two other ways.  I think the third way is the best because..."  We tracked oral responses on the chart, and I tracked written responses on student assignments.

As our understanding and awareness of metacognition deepened, we added another column to the observation chart: Frequency and breadth of students' oral language responses. As we continued our year-long focus, Jeanine noted an increase in students' responses as well as the length and cohesiveness of their responses.  I teach in a classroom where 1/3 of my students are brand-new to the country.  They usually come with zero to little English.  They may or may not be literate in their native languages. This observation of oral language was remarkable in my ELL world.  In addition, student performance on our district standardized math test showed a big jump in problem solving!

"The world isn't just the way it is.  It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make a life story?" Yann Martel, The Life of Pi

Now as I look at the start of my 24th year of teaching, I'm thinking about how my teaching and learning story will continue. I'm thinking even more about the nature of metacognition.  I'm thinking about the power of observation.  Last week, I wrote about the silly way I introduce my unit on graphing with song and ask students to make observations about the vocabulary in it.  The week before that, I wrote about looking for "small miracles."  Both posts centered on observation.  My theme for this school year is METACOGNITION & OBSERVATION. I can hardly wait to tell the story!

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts about metacognition! Please comment!

P.S.S. This week's math freebie is another math song called "The Division Blues." The video is below, but the free song sheet can be found in my store.


video




https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Division-Blues-2022466








A friend of mine at Rainbow City Learning developed this Close Reading for Math product that works well when discussing math song lyrics and vocabulary, as well as story problems. You might want to check this out too!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Close-Reads-for-Any-Story-Problem-1132478













2 comments

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  2. I absolutely LOVE metacognition. It's what I focused on the final stages of my master's program. I LOVE the idea of an observation chart like you talked about. I think not only does it help with your own observations of what is happening in the classroom, but it also encourages you as a teacher to remember to TEACH the processes of thinking. Do you still use the chart?

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