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So, What The Heck Is Metacognition?



July 15, 2015. I blogged for the first time...about observational learning.  That was the start of my year-long focus on metacognition and Making Thinking Visible.  Prior to my first post, I had been exploring my questioning strategies and analyzing my students' responses intensively.  I thought I knew what metacognition was... Let me go back to the definition I originally cited:
  "...awareness and understanding one's thinking and cognitive processes; thinking about thinking." (Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon)
Sounds easy enough, right?  This year I've become a firm believer in the adage, "The more you think you know, the more you have to learn." In the 2015-2016 school year, I worked with a quality instruction coach, because I wanted someone to observe me and chart my questioning skills and my students' responses.  This past year, I carried my action-research forward and focused on using the routines outlined in Making Thinking Visible (Ritchart, Church & Morrison). As I modeled my thinking and the routines outlined in the book, and took note of my students' thinking, I began to ask myself this question:  Is there a continuum of metacognition?  Check out the illustration below (you can grab it for yourself by clicking on the illustration. It will take you to a downloadable version).




As I worked with my students, I encountered students befuddled by questions like, "What are you thinking about the rhombus?"  While others could tell chapter and verse about what they thought and why they thought it.  I wrote out the above continuum, based on my observations, and fixed it to my conferring clipboard. I also put a copy of it in my guided reading binder and my math workshop binder. It became a guide for my instruction.  After using a visible thinking routine from Making Thinking Visible, I used the continuum to chart where I thought my students' thinking fell on it.  It changed my questioning...my teaching...and my own thinking about metacognition. Then, I went through my Fountas and Pinnell prompting guide, provided by my school district, and marked questions that would help me dig into these levels of metacognition while conferring with my students.  Next, I began tracking which students needed even more guided instruction to move along my continuum. As a result, I saw my students' responses change and deepen as they responded through the thinking routines I taught them to use.  

It was an exciting year for me.  Next year, I will continue this focus by expanding my practice even more using Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchart. One change I want to make next year is to help my students think more about what thinking is...how the routines help them...and how to choose routines themselves, without my direction.  Everything's always a work in progress, isn't it?  I think that's what makes teaching and learning fun, in the end!

                                                Until next time, teach on, my friends!



Pssssst! Hey you! Be sure to check out my visible thinking products below.  They will change your pedagogical life, I promise!















This month, I'm also linking up with some fantastic educators.  Check out their posts below!





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21 comments

  1. Higher level thinking is so important for the kids. Your chart is so helpful. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I love the chart which is a great visual for students!

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    1. Thank you! It really did reframe my thinking about my students' response.

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  3. As an SLP, I think a lot about Metalinguistics - same general concept - thinking about language. I find some students really struggle with thinking about how they are saying something, what would happen if you changed one letter or one word or the intended meaning of a multiple meaning word. I love the chart.

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    1. Susan, Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you. I've been also chewing on thinking about a continuum that would follow this oral one I've created...this one would chart students' ability to transfer their thinking to paper.

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  4. Making thinking visible is such an important skill/strategy. Most children when asked...how did you get that answer or how do you know that, will simply say," I just Knew it!" However, when they are encouraged and guided to "think about their thinking" a new light bulb goes off and they begin to get it....Oh wait...this is what I did etc....so important! Great Post...thanks for sharing...PS I used to used a chime and a sign( that was a cloud that said, My thinking is...) I would put up to my head all the students would say "DING" and I would explain my thinking in detail as a motivation for the kiddos to think about their thinking....PHEW...sorry for the long post...but I LOVE what you are doing!!!

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    1. Kathy, Thank you, thank you for sharing! I love the chime idea. I use an "American Idol" microphone that I've glitzed up. Thank you for the encouragement, too!

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    2. I think we should have taught together!!! I LOVE all your ideas!!

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  5. Love your point that the more you think you know, the more you have to learn! Great post, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Kerry, It's true, isn't it? :-) Thank you for stopping by!

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  6. Metacognition is such an important and challenging skill for students. There are some great ideas here. I also love your new blog layout by the way!

    -Carly

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  7. This is an interesting concept and I enjoyed reading the way in which you used the visible thinking routine from Making Thinking Visible and the continuum to chart where your students' thinking fell on it and then changed your questioning to bring out the best reflective and thinking responses in your students. This just goes to show, it needs a teacher's hand initially to guide students in the right direction. Thank you Tracy for this enlightening article.

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  8. This was very informative! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  9. Teaching kids how to think is always a great thing. Most are just too ready to ask, "so what is the answer? Did I get it right?" They need to learn to develop the process of self-monitoring their own learning.

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    1. Absolutely, I agree with you. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Visible thinking is where it's at this year. Are you familiar with Project Zero? I've received a lot of great thinking routines through them.

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    1. Joyce! I am! Our school is on the kath to being a "Cultures of Thinking " School. This approach just makes sense to me! Thank you for stopping by. :-)

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