I didn’t really learn what metacognition was until I was an adult. At first I thought this was a concept that was much too large and complex for kids to understand. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a powerful tool it could be for kids in so many ways. It’s an interesting thing when you realize that the little voice inside your head is actually an asset and not an annoying hindrance. I think kids often get sidetracked by their thoughts, which can be distracting. But you can teach them to focus their thoughts and use them to their advantage. Making them more aware of their thinking and intentionally naming it would arm students with critical thinking skills and would help them appreciate a deeper level of comprehension. Once I reminded myself to stop underestimating my little 8 year olds, I began teaching the concept of metacognition with outstanding results. I introduce metacognition early in the year to set the foundation for all of the other reading strategies that I teach in 3rd grade. I refer back to it often so that it becomes a natural strategy that they can carry with them in the future.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Metacognition Week - Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about metacognition, I make a connection to the procedures and routines that we have been working on since school started. I tell the kids that so far this year, we have learned to use Reader’s Workshop Prep Time to prepare for uninterrupted reading time, we have found cozy spots to enjoy our books, we’ve become little librarians to take care of our classroom library, and we’ve been building our reading stamina to be able to get lost in a book for longer periods of time. Now that we’ve established our routine, it is time to focus on ourselves and our thoughts during Independent Reading time.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on metacognition, which is being aware of your of your own thinking.” I tell them that each of us has a little voice inside our heads that talk to us all the time, our thoughts. I say that right now I’m listening to the little voice inside my head and it’s telling me that it’s too cold in the room. It’s also telling me that I’m hungry and I’m really looking forward to eating the lunch. The students usually laugh at that and ask when lunch will be.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to close their eyes for two minutes to tune in to the little voice in their heads. After 2 minutes, call on a few students to share. They usually share funny thoughts and add humor to the lesson. Point out that the little voice in their head is a powerful tool that they must learn to appreciate and use wisely, especially as readers.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced metacognition, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice the little voice in their heads. I want them to become aware of when the voice is thinking about the book they are reading or when it becomes distracted by something else. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading. I set it up that way so that students have no reason to get out of their spots. They are expected to have 5 books in their browsing box at all times so if they finish a book they have others to choose from without moving around the room. They are also expected to have a pencil and sticky notes in their browsing boxes in case they need them for the day’s task. I strongly encourage them to use the bathroom so they do not need to go during reading time. At the end of the 5 minute Prep Time, I do a countdown, 5 4 3 2 1, Level 0 (referring to volume level). By the end of countdown, students must be in their spots and silent with all of the materials they need to sustain their reading. They must follow the distance rule of arm’s length apart from any other student. They are not to get out of their spots for any reason so that they can focus on their book and their task. Because I use Independent Reading time to work with students one-on-one or in small groups, I really stress to the students that the teacher is not available to everyone during this time. I encourage them to problem solve on their own and hold all questions or comments until the end of Independent Reading time. All of this takes practice but once it is all in place, Independent Reading becomes a magical time when students are engrossed in their books and the teacher is free to meet individual needs of students through conferencing, strategy groups, or guided reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I will be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to talk me through their metacognition. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups.
Closing: At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice their thinking, which is called metacognition. I ask them to repeat the word, metacognition. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share what they noticed about their thinking. Was it focused on the book? Did your thinking get side-tracked by something else at times? It’s important to mention to them that even if their mind got distracted, it was great for them to be aware of that so they could get it back on track. After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on metacognition for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.