Sunday, February 9, 2014

Metacognition: Thinking About Thinking

     First of all, I need to do a major disclaimer here. I have relied on (and by relied I mean totally used, stolen, adapted, stolen, and used again.....) Tanny McGregor and her book Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading for my instruction over this last week and a half. Some of the pictures from my classroom are going to look very familiar, and in some cases exactly like, the anchor charts she has in this book. I feel guilty only long enough to realize that 1) That is why she sold the book, 2) That is why I bought the book, 3) Teachers are idea thieves - accept it, 4) Sometimes my brain is mush and I am doing good to match my shoes much less design an anchor chart that is already fabulously designed and in the book that she sold me and I bought. Okay. Enough justification..... (But you really should go buy the book!)
     I love the idea of teaching students metacognition (thinking about their thinking) mostly because I want to make them aware of when it is that their thinking breaks down. They have to understand that when you look up at the end of a text and realize you read the whole thing but have no idea what you read... you needed to fix that before you got to the end. This sets me up to teach strategies on how to fix the thinking later. In the book, she starts with an activity in which you have sets of cards marked "Text" and "Thinking" and a basket or box labeled "Real Reading Salad". I adapted this for high school and it looked similar, but like this: 

     I read When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, and modeled thinking as I read. Some thoughts were directly from the text (Text card) and some were me thinking based on my schema and other connections I had (Thinking card). I had the students determine which card went into the basket. Low and behold, we had many more thinking cards at the end than we did text cards. We discussed the reasons for that determined it was that we think while we read and we don't even know it. Wa-La... Metacognition! (Is that even how you spell "Wa-la"? I have never written it. In my whole life. Hmmm. If not, feel free to correct it as you read.) I then gave them the Venn type diagram that is used in the book and had them fill it in for their journals. 

     The graphic shows how thinking and explicit reading overlap. I love it. I have it hanging in my room as well. I then gave them each a card marked "Text" and "Thinking" and we practiced this whole group. I would model thinking as I read from an article I had on our basketball team, and they would hold up the card  that they thought showed how I was thinking. We would briefly discuss if they were right and why, then I would continue reading.  They wanted to keep the cards so I let them add them to their journals as a visual reminder of the lesson. 
     The next thing I shared with them was thinking stems for metacognition. This anchor chart is 100% copied from the book. (But I had on matching shoes that day, so I was already spent...Judge Free Zone, remember.)

     I discussed the thinking stems and modeled how to use the them based on the reading from the day before. We recorded these on the board. Then I put them into groups and gave them each a Shel Silverstein book of poems. I had them use the thinking stems to record their thinking and then we added them to the chart and shared our thinking. 

     Our next metacognition topic was to tackle depth of thinking. I used paint cards from Lowe's to model this, just as the book suggests.(I asked them if I could have them first even though they are free because I felt bad just taking them. I mean, we remodeled an entire home in Florida and used Lowes for it all so it isn't like they couldn't spare a few paint cards... but I HATE to be in trouble. And what if that sweet old lady at the door called me out for stealing free paint cards!? No way was I risking that. So, I asked. But it's up to you.) I made an anchor chart and then they added their cards to their journals. 

     I modeled how to use the colors to understand my thinking as I read excerpts from the book I am currently reading, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.  I then had them practice using these cards to show how they were thinking as they read using their independent texts from their book boxes. The recorded this thinking in their journals as well. 
     Obviously, Ms. McGregor's book will give you much more insight into these processes, and I wish I had time to share it all. The students really did a great job of grasping the concept of metacognition and have applied it well so far in isolation. The goal, however, is to have them use it without even having to exert that much effort, seamlessly as they read. Work in progress, friends!
     Oh - I also started reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio out loud to the students. I only read a little bit each day, and I think it has such a valuable lesson for them all to hear. I told them I wanted to model fluency and thinking out loud for them and hoped they didn't mind. They were all on board (with the exception of one, but I am working on him...), which is good because I was going to do it anyway. We have an ongoing class CROP-QV that they each add to after I have read and we discuss what they are thinking. My hope is that it will help solidify some of these basic strategies.

     The next post will be on schema and making connections. The lessons went really well and I cannot wait to share! I leave you with one of my favorite pics of the week of one of my favorite kids in the world. He is funny, smart, and going to do something amazing one day. I can't wait to see it!!

Have a wonderful week, friends!!
Mrs. Beck

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