September 23, 2012

Getting Started with Metacognition

Y'all my office smells like something died. Seriously!

It started about two weeks ago.  I walked in and got hit with a pretty putrid smell. So, naturally, I started to search.  I looked everywhere and honestly, there are not that many places to look.  My space consists of a work table, a desk, 2 bookshelves, and a small table for my printer.  Nothing.

I finally had to come to the conclusion that something has died in the wall. Ugh! Gross!

Needless to say, I couldn't be in here all week.  It's just nasty. So, yet again, I have fallen behind in posting, reading, and responding to emails. So sorry.

The good news is that the smell is improving thanks to a variety of air fresheners and those gel bead things that supposedly absorb bad odors.  So, I'm back for a few minutes or at least until I can't take the smell anymore.

So, what have my 4th graders been working on lately? Well, becoming active readers, of course.

We started with that big word: METACOGNITION or the process of thinking about your thinking. 

This video does a great job explaining metacognition and the importance of teaching it to our students.


Although the idea of metacognition is introduced in previous grades, many of my 4th graders come to me not really understanding what it means to listen to their inner voice.  They seem lost when I ask them, "What do you think about your book?" I get the tilted head, scrunched up nose, shrugging shoulders look or (even worse) I get a completly blank stare.

We go very slow and I do a lot of modeling of metacognition through reading aloud both picture and chapters books.

How to Get Started:

I believe it is important to start with introducing all the strategies at once.  As a reader, we don't use only one strategy per day.  We don't pick up a book and tell ourselves "Today, I will only ask questions." As teachers, we must be careful not to send that message. The strategies we use while reading a text depend on our background knowledge of the topic, the readability of the text, and our interest while reading. 

To introduce all the strategies, I use Constructing Meaning by Nancy N. Boyles.  What I love about this book (aside from all the great resources in the back) is her use of kid-friendly language to introduce the key comprehension strategies. Students can infer and synthesize well before you ever introduce those skills by using her kid friendly language of noticing and figuring out. 

In the book, she walks you through the entire introductory lesson and explains WHY each reading strategy is so important to a reader.  By the end of the first lesson, you have introduced all 6 strategies in very approachable easy to use terms: connecting, wondering, guessing, noticing, picturing, figuring out.

The book also comes with a disc to print your own posters for each strategy. There is an icon to go with each strategy as a reminder. 

After introducing these six kid friendly strategies, I display my metacognition sentences stems poster. All of the posters below are inspired by Tanny McGregor and her wonderful book Comprehension Connections.

2012-2013 Poster
This is the poster I am currently using in my classroom.  I felt it was important to include a sentences stem for my non-fiction readers that are always learning new facts.  So, I added "I just learned..."

Because I was trying to downsize my poster (due to lack of wall space) I had to pick and choose the strategies I put on here this year.  I choose the ones that my 4th graders seem to use the most or at least the ones I would like them to use the most. 

Here is my poster from last year.  I included it again in this post, so that you can compare the two versions.  It is also one of the most pinned things from my blog which is a huge compliment.  Thanks everyone!

I also updated my Real Reading poster this year.  Again, this is straight from Comprehension Connections.  I love the visual is gives my students.

Finally, the students have been given the tools or at least the language to begin.

We start reading some books and practice the art of stopping and listening to our inner voice.  I don't use post-its or write down anything yet.  That's first, there is not an anchor chart in sight.  We just read and talk, read and talk, AND read and talk.  For some of my favorite books to model  metacognition, click here.  These books encourage the use of ALL strategies simultaneously.

After a day or two students begin taking 1-2 post-its with them when they go into Read to Self.  I have learned not to give too many post-its at once as it can be very overwhelming for students in the beginning...even 4th graders.  My lower readers begin to panic and can't seem to get anything down if I give them too much at once.  One post-it at a time seems doable and we just work up from there. You can always give out more when they ask.

Once we have gotten a good overview of the strategies this way, we begin diving into each strategy on a deeper level and using the teacher words of inferring and synthesizing. First up...questioning!  It's always a class favorite. 

Happy reading and thinking!


  1. yep I'm pinning this whole posts. Good stuff to think about!
    Adventures in Room 5


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  2. I'm sorry about the gross smell in your office-but thanks so much for the wonderful (as always) post!!!

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits

    1. You are so sweet Nicole! The smell is getting better, but it's still not good. :) ~Amanda

  3. I LOVE this! You've inspired me to teach my kids about meta-cognition this week!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  4. And this is why I read teacher blogs! Thanks for sharing these resources.


    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

  5. Love this and is there anyway I can get a copy of your posters?


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