Metacognition: Part 2

Before I say anything else, I want to say thank you. It was only last week that I walked into my Principal’s office to ask if I could ditch my Professional Learning Journal, instead documenting evidence of my meeting the RTC PTC on this blog. I’d been a wuss when it came to sharing, and I knew it was time to change that. Boy, am I glad I did! It turns out I have been looking in the wrong places for literature on metacognition – thank you to @DanceWellNZ @vanschaijik and @diana_prince_ww for your awesome suggestions – my OneTab is growing rapidly!

Firstly, an update on how things have gone thus far:

  • I had my students watch the Khan Academy ad and reflect on what they had learnt to date – it took most groups 5 min to fill a big A2 bit of paper with what they’d learned, and most were well aware of how far they’d come.
  • The class was in awe of the videos on the brain and neuroplasticity (I’ll definitely be putting those in the Pond). What really resonated was the idea of pathways in the brain needing to be developed; a number of them made the connection with learning new maths strategies that eventually end up replacing the old ones.
  • One upsetting moment was when a student felt he couldn’t do the 3-2-1 reflection at the end of the session – I had him watch the video one more time and he did it perfectly! We’ll definitely be doing some more work on having a growth mindset (Carol Dweck’s book in en-route).

After the awesome suggestions that came in, I am a little bit closer to solving the mystery that is the metacognitive toolkit. @DanceWellNZ suggested looking into Guy Claxton’s work. I read ‘What’s the Point of School’ close to two years ago now and I’m yet to find a book that does a better job of encompassing my thoughts on education. I’ve had a look at Building Learning Power before, but I thought it was time to revisit it.

It turns out my theory of parallels between the strategies used for self-monitoring for reading and self-monitoring for learning is quite accurate – if you look at Claxton’s Learning-Power muscles, particularly the ones related to resourcefulness and reflectiveness, there are many similarities. This started to make me think about whether or not I need to change the way I teach reading, but that’s a brand-new inquiry in itself; I’ll be parking that one for later…

One concept that has kept popping up in any reading I do is something that @diana_prince_ww shared with me via a blog post – wrappers. Metacognitive strategies, like pretty much anything else you learn, are grounded in context – you can’t teach them by themselves, they need to be paired with opportunities for students to actually use them. So, wrappers literally ‘wrap’ the lesson; you start with a conversation about the strategy you want students to learn, model that strategy so that they can see what it looks like, go through with the actual lesson, and then reflect on how students went with the metacognitive strategy at the end. I’m thinking that my next step is to choose some of the learning-power muscles to focus on, and to incorporate lesson wrappers into my planning where I feel those strategies would be most suitable.

The last, but certainly not the least, came from@vanschaijik. I have watched (via twitter) in awe of the fantastic use of SOLO Taxonomy going on in classrooms and always thought that this was something I’d like to do. My school is currently taking part in Visible Learning PD, so I need some more time to investigate how the two will marry together (and I suspect SOLO will be an almost cultural shift in my classroom, and I’m not quite ready to give my Y8’s a total U-turn three-quarters of the way through their second to last term with us), so it is certainly something I will be doing more reading on. I had it earmarked for the summer but, after what I’ve read already, I’m not sure I can wait that long!

On my reading travels, one interesting thing that popped up (interesting in the sense that it was not what I was expecting) came from an article, The Boss of My Brain”. The article mentioned many of the things I have already mentioned here, but it had one absolute curveball – in order to teach students to be metacognitive thinkers, we need to teach them mindfulness. I have dabbled in Yoga etc (it’s one of the many things I would do more of if I had a time-turner) and can completely understand the benefits of encouraging relaxation and control over the mind, but I certainly hadn’t thought of it as something to worry about teaching students. It made me think about a Health unit we teach in the first term, ‘Managing Our Emotions’; I hate this unit with a passion and am thinking long and hard about how I can revamp it so that it is current and relevant for my students. The movie Inside Out gave me a lot of hope but I think there is also a place for weaving mindfulness through the unit, while still staying true to the achievement/learning objectives. Not something for this iteration, but definitely something I’ll be keeping as a next step.

So, in summary, I find myself with lots of next steps, but the most urgent one is developing my wrapper lessons to start building that ‘toolkit’ so that my students know what they can draw from when they get stuck.

As an aside, if you want to have a look at what my lessons are shaping up to look like you can find my plan here. Be warned, it’s very much a living document…

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