This was a major topic in my last post, but I didn’t quite have the word count to unpack it. When people ask me “what is the most important thing for my child to learn in primary school?” this is it. Metacognition is the core of learning as it builds our self-control. Once children are aware of their thinking, they begin to WANT to tune distractions out and experiment more with their learning. Try it and see.
Metacognition = when we think about our thinking
When you enter my classroom, the word metacognition jumps out everywhere. It’s front row center on my whiteboard, on almost every poster and throughout the children’s workbooks. Metacognition is the language of how we LEARN and how we THINK.
The aim of the game is to teach children to ‘think aloud’ and listen to their inner dialogue. This gives them control of their OWN learning. Which means, they are deepening connections to new and old learning without us lifting a finger. They can do this, even when no-one is around, which means the learning constantly happens.
How does this translate to home?
When a child brings us learning we don’t focus on the answers to the question, but rather what we need to TEACH them. Okay, I’ll say it. It’s human nature, but we are always looking for the MISTAKE. That’s how we locate the point of need; the learning that our child needs to grow.
As you, my dear parent educator, are flicking through answers to your child’s mathematics learning, you correct, tick, tick, tick, cross. Your inner dialogue may sound like:
“Okay these first few are correct, but what has he done here, let me check this working out. I can see trial and error, some estimating and some guesses. He doesn’t seem to have used the strategy.”
Nod along if this sounds familiar.
You take the learning back to the child. “Loved your strategies in the first few bud, but what happened here when the problems became more complex?”
“I just guessed it because I didn’t know.”
“Tell me about your metacognition.”
“Well these first few were easy, I used the jump strategy, but then this one confused me because the jump strategy didn’t work. So, I tried to guess, using estimation then I actually tried vertical addition, but realised that would take me forever!”
Imagine though, if we stood aside. Allowed the child to begin with metacognition. They would already be analysing their process, their thinking and their answers. All at the same time. Complex, hey!
How do we do this?
We prompt, we model and then we prompt some more, until it becomes habit. These are not hour long conversations. They are daily incidentals.
- “What was your metacognition like during mathematics today?” – “Quite logical!”
- When your child explains a moment during play, “And what was your metacognition?” – “Sounds creative!”
- Or even after conflict, “Tell me about your metacognition in that moment.” – “And what else?”
Our children are strengthening current connections, building new connections and creating deeper learning as they think aloud. As they ‘think about their thinking,’ they are bringing up old memories and tying them to new memories.
Remember that picture I painted of learning with the power cords? Metacognition is like plugging them all into the motherboard and switching it ON.