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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How Metacognition Can Improve Student Success

You may have heard about metacognition, as it is mentioned in a large variety of sources - from teacher resources to educational research to the introduction of shows on Nick Jr. Metacognition is "thinking about thinking" or an ability to reflect on one's understanding of a topic or concept.

I have been using strategies to improve metacognition in my classroom for several years. I have noticed a significant improvement in student success that translates easily to other subjects as well. In other words, metacognition can provide benefits across subjects and age groups. Strategies that focus on metacognition challenge students to take an active role in the learning process. It gives them skills to assess their readiness for evaluation or gains toward a goal, and an ability to make connections within and across curricula. As Dr. Natalie Saaris states in her article Mastering Metacognition, these skills have been linked to improved learning outcomes.

Some children are naturally more metacognitive than others, but the good news is that these skills can be taught and honed with practice. Teachers can model behavior, actively assist in these new ways of thinking, and provide activities that allow for practice and feedback to improve performance. 

One simple way is to model metacognitive behavior in discussions. Talk through using context clues, mention what the subject makes you think or wonder about, bring up something similar and show how you might use the similar idea to understand the new concept. Then, help your students do the same by guiding them with leading questions. Group discussions are a great way to provide students with considerable feedback in a small amount of time. Students each get a chance to model thinking about their understanding, which provides a variety of different voices and examples. I find students often learn as much from each other during discussions as they do from my explanations. It is helpful for the listener and the student doing the explaining!

Provide plenty of opportunity for students to demonstrate their thinking and support it with text or resources. Annotating an article or text book is a great way to demonstrate thinking. This works well done as a group at first for younger students, and then independently. Having students complete a reflective journal at a later time adds another layer of awareness. I will link to a set of annotation cue cards I've created to help make annotating text a habit in my classroom.

Increasing student writing, especially reflective prompts, is another way to improve metacognition. My students keep a journal and respond to prompts that often challenge them to assess their understanding and make connections. Providing cues is helpful for all ages, but especially with younger learners. A poster or sign with reflective questions that is easily visible will help remind students to be thinking about whether what they are learning makes sense. Provide students with opportunity to evaluate their work, (with a key or rubric) revise their work, and then reflect on what they learned.  I like to have students use the same rubric I'm going to use when we are doing projects, first to evaluate a peer and then their own work. Once I've graded the project we can discuss any discrepancies and share our viewpoints. Letting students grade their own quizzes is also helpful, as it presents them an opportunity in the moment to see what mistakes they made and determine where they went wrong. I like following up self grading activities with reflective journals or exit slips.

What strategies have you tried that work well to improve metacognition? I'd love to hear them!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Adaptation of a mom blog

Time flies and our focus changes, which I guess is the best way I can explain how I walked away from blogging nearly five years ago. I am a firm believer that none of us can have it all, but by making hard choices we can have what we want. What I have wanted, ever since the girls were born, is to be present and connected as a family, and to ensure that family focus was possible no matter what other activities, professions and the like were part of our days. Both EmDee and I switched careers to focus on our family, and we are still both in the education field.

I teach science at the high school level, as well as activities I do to facilitate learning and curiosity at home with the girls, now 10 and 12. My posts going forward will focus on education, play learning at home, and methods and activities that work well with my children and my students. I look forward to getting back to sharing with you! Here is a peek at what our family looks like today.

Talk to you soon!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Showing our #Disneyside

*I received free products from Disney Parks and Momselect in order to host a Disney Side @ Home Celebration. As always, all opinions shared are my own. *

I never imagined we would be a family that loved going to Disney parks...sure, I loved the movies growing up, but had never visited as a young child. We live near a major theme park packed with roller coasters, so the draw for us isn't the thrill of the rides, it's the magic. I love watching the joy on the girls' faces as they experience a new adventure, meet a new character, and stretch their imaginations. I love the memories we make as a family, the stories we still talk about of our three visits so far...of what we loved most and what we want to do again. So when I was approached to host a Disney Side party, I was excited - what a great way to let the girls have some friends over for some fun and at the same time share our love of Disney!

We decided to have a crafty party highlighting our love of Mickey and Minnie. In preparation, the girls made Mickie and Minnie water bottles and bookmarks with Disney Duct tape. The bookmarks stood proud on the top of our goodie bags for the guests. They may not look perfect, but I wanted the girls to have the fun of helping. They decorated the bottles and made the bookmarks, and we're so proud of themselves!

Next we provided oversized coloring pages from various Disney movies as "placemats" to help entertain the guests while they waited for food or the next activity. As with most kids 5 - 8 this was a big hit!

After some pizza, we let the kids decorate their own cupcakes with piping bags. It was so fun to watch some carefully create a design while others investigated how much frosting a single cupcake could support!

We finished the party off with a series of games: Mickey Go Fish, Disney Bingo, Disney Word Search, and Guess What Disney Character I Am?! The guests circulated through each activity station. Everyone seemed to have fun, but the best feedback I saw that our party was a success was when none of the guests wanted to leave! A party is always fun, especially when you throw in a little Disney Magic!

Thanks again to Disney Parks and Mom Select for sending us a Disney celebration box of goodies to help with our party. 

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