Teaching Students Metacognitive Strategies Improves Grades

We are living in an information,
distraction rich time and multitasking seems to be a common way of navigating
the complexities of reality.  Our youth have grown up observing their
parents juggling multiple responsibilities at one time, while they have also
been immersed in the modern day influx of technology.  As a result, many
young learners have applied their observations to academic endeavors, and
homework is often completed while laying prey to constant interruptions from
social media, online video chatting, texting, television and more.
 Although there is some utility in life to being able to multitask, the
learning process is hindered when attention continually shifts.  In
contrast to this multitasking approach to learning is metacognition, and this can play a critical role in successful learning.
How Can Students Learn to Do Schoolwork with
Greater Efficiency?
foundation to instructing students how to maximize their learning potential is
teaching them metacognitive strategies.  Metacognition is often described
as “thinking about thinking,” and it involves higher order reasoning that
actively controls the thought processes engaged in learning. Some other terms that are often used interchangeably with metacognition are self-regulation, and executive control.  Planning a learning approach, self-monitoring comprehension, and evaluating ones progress are examples of metacognitive skills.    
Teaching Metacognitive Approaches:
Share your own thought processes aloud, so that students can hear how
you think about your own thinking.
Encourage students to focus on one task at a time from beginning to end.
Tell students to remove all distractions when completing
Teach students to be aware of their own thought processes through
mindfulness.  Here is another blog that discusses mindfulness
Instruct students on how to plan and manage their time.  Provide handouts and materials that help them
to think through the process.
Ask students to create an after-school routine where they schedule
homework time and down time separately.
Urge students to plan their approach, create deadlines, and report their
intentions to you or a small group of classmates.
Provide assignments that merely ask students to create a study approach
and have them share their ideas with their classmates. 
Encourage students to keep a written log of their approach to your
class.  For example, after students get
back tests and assignments, ask them to evaluate their approach.  What worked? 
What didn’t work?  How can they
improve their strategy moving forward?

you would like ready made checklists, handouts and assessments that can help
your students develop metacognitive skills, check out the many resources
available in my publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and EasyApproaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students.

Teaching Metacognitive Skills: A Fun, Free Illustration and Download

Many students plod through schooling as passive learners and
they rarely learn to take control of their own cognition.  In contrast, others learn to be active
participants in the learning process and develop metacognitive skills.  Metacognition is the awareness of one’s
own cognition or thought process and it involves higher order thinking that enables understanding, analysis and control.  For many concrete learners, as well as
those that struggle with attentional issues, this notion can be difficult to
grasp.  However, the process can be
taught through visual aids, demonstrations, discussions, group work, and graphic
organizers.  In fact, the more
multisensory the instruction, the greater the likelihood that all your students
will master this skill. 
A Scaffolding Illustration:
The Process:
After a lesson or reading, I
like to summarize important details, main ideas, and then I make connections by
sharing my own thought processes.  I
explain to the students that I will be thinking aloud so that they can
understand how I use my brain.  Then,
I describe the concept of metacognition and I define it for my students.  To make the metacognitive process
multisensory, I integrate visual metaphors, as I find that the images and
comparisons help students to recall the meaning and the steps of
execution.  Then, through guided
instruction, I like to have students share their own thought processes.  Finally, I ask them to use this method
independently, or in small groups, at the end of future lessons.
A Specific Example:
1.   I project the attached image for all the students to see.
2.   I begin in the middle of the image and define the knowledge nuggets
or the important details highlighted in the lesson.   I explain that these are gold nuggets because they are
the most valuable details and they are the ones that we need to remember.  Then, I think aloud and fill in the knowledge
3.   I suggest that all of those knowledge nuggets can be melted
down and what results is the main golden message or the main idea of the
lesson.  It defines what the lesson
is trying to teach.  I then provide
the main golden message and write it on the lines at the top of the graphic
4.   Finally, I illustrate to the students how to make golden connections.   I call them golden connections
because attaching new information to prior knowledge is another very valuable
tool that helps memory. I might connect the lesson to a personal experience or
a prior class topic.  I often begin
these examples with, “This reminds me of…”
5.   When I’m finished, I pull away the image with my thought
processes and put the same blank illustration back up for everyone to see.  Then, I ask the students to share their
own thought processes.  I ask for
student volunteers to fill in the suggested knowledge nuggets, main golden
message, and golden connections.  With
incorrect responses, I always thank the participant for sharing his or her idea
and then I express that they are, “almost there or almost golden.”  Then, I guide them to the correct
answers with questions and hints. 
Step 5 can also be
completed in small groups that later present their ideas, or you can also print
the graphic organizer for each student to fill out individually. 
If you would like a copy of this
graphic organizer, so you too can use it for teaching metacognition, go to the
following page where you can find a copy of this blog and a free link
button.  Here, you can also get a
free copy of my Passive vs. Active Learning Assessment. 
Cheers, Erica
Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory
educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.
 She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To
learn more about her products and services, you can go to and  

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