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Metacognition and Reading Comprehension

“Creating and improvising opportunities to involve students in the learning process allows students to become aware of how they learn and why certain skills benefit them. As a result, students are more motivated and more likely to apply those skills when working independently. In short, an included student becomes an invested student who is eager to learn.”

– Excerpted from Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles

By definition, metacognition refers to the higher-order thinking that enables understanding, analysis, and control of one’s cognitive processes, especially when engaged in learning (dictionary.com) or “thinking about thinking.” This important cognitive process allows students to make sense of what they are reading, determine when material does not make sense, and decide which strategies to employ to help overcome obstacles. In other words, metacognition deals with the capacity to self-monitor, self-assess, and self-evaluate in order to identify and correct any difficulties in comprehension.

Research has proven that the ability to demonstrate metacognitive thought during reading is critically important for both the beginning and the accomplished reader. In order for any student to read appropriately, whether learning to read or reading to learn, metacognition delves deeper than fluency and word recognition and focuses on the ability to assess understanding.

According to Marie Clay, a renowned educational researcher, one way to determine if students are developing the appropriate metacognitive skills is to observe their reading and answer the following questions taken from her book Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control (2015)

  • Does he try to use what he knows? 
  • Can he use [it] when…appropriate? 
  • Does he know what the task is about? Does he look? search? try to remember? 
  • Does he predict? generate? hypothesize? plan? select? check? monitor? test? change? recycle? recheck? 
  • Although the child has these sub-skills, can the child orchestrate their use to obtain the message in the text? (341) 

Additionally, Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison suggest in their book Making Thinking Visible (2011) that teachers can encourage different types of thinking as their students work with new information. They offer this “thinking” list as a starting point for structuring class discussion, activities, and assessment to encourage the following eight types of thinking: 

  1. Observing closely and describing what is there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspective
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions.
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

Explore the attachments to enhance your student’s thinking about thinking

References

Clay, M. M. (2015). Becoming literate: the construction of inner control. Auckland: Global Education Systems.

Ritchhart, Ron; Church, Mark; Morrison, Karin. (2011). Making Thinking Visible. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.

 

Explore various strategies for modeling and teaching metacognition.

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Strategies to Download

Thinking About my Reading: A metacognitive strategy you can apply when teaching your students to “think about their reading.”

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Explore this helpful graphic for explaining the role of metacognition in reading comprehension

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Let us know what you think! Email outreach@landmarkschool.org to share your thoughts and strategies.

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