METACOGNITION . You saw it in the list of behaviors of intelligent people in the last post and you may have been exposed to it through Virginia Beach City Schools Compass to 2015. You’re really not sure what it means, though. Last year I had the rare delight of sitting one-on-one with a gifted third grader who amazed me with his awareness of his own metacognition. I’m going to give you a peek into the conversation in which this young student revealed his metacognition—thinking about how he thinks…knowing how he knows—to help you better understand what it means.
He and I were talking about his work habits. He sometimes seemed to be not paying attention and he wasn’t getting his work done despite being very intelligent and capable. His teachers and I were working together to try to figure out how to keep him on task and productive. When I asked him if he could help me understand what was going on, this is what he said, verbatim.
“Your brain and your body are attached. Your brain is the controller of your body—without it your body would just be an empty shell. I am ¼ brain, ¼ thinking and 2/4 imagining. The imagine part is the biggest part of the brain. The mind is what helps you think. [When I’m working on an assignment], my body keeps doing what the brain told it to and then my mind gets lost in space (I start thinking about other things I’d rather be doing) and then my brain forgets to tell my body to stop. And then once I realize that I forgot to stop, I realize that I still have other things to do, and I’ve given myself more work and then I get frustrated. I want to focus and get it done quickly but the more work means it’s gonna take longer. When thinking takes over completely, that’s when I do very, very good work.”
I was so impressed with this student’s awareness of his thinking process and his ability to articulate it. It reminds me that we cannot assume what children are thinking and we often underestimate what they are intellectually capable of. It’s not something we talk about casually, though, and you may not even know about your own metacognition. Having gained this insight into his thinking, the student and I were able to come up with some strategies to help keep him on track which is the other part of metacognition: knowing how to get around difficulties in thinking when they arise.
Think about your own thinking and ask your child to talk about his or hers. Brainstorm ideas for what to do when challenges arise.