So what is metacognition ?

One way to understand metacognition is to consider two different dialogues and the ways in which they differ. The following two examples are from Let’s Think! lessons. They took place in two similar Year 1 classes from two different schools. In both cases the activity is sequencing cards to make a story. In the first example, the task is to place eight cards, showing scenes from a story in which a giant loses a boot, in an order that makes sense. In the second example, the cards show someone preparing and cooking a meal.

Cherry Tree School — Spring Term

The teacher, Mrs Miller, has introduced the story cards to the children together with the idea that the cards can make a story.

Teacher We need one story using all the cards, one story. [Pupils continue working on the sequence until finally, they have agreed a story sequence. They relate the story to the teacher.]
Amy So we have to do it together. [To rest of the group …] You have to work all together. We need a plan. Teacher I want you to think for one minute of the things that made it easy for you to do this and the things that made it hard for you to do this. I’m going to come back in one minute and ask you what made it easy and what made it hard and what helped you. I’m going to come back in one minute when you’ve talked about it together. [Teacher leaves group.]
Charlie I know we can put them together, so all the pictures with a man we can put here. Andy I think your brain and the cards made it easy.
Andy Yeah and all pictures with a dog on we can put here. Sarah Yes the cards, because it’s like a jigsaw and we know how to do them.
Martha But it’s not the same as that, we can’t just make piles. Charlie The hard thing was I thought there was a ladder under there and he climbs and finds the shoe.
Teacher What do you mean, Martha, it’s not the same as what? Martha You had to look really hard.   [Teacher returns to group.]
Amy It’s not buttons, we can’t just make piles. Teacher OK, what helped you to do this?
Teacher Why do you think that? Martha We looked hard at what we were doing.
Martha ‘Cos we’ve got to make a story. Amy And our friends helped us.
Sarah I know, we could do a jigsaw. Andy And our brains.
Teacher What made you think of that, Sarah?
Sarah I do lots of jigsaws at home.
Martha I don’t get it. It’s not like a jigsaw, it hasn’t got pieces. Teacher OK, let’s pack up now.
Amy Let’s decide which piece goes first.[Pupils spend time talking about the cards and moving the cards around.]
Amy Look, we still haven’t made a story ‘cos the bed is in the kitchen.
Teacher Why haven’t you made a story?
Charlie It’s too confusing, everybody keeps moving the cards.

Elm Tree School — Spring Term
The teacher, Mrs Turner, has introduced the children to the cards and they have talked about what is on each one.

Teacher Right now I’m going to choose the person who is sitting the nicest to choose what they think is the first picture. Chloe, you choose. [Chloe takes a long time to choose a card and the rest of the group become restless. Chloe chooses ‘washing hands’.]

 

Vicky Once upon a time there was a lady sweeping her floor and then she went to wash her hands and then she put on her hat and coat to go out and put out the trash and then when she came back in she was going to make some toast, then she made a shopping list, then she bought the carrots, then she washed them and then she chopped them.
Teacher Right, Chloe thinks this one comes first. Issy, do you agree with that? Teacher Issy, can you put them in order and tell a story?
Issy No Vicky I don’t mind if she changes them.
Teacher Which one do you think should come first? [Issy also takes quite a time to choose a card. She chooses ‘putting on clothes’.] Teacher That’s very sensible; we can all put them in different orders.

[Issy changes the order and tells her story. The boys are not listening.]

Teacher Why do you think that should come first? Teacher [To Issy] Why do you think she washed her hands there, Issy?
Issy Because when you get up in the morning

you get dressed.

Issy Because she’s making carrots.
Teacher So you think she’s getting up there?

[Vicky and Leo are messing around under the table.]

Sam You should put the carrots there.
Teacher Vicky, which do you think comes first? Leo She washed her hands then she washed the carrots.
Vicky I think what Issy said. Teacher Let’s hear from Chloe. What do you think?  Why did she wash her hands? [Boys begin to mess around again.]
Teacher Why do you think that one? Chloe She touched an animal.
Vicky Because she’s my friend. Teacher How do you know she touched an animal?
Teacher But can you give a reason why you think it?

[Leo is moving the cards into a sequence while the teacher waits for a response from Vicky.]

Chloe You might get worms.
Teacher  [To Leo] Why have you put them in this order? Tell your story from this. Leo I know why she washed her hands, she’s been to the zoo.
Leo ‘Cos it’s the right order, ‘cos it goes like that every day. Teacher Is there anything in the pictures that shows why she might wash her hands?
Teacher Can you tell a story from it, please. Daniel She washes her hands before she puts the rubbish out. [The pupils continue in this way. The teacher asks each one to make a story out of the cards and picks up any inconsistencies. Towards the end of the lesson Chloe has put the cards in the following order ‘putting on clothes’, ‘washing hands’, ‘washing carrots’, ‘chopping carrots’, ‘taking out rubbish’, ‘making a shopping list’, ‘making toast’.]
Leo The lady washing up, the lady sweeping up, the lady getting ready to go out and she’s going to the supermarket for some carrots and she’s coming back and she’s chopping them up. Teacher [To the group] Are you all happy with that?
Teacher OK, thank you very much. Vicky, would you like to put them in a sensible order and tell a story? Chorus Yeah.
Vicky I agree with that order Teacher OK, let’s end there.
Teacher You don’t have to agree, you could put them in a different order.[Vicky moves the cards around.]

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Lets Think Handbook Copyright © by Alex Black. All Rights Reserved.

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