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.]|