Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Metacognative Thinking in 4th Grade? Yes!

Jodi Jacobsen is a 4th grade teacher at Manson Northwest Webster. Besides that, she wears several other hats. She's on our District Leadership Team, the Elementary Assessment Team, and our Iowa Core Leadership Team. In her "spare" time she agree to write a post for my blog.

As I read it I was impressed with how succinctly she describes the importance of questioning and metacognition. I recently did a walk-through in Jodi's class and I can tell you that her blog post isn't just a description. It really happens in her classroom. The deep thinking, and collaboration that went on among the 4th graders during my visit was remarkable. It was concept-based, 21st century learning all the way.

Jodi writes:

"When you were a child, did you ever have a teacher or parent ask, "What were you thinking?" It typically had a negative connotation. I'm pretty sure that was my dad's first question when I had a fender bender at age 17. This was, of course, a legitimate question. He wanted to know what I was thinking when I took that corner too quickly. I didn't know it at the time, but maybe he was on to something. He made me think about what I had done, and why I had done it.

Now that I'm a teacher, I realize the power of that question. It is my favorite one to ask my students, and I do it often - probably to the point that they now answer it before I even ask. As we study the Iowa Core Curriculum and its Characteristics of Effective Instruction, questioning seems to be at the heart of good teaching and learning. As teachers, we strive to develop life-long learning in our students. To achieve that, we must nurture thinking - and thinking about thinking. Metacognition develops in my fourth graders when I ask them appropriate questions. I see them grow when the questions I model for them are not necessarily about what answer they want to give, but why they want to give that answer. The challenge is to pose questions that will encourage them to think more deeply than they thought possible. When faced with complex questions to ponder, students develop confidence and higher-order skills. This means teaching with flexibility and being ready for those teachable moments. I used to worry that I was getting off track when that happened. Now I realize that these moments can sometimes benefit students more than planned out lessons. I have also decided that asking myself, "What were you thinking?" is very valuable. It helps me reflect on my day-to-day teaching in a way that encourages relevancy and strategic instruction.

A positive effect of open-ended questioning with students is that they tend to pick up these habits themselves. When listening to small groups collaborate, I often hear them ask each other questions like, "How did you get that idea?" To me, that's the end goal - that students are naturally able to ask each other and themselves questions that will make them think things through before making decisions. When they are able to do that, and learn more about their own thought processes, life-long learning is sure to follow. "What do you think?" "

Twitter: JodiJteacher

Diigo username: jodijj


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