Merry Meta-presents!

Metacognitive thinking has two benefits: it deepens learning and it increases ownership in the learning process. Why not take advantage of the holiday season to encourage your kids in their metacognitive thinking, while creating meaningful gifts at the same time?

Let’s make some Meta-presents!

Meta-presents (my word) are presents that encourage metacognitive thinking. No, this is not some “brain-game” promising to elevate your child to genius-level. Meta-presents are just good, old-fashioned analysis + plus good, old-fashioned letter writing!

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Meta stands for metacognition--the ability to think about how we think, to learn about how we learn, and to talk about how we communicate. It is thinking about our own cognitive growth, and what--and who--inspires that growth. Metacognition is not just about being thoughtful--it’s about thoughtful BE-ing!

Presents stand for...well, a gift. What better gift from budding writers than a letter!

The best presents I’ve received from students or their parents are metacognitive letters. Letters that go even deeper than the “thanks for all you do” sentiment. Meta-letters reflect that the student has taken time to really analyze their own learning.

How to get kids to give Meta-letters this holiday? Encourage them to review what they have learned in the last year, by asking:

  • What do you do better now than you did one year ago?

  • What learning task is easier now?

  • What is a learning goal you had that you have accomplished?

Review goals with your kids, reminding them of comments they made in the past. Review their writing and reading from then to now. Help students be specific about what skills are changing and why, and, presto, they are engaged in metacognitive thinking. Analyzing details makes for deeper understanding.

Ask your kids who has helped them and how? Help them identify specific strategies that were taught and utilized throughout the year. Ask them to identify specific areas of growth that have been inspired by each teacher in their lives.

For example:

  • My coach has taught me to work hard, even when I don’t feel like it, because she tells me to always push for 4 more reps.

  • My mom has taught me to be considerate of others when she makes me clear my dishes away and pick up my clutter.

  • My teacher helps me to be a better math student by making me check all my answers before turning in my papers.

Often students will tell me, “You help me be a better reader and writer.” Nice...but...that statement is only a gift to me. I am not sure if my student owns the process.

If the student says,

“You help me be a better reader and writer by helping me to coordinate my sounds” or

“By teaching me how words work, you have helped me to become a better speller” or

“You have helped me to better comprehend what I read by showing me how to annotate”

then I know the student has been doing some metacognitive work! These letters not only fill my cup, they fill my students’ brains! I know the student has thought of specific learning skills and (hopefully) the strategies that improve those skills. The student is thinking about how they think and learn, while encouraging me to reflect on how I teach. Win-win!

So this holiday, encourage your kids to write metacognitive letters to the mentors/teachers in their lives--creating presents that facilitate growth for years to come!


Rita Cevasco