By Rashieda D. Gantt, Adjunct Faculty
Learning literacy involves the teaching of metacognition. The process is accomplished/achieved in the minds of thinkers through written or spoken information dispensation.
My student, shockingly, reflected on a mistake he made. Feeling great regret, he synthesized his experiences with information from society about behavioral standards and drew the conclusion, “I am a bad person!” I was on my way out the door. It was 5:00 pm, an hour and 20 minutes beyond dismissal, rushing, to arrive home at 5:30 pm, just so that I can barely deliver my son to football practice by 6:00 pm. Nevertheless, the student’s thinking halted me and I had to pause for a “mental activity.” Ritchart, Church, & Morrison, insists that “If we believe that learning is a product of thinking then we need to be clear about what it is we are trying to support. What kinds of mental activity are we trying to encourage in our students, colleagues, and friends?” A sense of urgency came over me and I had to take a moment to address the thinking of my student.
I told my student that he was not a bad person but if he did it again, then he was a bad person. We simultaneously chuckled. Aristotle said that, “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not an act but not a habit.” While reflection is an important mental activity, the conclusion that the student drew about himself was erroneous and self-deprecating. In an effort to help him shift, I made my thinking visible as I shared multiple examples of errors that I had made over time relative to what he had done. I provided a strategy for processing information that is labeled “a mistake” in order to help him reclassify where he housed and how he used that data. Moving forward, teachers must demonstrate for students how to think by making their own thinking visible and providing examples/scenarios of said thinking in action.
“If we are going to make thinking visible in our classrooms, then the first step will be for us as teachers to make various forms, dimensions, and process of thinking visible to ourselves (Ritchart, Church, & Morrison, p.5, 2011)”. Teachers must model thinking in order to transform cognition of students as they engage text (print and non-print). This is accomplished through model thinking aloud of metacognitive tasks i.e. close reading, applying reciprocal reading strategies, questioning, writing analytically and any critical thinking that requires problem solving. When teaching literacy in any content or life circumstance, the teacher must show and tell through words and actions related to their thinking through the text. Finally, teachers must avoid assuming that students innately possess the skill-set/strategies necessary to fully comprehend the various complexities of texts used in content areas.
Ritchhart, R., & Church, M. (2011). 1. In Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.