Teaching Metacognitive Talk in the Classroom

Three young students working at a table below a sign that says "KINDNESS"

Students are often told, “Complete the assignment independently and quietly,” or “Be quiet. Your peers are trying to focus.”

Encouraging students to think in their heads and work quietly can suggest an air of academic and behavioral success. It also raises a question: Does this silent way of thinking benefit student learning?

Thinking Out Loud

Metacognitive talk is a concept that encourages students to think aloud as they work through their ideas. When students work through the steps of a task out loud, they gain a deeper understanding of their thinking processes.

For students to learn this method of deeper thinking, it is essential to see people modeling the behavior. In the classroom, teachers can show metacognitive talk in action by verbally breaking down a problem into smaller steps.

Asking questions is a vital aspect of metacognitive talk. When teachers model and then explicitly teach how to ask questions and what questions to ask, students can build a “question toolkit” to aid their metacognitive understanding.

Questions to Promote Metacognition

Some questions that could be used are:

  • What previous knowledge do I have on this topic?
  • What am I trying to find out?
  • What do I need to do first?
  • Who could I ask for help?
  • What strategies can I use? (Think about the EF toolkit)
  • What can I do differently next time?

While a classroom full of students talking and exploring their ideas could be perceived as raucous to an outsider, I challenge you to rethink this perception and look closer at the possibilities of creative collaboration and metacognitive talk.

  • Julia Ronkin, SMARTS Student Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org



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