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Teaching Metacognitive Skills: A Fun, Free Illustration and Download

Many students plod through schooling as passive learners and they rarely learn to take control of their own cognition.  In contrast, others learn to be active participants in the learning process and develop metacognitive skills.  Metacognition is the awareness of one’s own cognition or thought process and it involves higher order thinking that enables understanding, analysis and control.  For many concrete learners, as well as those that struggle with attentional issues, this notion can be difficult to grasp.  However, the process can be taught through visual aids, demonstrations, discussions, group work, and graphic organizers.  In fact, the more multisensory the instruction, the greater the likelihood that all your students will master this skill. 

The Process:
After a lesson or reading, I like to summarize important details, main ideas, and then I make connections by sharing my own thought processes.  I explain to the students that I will be thinking aloud so that they can understand how I use my brain.  Then, I describe the concept of metacognition and I define it for my students.  To make the metacognitive process multisensory, I integrate visual metaphors, as I find that the images and comparisons help students to recall the meaning and the steps of execution.  Then, through guided instruction, I like to have students share their own thought processes.  Finally, I ask them to use this method independently, or in small groups, at the end of future lessons.

A Specific Example:
1.   I project the attached image for all the students to see.
2.   I begin in the middle of the image and define the knowledge nuggets or the important details highlighted in the lesson.   I explain that these are gold nuggets because they are the most valuable details and they are the ones that we need to remember.  Then, I think aloud and fill in the knowledge nuggets.
3.   I suggest that all of those knowledge nuggets can be melted down and what results is the main golden message or the main idea of the lesson.  It defines what the lesson is trying to teach.  I then provide the main golden message and write it on the lines at the top of the graphic organizer.
4.   Finally, I illustrate to the students how to make golden connections.   I call them golden connections because attaching new information to prior knowledge is another very valuable tool that helps memory. I might connect the lesson to a personal experience or a prior class topic.  I often begin these examples with, “This reminds me of…”
5.   When I’m finished, I pull away the image with my thought processes and put the same blank illustration back up for everyone to see.  Then, I ask the students to share their own thought processes.  I ask for student volunteers to fill in the suggested knowledge nuggets, main golden message, and golden connections.  With incorrect responses, I always thank the participant for sharing his or her idea and then I express that they are, “almost there or almost golden.”  Then, I guide them to the correct answers with questions and hints. 

·      Step 5 can also be completed in small groups that later present their ideas, or you can also print the graphic organizer for each student to fill out individually. 

If you would like a copy of this graphic organizer, so you too can use it for teaching metacognition, go to the following page where you can find a copy of this blog and a free link button.  Here, you can also get a free copy of my Passive vs. Active Learning Assessment. Click here
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to &  

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