Boosting Reading Metacognition!

Oh, you guys. This year. It has been such a roller coaster for me.

I have two little babies at home, and I have been battling the feeling of hating my job because I hate leaving them all year. 

I mmeeaaaannnn...LOOK at those sweet faces. Could you leave them?? I cry approximately 3 times a week. 

Anyways, I


love coaching (when I get to do it). My job is technically supposed to be 50% coaching teachers and 50% intervening with tier III students, but the reality of it usually is that I end up with students most of the time, because coaching needs only arise so often, and urgent intervention is important. But what has happened (and what I understand happens to many coaches in our area), is that your tier III caseload gets really big because people who make these decisions for you don't see you working with teachers every day and think you have tons of time...and then a teacher needs you, and you have no time in your day to help them. :( 

I view coaching as having a much bigger reach than just tier III. Yes, I am directly working with a student during that time, but if I can help a teacher with an instructional routine or a classroom management issue, then I have just impacted 20+ students at one time! But, my opinion is only that. Using coaches as interventionists prevails. 

Sooo, I've just felt over it. And then as a part of my job yesterday I got to observe teachers in a different school, and now my passion is re-ignited. I need to start thinking more creatively about how I can work with teachers around my crazy RTI schedule, because some of the things I saw yesterday could really help them!

I got to talking with one coach about metacognition instruction. Getting students to


what words they don't know, or that they read a paragraph and didn't understand any of it is truly half the battle in reading comprehension. You can teach about skills until you're blue in the face, but if your kiddos aren't thinking about what they're thinking, you'll be spinning your wheels trying to figure out why they can't answer simple comprehension questions.

If you have these kiddos in your room, and you're identifying that they aren't thinking about the words they are reading, there are things you can do!

The top strategy in my playbook is to chunk the text up (sometimes in really small increments), and get the students to respond to just small parts of it at a time. Get them to write their thoughts on every other page, each page, each paragraph...whatever they need! 

Have them read a sentence or two and highlight (or write on a sticky note) any word that is unfamiliar to them.

Find ways to guide them through examining little parts of the text and noticing what they think about it. Then scaffold them up to bigger chunks over time. 

***Let me pause right here and say that if your kiddos are struggling to actually


many of the words, that is not a comprehension issue. Sometimes we as teachers have it in our heads that a student is a certain level, and we let them struggle in a reading group for far too long. Level them down, and focus on the word parts they are struggling with. You aren't getting anywhere with comprehension if the student is stuck on the decoding. That is way too much for one brain to do!!

Let me also say that metacognitive work does not always have to be written. I had a student last year whose metacognition was really weak. She could decode, her fluency was ok, but she wasn't comprehending a word of anything. She was a bit of a dreamer, and took any chance that I wasn't looking right at her to start doodling on her paper. She was a fantastic artist, but I was always frustrated with her for being distracted from the task at hand. 

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but it took until MARCH before I connected the dots and said, "Girl, just read this one sentence and draw a quick picture of what you read". That worked immediately! If she could sketch it out really quickly, she could verbalize what the sentence was about. I worked every day for the rest of the year on building her up to bigger and bigger sections of the text, and I was just starting to wean her off of having to use sketches at all before sending her off to 3rd. 

Sometimes the strategies our students need will surprise us. :) 

OK, I have rambled on and on long enough. If you're still reading, I have a Thanksgiving-themed metacognition activity to get your students thinking about their own comprehension! 

This fun activity will get your students interacting with the text

Thank You, Sarah

by Laurie Halse Anderson. 

It includes...

*A teacher guide that explains which discussion questions go with which pages of the book

*Think, Pair, & Share slides to cue students

*Rigorous discussion questions that pair with the text

*A thought tracker that gets your students to stop and jot on certain pages

*Talking Stems anchor chart for the "Share" part of the activity

*Pair-Share behavior expectations chart

*Writing extension activity

It is a great way to celebrate the holiday, learn a little less-popular history about Thanksgiving, soak in some girl power (because Sarah was an awesome lady), and ensure that your students are working hard and growing! 

You can grab this activity in my



Happy Thanksgiving!

Stephanie Sutherland