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Metacognition Helps Build Self Regulation and Executive Functioning Skills

Metacognition is thinking about thinking, knowing “what we know” and “what we don’t know.”  This means students take time to think about what needs to be done and how to do it. These students understand how the mind works and use this knowledge to help them. They take control over their learning process.

Building Metacognition skills can help build Self-Regulation skills by helping the student focus well. Building Self-Regulation skills can then help build Executive Functioning skills, which will allow the student to plan and organize better.

Gaskins & Pressley’s chapter in Executive Function in Education, 2007 presents a curriculum that teaches metacognitive skills. They describe how a child with strong metacognitive skills approaches a task. Metacognitive Learners:

  1. Continually assess what they know.

  2. As they read, write and problem-solve they:

  3. Predict

  4. Question

  5. Create images

  6. Clarify

  7. Summarize

  8. They are persistent; if the first strategy doesn’t work they try something else.

  9. Have concrete strategies for approaching tasks.

  10. Know success is the result of smart effort not just working hard.

Creating a mantra that children can memorize and use when they approach a task is very helpful to building metacognitive skills. Here are 4 steps to help teach metacognition skills:

  1.  STOP

  2. THINK: What am I supposed to do? Create a plan.

  3. DO: How do I do it? Follow the plan.

  4. CHECK: Did I do it? Check the plan.

Once they have memorized and begun using the mantra. Children will be asking themselves questions and talking themselves through tasks, thereby using metacognition strategies to help build executive functioning skills and behavior regulation skills.

Here are some examples of extended questions children can begin to ask themselves.

First, STOP!

Then, THINK. Make a plan before I start the task: When I am beginning a task, ask myself:

  1. Why am I doing this?

  2. Do I already know something that will help me?

  3. What will the finished product look like?

  4. What is my first step?

  5. How much time do I have?

Next DO. During the task:  When I am monitoring the plan of action, ask myself:

  1. How am I doing?

  2. Am I following the directions?

  3. What do I need to do next?

  4. Does this match what I planned?

  5. Am I getting enough done in the time I am spending?

  6. Is there something I don’t understand?

  7. Do I need to ask for help?

Finally, CHECK. After the task: When I am evaluating the plan of action, ask myself:

  1. Did the product match the picture I had for it?

  2. Is this better or worse than I expected?

  3. What could I have done differently?

  4. Is there anything missing?

Metacognitive strategies teach you to be aware of your thoughts and control them. Building behavioral regulation skills and executive functioning skills, will in turn, activate the frontal lobe where attention and focus are monitored. Brain research has shown that activating pathways in the brain builds synapses. By encouraging the student to use the frontal lobe to monitor process we are developing the pathways that will allow the child to gain control over the learning process and attend better to tasks.

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