Metacognition and Gifted Children
Metacognition is analyzing one’s own thinking process—thinking about thinking. It is vital when learning to develop strategies for solving problems, whether they’re math problems
, learning a second language
, or social problems. It helps students make connections between different situations.
We can learn a lot about our kids by just sitting down and asking probing questions about their thinking. Some statements and questions that you might use are
- Think out loud for me.
- Tell me about the strategies you are using.
- Tell me more about that.
- What are some things you will have to think about before beginning this?
- When did you start having trouble?
- What was it that confused you?
- Is this problem like any other problem you have experienced?
- Is there another way of looking at this?
- How did you develop that idea?
I remember one time I was working with a class on some difficult math problems. After giving the students time to work individually on a problem, they still struggled. I suggested that we stop and share some of the strategies that students were using and how they were thinking about the problem. One rather quiet boy began explaining his thinking. Suddenly several others blurted out, “That will never work!!” (I didn’t think it would work either.) Instead of cutting the boy off, I told the others to be polite and hear him out. As he explained his thinking, the correct solution slowly emerged. Yes, he had approached the dilemma in an unusual way, but it had been correct. There are often many different interesting ways to approach a problem. That’s one of the things that’s exciting about all of this.
It will help your own children or students if you model your own metacognition. When beset with a task, talk out loud and state how you will approach the task. Tell if it reminds you of something you have done before, anticipate what information or tools you will need to accomplish the task, give yourself a timeline, etc.
When something isn’t working, stop and talk out loud. What might be a different strategy you could try?
Rather than focusing on judging, focus on thinking strategies. What works and what doesn’t work.
When students learn to use metacognition, they become more confident in their ability to solve new problems. They learn what to do when they don’t know what to do. By understanding how individual kids think, you may better understand their choices in the fut