Thinking about reading

Metacognition is defined by Merriam-Webster online as, “awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes.” In other words, we know—or think about—how we learn. Metacognition drives our knowledge of ourselves and how we think about ourselves. The more we know about how we think and learn, the higher our level of educational self-confidence.

As practitioners, we are always learning—which is driven by metacognition. Teaching is a reflective process in which we evaluate lessons and use that data to inform future instruction. In turn, we foster independence in the area of metacognition with learners.

In family literacy and learning programs, educators engage students in metacognition by teaching reading strategies. Practitioners reteach and work with students to become independent readers, so they can become fluent and develop a deeper understanding of text. Using their own background knowledge—and strategies implemented by themselves or at the suggestion of others—students construct meaning from words on a page.

Practitioners can create an equitable learning environment for their most at-risk students by fostering two-generation learning. This approach equips parents to open doors for their children and give them experiences and tools to construct meaning from text. When we bring parents and children together for instructional opportunities, we begin to level the playing field for some of our most at-risk youth. Family literacy and learning programs accomplish this through Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, which provides a perfect opportunity to foster independent and thoughtful reading.

During PACT Time®, parents have an opportunity to foster reading strategies which helps students construct meaning from written text and build reading confidence. These strategies may include:

  • Think aloud. Model stumbling across a word and taking the time to stop and construct meaning by looking up the word or using context clues.
  • Pause for reflection. When working with a full class of students, it can be helpful to only distribute a portion of the text at a time when explicitly teaching this skill. Parents can cover a segment of the text with a piece of paper.
  • Crafting inner monologue. Practitioners can craft guiding questions to prompt students to think about a text more critically. For some learners, it may be helpful to have the questions in the margins. Students can also learn to annotate, or ‘talk to the text’, using this method. Parents can help by asking children questions about what they’re learning from and about the text.

With a two-generation approach, parents are introduced to strategies and techniques to help their children better understand text.

Metacognition isn’t just for students. Parents and educators can also benefit from thinking about learning—their own learning as well as the learning of their children and students. Most practitioners naturally reflect and adjust based on input from their students—such as a puzzled expression, fidgeting, or asking for help. Educators need to empower parents and with two-generation learning they have the opportunity to give parents tools—not only to model reading strategies at home, but to be an advocate for their child’s education.


It takes a village to raise—and educate—a child. What are some of your metacognition strategies for students? Parents?

To learn more about Family Engagement, visit NCFL’s website