Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Recalling your own Metacognition

By on January 20, 2009

I’ve been working on metacognitive lessons with my middle schoolers in an attempt to teach reflection and the act of thinking about thinking.  Anyway, one of the most important elements in teaching about thinking is in your own remembering of certain “Eureka!” moments.

For instance, I remember sitting in Mrs. Douglas’s 2nd grade (that is, 2nd grade the first time around – I repeated it when I changed schools the next year) and having a lightbulb go off over my head about the use of periods.

Up until then, I had put periods at the ends of my lines.  But I remember sitting there looking at my primary ruled paper and thinking, “but my thought wraps around to the next line.”  I recall scratching out the period at the end of the line and pushing past the magnetic feeling of resistance that comes from habit.  Then I bravely took a breath and put the period after the first two words on the next line.  (Because, after all, submitting to a bad habit is not the brave thing to do.  Resisting despite habit is what’s hard.)  I remember sitting up and looking at my paper in disbelief.  So this was what doing it right felt like!

Another lightbulb moment I remember was in middle school.  It was then that I discovered adjectives.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard about these mythical parts of speech prior to 7th grade, it was just then when I realized the meaning behind the wall of words “adjectivesmodifythenoun.”  Until then, I could fill out a worksheet, I could identify them in sentences, but I couldn’t organically use them in my own writing.

I was in 7th grade when Mr. Canon (the unfortunate mild-mannered teacher who had me, the loud, note-passing, comic book reading, 12 year-old girl) assigned an essay on ballooning.  To this day, I don’t know how it connected to the curriculum, but as I was writing the paper at home I remember that my words didn’t read like the image in my head.  I remember being frustrated.  I remember thinking the assignment was stupid.

And then…it hit me.  Adjectives.  I put in the word “yellow” to describe one of the stripes on my balloon. Then I changed it to “gold.”  Then I added “bright” to describe the sun.  Then I said that the country below the balloon looked “like a quilt.”  Wow?  Had I actually added a simile?  Anyway, I went on and put my own spin on the ballooning essay to make it mine.  In the end, I think it had involved Zeus, a mermaid, and a quest for a movie ticket.  It came back with a grade and a comment:

A – too many adjectives

Nevertheless, I remember thinking that much like I do when I’m trying to wrap a present and the paper won’t obey where I want it to fold.  I remind myself that it’s just paper and I can show it who’s boss.  I can be in control of my own essays, my own work, and my level of engagement.  If I wanted to take a boring assignment and make it boring, I could.  Or, I could make it my own.  It almost felt rebellious.

Do you remember any of your own eureka moments?

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  1. Hannah
    January 30, 2009

    I think this was in 5th grade… Growing up in Canada we had our obligatory daily French class. After saying “Bonjour,” our teacher (whose name escapes me) would say something I heard only as “Owzhurdweesaymardy, yehrsetayloondy…” It took me ages — but I remember having the realization — that she was saying “Aujourd’hui c’est mardi, hier c’etait lundi…” [Today is Tuesday, yesterday was Monday]; I had finally made the connection between the string of phonemes I was hearing, and the words I had perhaps seen written out but never knew how to pronounce.

  2. heather
    January 30, 2009

    Hey Hannah!
    That’s so funny. Yes, I too have memories of converting sounds to meanings. Especially in the Language Arts department, sometimes it felt like overused definitions of parts of speech always got lost on me. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel that I should know what “modify” meant, but if it was used in 2nd grade without definition, then it was only sounds. Thanks for your comment.
    aka Tweenteacher

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