Monday, September 04, 2006


My new word for the day: metacognition. That is, if it is a word, as I don’t find it in my Webster’s Dictionary. I got this out of our county newspaper this week. A well-meaning teacher wrote about how to teach children to read. In a quarter page article, she at length described metacognition as the key to teaching children to read. That is, children must be taught to think about one's reading while reading. During and after reading, teachers will get the kids to work through the process of reading by letting them ask questions and by modeling how to ask questions. Even the thought of sitting through this makes my eyes glaze over.

Contrast this with David Albert in Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery: A Journey of Original Seeking in which he writes:

“Let me let you in on a dirty little secret. All children, in a literate culture, learn to read. “

With the exceptions of children with developmental or learning disabilities, children in abusive situations or children in literature poor environments, all children will learn to read. Granted, they will learn at different ages, in different ways and for different reasons. Some children learn early, pleasing their parents with their genius. Others, at age ten, barely read and worry the adults around them until one day, they pick up high school level material that interests them and off they go!

How do I personally know this? William asked the other day for a "maz-a-gine" with just words to read while he ate his lunch. (At age four, he knows a few letters, and definitely cannot read in the traditional sense of the word.) He asked me to give him one without pictures. I tried a Highlights Magazine. No, it had drawings in it. Smithsonian? It has only a few photos. No, he wanted one that had just words.

I had to laugh. He’s seen his sisters sit and read as they ate their lunches, and was imitating them, looking at words that as yet had no meaning. But surrounded by books and maz-a-gines, he knows reading is a desirable and valued activity, even if he can only imitate it.

I am often asked how I got my girls to be such avid readers. I remember being laughed at for reading to Lauren while she was still so young that she could not sit up. And as they got older, anytime they wanted lap time, we read and read and read. I took crates of books from the library, which we visited weekly. They saw me read, they saw their dad read.

As David Albert says:

“Children cannot be taught to read; at best, we make it possible for them to learn to read (and that’s probably being charitable)”


“We do not have to train children to learn, or even account for their learning; all we have to do is avoid interfering with it.”

Links: Metacognition, What does thinking have to do with reading?, and finally, how to totally take the joy out of reading

1 comment:

Tina said...

For fourteen years, I was an elementary teacher. My students successfully learned to read, at different paces, but they learned to read. About three years after I started teaching, another teacher was hired. She was supposed to be very smart because she had a PhD, and the rest of us JUST had our Master's degrees. She was a proponent of "metacognition", not just for reading, but in all areas. She tried to teach fellow teachers, students, and parents to "think about thinking". What a mess!! It has been many years later, and I STILL don't get the point! I am no longer teaching, but home schooling. She is no longer teaching elementary students, but college students. I wonder....are they "thinking about thinking", or are they "doing"? Just a thought!! :)


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