Exploring with my students how they think is always a focus in my speech room. Children with language processing difficulties especially benefit. Most are usually not metacognitive about their own unique thinking, but that’s where SLPs come in. Providing opportunities for students to practice and develop an awareness of their thinking opens a channel for communication. Building metacognition provides a foundation for academic skills, especially reading comprehension.
MacGregor (2007) recommends teaching this concept through play activities. “The Reading Salad” is a concrete experience that helps students understand that reading is an active process.
First, explain to students that you are going to switch roles: they will be the SLP(s) and you the student. Ask them to put on their SLP face–it’s funny to watch their interpretation of your face! Tell them you are going to read, then read a few paragraphs of a prechosen text. When finished, ask for their opinions; they will probably say “good”.
Next, tell them when you were reading you weren’t doing something that all readers should do–you weren’t thinking. Tovani (2000) call this “fake” reading. I like to ask students if they’ve ever done “fake” reading and many admit that they have! One of my middle school students laughed and said “I do that all the time!”
Then it’s time to model “real” reading. I compare real reading to a tossed salad. Showing the bowls, I explain that just like a tossed salad might be a mixture of lettuce and tomatoes, a real reading salad is a mixture of text and thinking. In one bowl are red squares labeled “text”, in the other green squares labeled “thinking”.
I show students how real reading works: when I point to my head they put a green square in the big salad bowl, when I point to the text a red square goes in. It goes something like this:
Pointing to the cover and reading: “Arctic Animals” (student puts a red square in the bowl)
Pointing to my head: “I’m thinking that we talked about the Arctic in science. I remember the Arctic is around the North Pole. I love learning about animals.” (student puts a green square in the bowl)
Pointing to the text and reading: Polar bears are the largest member of the bear family. Full-grown adult males can weigh 1,500 pounds and stand 10 feet tall.” (student puts a red square in the bowl)
Pointing to my head: ” Wow, this ceiling is probably about 10 feet high. And I weigh 150 pounds. That would be like 10 of me! That’s huge!” (student puts a green square in the bowl)
My next step is have students demonstrate the strategy by reading and thinking aloud. During sessions I display my adaptation of the Venn diagram suggested by MacGregor.
Do you work on metacognition to increase language skills with your students? What types of activities do you use?