Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wildly Successful Metacognition Lesson

Today my class was featured in an article in The Edmond Sun.  The reporter discussed our growing class brain in her article.  This has prompted questions from other interested teachers, so I’ve decided to give an update. The Edmond Sun article is here: Students Give Thumbs Up for Brain-Based Teaching.  

The Beginning of the Class Brain
The Brain
Earlier this school year I was inspired by one of my BrainSMART classes to create a lesson on metacognition. I did a post about the lesson here: metacognition lesson.  In that lesson, students twisted pipe cleaners together to represent related concepts and subjects.  Next the pipe cleaners were connected to show how information connects in the brain.  It became our class brain!  Our brain has continued to grow all year.  Students love it!

The Update
Once the class brain was constructed and strategically located (see the previous article for the process), we were able to begin adding new connections.  We periodically gather around the brain to reflect on new learning and how it connects to what the students already know.  When a student proposes a new connection, I give the student three pipe cleaners to twist into an axon. I also quickly make a label for it on a small rectangle piece of paper. (Otherwise I forget…oh, the irony!) I fold piece of paper over the completed axon (pipe cleaners) and staple it. Then the new axon is attached to the appropriate connection in the brain.  As each student proposes a new connection, the process repeats itself. 

Some things I have learned:
  • ·      I connect the new axons to the brain myself.  The more complex the brain gets, the more difficult it is for 2nd graders to get into it.  Upper-grade students might not have this issue.
  • ·      I write the labels myself to help me keep track of things.
  • ·      I write the label on both sides of the small paper so it can be seen from more than one viewpoint.  That becomes very important later as the brain gets more complex!
  • ·      Hang the brain low enough where students can interact with it, in a location with no regular traffic.
The Result
The brain today.  It is difficult to see the complexity.
By using this method, we are continually reviewing things learned all year.  For example, when studying China, students made a connection from the invention of paper to an earlier lesson on Sequoyah since Sequoyah invented a writing system for the Cherokee people.  While making connections about the Erie Canal students made a connection from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi.  The length of the Mississippi had them connecting it to the Nile, Amazon, and Yellow Rivers.  They learned about the Amazon and Yellow Rivers earlier in the year, and the Nile in first grade. See the growing connections?

To add to the fun, former students of mine come by frequently to see the brain grow.  They are intrigued by the connections and beg to make their own.  

This metacognition lesson continues to be wildly successful.  This has provided a fun way to review and solidify learning all year. 

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  1. I love this lesson! Very cool representation of how learning is connected in our brains. Love the idea that the kids revisit their learning by following the connections!

  2. Love this idea - we speak to connections all the time when reading - when doing math, science, social studies...this would make the connections more visual for them. I'm willing to bet they'll keep those connections because of the class brain! Thanks for sharing.

  3. You are a genius! WOW!!!! Love how you made this so concrete and creative.

  4. What an extraordinary way to inspire a love of learning in children! You've given your students a precious gift that will take them wherever they want to go in life. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  5. Great idea! I love that this teaches kids the concept of tying new information into something they already know. This is a great study skill for them to add to their tool kit. Bravo! Have saved this link to come back to in the future.

  6. Love how the brain model shows interconnectedness and that ideas and concepts can and do relate to other ideas off topic. Great for demonstrating generalizations across topics too.

  7. I love your blog, it's given me lots of good ideas for teaching my English classes, so you have an award waiting for you at You will find the Stylish Blogger Award image on the 'About Me' page.

  8. What an awesome lesson. You are my kind of teacher! We do a lot with metacognition (thinking about thinking) at our school. I can't wait to dive deeper into your blog. I hope that I can learn more!

    Mrs. Esswein

  9. I love this lesson. Since I am such a visual person and my class is composed of mostly ELL students this will be a great way to introduce metacognition. I teach kindergarten (TEACH UP) what would you suggest would be a great starting point with my little ones. Thank you in advance for your help. Hillary

  10. Hi Hillary,
    I would start with the school because it is something they all have in common. From there you could connect to friends, family, and school content. I hope that helps!

  11. I love this lesson. I would love to incorporate this into my classroom. The brain intends to grow as it should, where is the brain located in the classroom?

  12. It is hanging from the wall at the side of the classroom. :)

  13. Absolutely amazing! I'm excited at the idea of trying it...even though I somehow have to convert it to an online experience for my struggling readers! ANY ideas or advice gladly welcomed!