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Questioning Topics


Vanessa Avis

Kathi Crittenden

Deborah Louie



... Knowing what kind of strategies to use or actions one

must take to construct meaning from text, and when to use

these strategies to achieve different goals of reading are

metacognitive activities(Stewart & Tei, 1983).




Instructional Strategies that Promote Metacognition



External Links








Metacognition refers to the awareness of and conscious control over particular skills (Stewart & Tei, 1983). It is thinking about the reading process while simultaneously engaging in the act of reading. Metacognition has been defined by Baker and Brown (1984) as “Children’s conscious awareness of their thinking” (Tompkins, 2003).


Metacognitive strategies such as predicting, visualizing, organizing, activating prior knowledge, and self-questioning are monitoring skills that allow students a variety of ways to solve problems they encounter while reading. These skills help students make meaning from what is being read and help them to monitor their own understanding. While these strategies must initially be explicitly taught to students, the ultimate goal is for students to regulate their use of these strategies independently, shifting the locus of control from teacher to student. (Tompkins, 2003; Yopp -Nolte & Singer, 1985).


In reading, metacognition has three essential components; self-knowledge, task knowledge, and self-monitoring. Metacognitive ability develops over time and is associated with the child’s age and reading experiences. The process of becoming literate involves the awareness of oneself as a reader, along with an understanding of the strategies available that help solve problems that are encountered before, during, and after reading. (Vacca, J., Vacca, R., Gove, M., Burkey, L., Lenhart, L., & Mckeon, C., 2006)



Component of metacognitionCharacteristicsQuestions
Self knowledgeReader's awarness of self in relation to texts and tasksDo I understand my role as a reader?Do I know my strengths as a reader? Do I know that some texts are more difficult than others and may require I make adjustments in my reading
Task knowledgeReader's awareness of strategy useDo I have any prior knowledge about this topic? Do I have a purpose or plan for reading? Do I understand the task I have been assigned?
Self MonitoringReader’s ability to track comprehensionIs what I have read making sense? What do I need to do to fix a reading error that has disrupted meaning?




Instructional Strategies that Promote Metacognition




Instructions can be viewed as a series of steps which result in a given goal. To understand instructions fully, one needs to understand how from an initial state the actions to be executed will successively transform the resulting states until the goal is reached. A person who mentally computes these successive transformations is engaging in a type of constructive processing. A person who simply listens to the instructions without mentally applying them is processing the information at a more supervicial level. An implication of this view is that when people take a passive approach to comprehension they may be unaware of their own failure to understand the information. (Markham, E, 1977) One of the ways to help children learn to understand and monitor their own cognitive abilities is through the teaching of self-questioning. The teacher models a technique called think-alouds by using an overhead and a passage from a story. The students learn to monitor their own thinking and understanding by observing this technique. Another self-questioning strategy that can be utilized is through cognitive modeling as related to learning a new skill. This technique helps train the child to use self-instructions to control his non-verbal behavior. The teacher would display 1) problem definition (“what is it I have to do?”); 2) focusing attention and response guidance (“carefully….draw the line down”); 3) self-reinforcement (“good, I’m doing fine”); and 4) self-evaluative coping skills and error-correcting options (“that’s ok, even if I make an error, I can go on slowly”). (Meichenbaum, D, 1979)




One of the best instructional strategies to help improve metacognitive ability in students is through the use of a K-W-L chart. As the teacher demonstrates and guides the students into deeper questioning about a subject that is being taught by using this chart, the students are predicting what it is that they want to know and after the subject has been taught, reflecting as to whether or not this has occurred.


Another highly effective strategy is context instruction which helps the student develop independent learning through questioning why and when to use context. Controlling the why and when involves awareness of both the limitations and contributions of context to word learning. The teacher would preselect words with varying degrees of contextual amplification and work through these examples with verbalization of the processes, choices, confusions and decisions about using the context to gain clues to the words’ meanings. Students must have a general idea of what kinds of clues may be provided by context. Over the course of the instructional trials, teachers and students built a list of the types of clues they found and charted them on wall charts in their own words. Finally, students must know how to look for and use these clues. The strategy developed by the group directed students to: 1) Look – before, at and after the word; 2) Reason – to connect what they know with what the author tells them; 3) Predict – a possible meaning; and 4) Resolve or re-do – decide if they know enough, should try again, or consult an expert or reference. (Blachowicz, C and Zabroske, B, 1990)




Teaching students to monitor their own understanding or lack of understanding will increase their metacognitive knowledge. Skimming a set of directions to get a rough idea of how hard they are going to be to follow or remember is a metacognitive strategy. Another is to paraphrase aloud what someone has just told you to see if she will agree that that is, in fact, just what she meant. (Flavell, J, 1979).




Cognitive strategies are invoked to make cognitive progress, metacognitive strategies to monitor it. If a student wonders (metacognitive experience) if he/she understands a chapter well enough to pass tomorrow’s exam, he/she will try to find out by asking themselves questions about it and noting how well he/she is able to answer them (metacognitive strategy, aimed at the metacognitive goal of assessing their own knowledge, and thereby, generating another metacognitive experience). (Flavell, J, 1979). The following chart demonstrates five after learning strategies and how they can be used as an aid to increase metacognitive knowledge.


After learning strategy.........helps students to
1. SkimmingLocate information
2. Using a graphic organizerStudy
3. Connect and applyClarify
4. ParaphrasingRetain new information
5. VisualizingUnderstand how the topic is relevant to their lives




Using think-alouds is an instructional practice that coincides with metacognition by teaching students to verbalize their thoughts while reading thus improving vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Teachers demonstrate the reading process by “(a) describing what the did to understand things that occurred in the books, (b) show how they knew which meanings went with which words, and (c) explain “just about everything they did in their minds to comprehend” (Block, 2004). During the think aloud process the teacher explicitly teaches the following strategies that the reader should incorporate into their reading: making predictions, developing mental images, making analogies, activating prior knowledge, using self-questioning, and finally teaching the student fix-up strategies.




Self regulation is a higher level metacognitive activity in which the students monitor their learning and progress without the aid of the teacher. Students who use self- regulation automatically slow down, ask questions, using different approaches to overcome difficulties, and find new strategies when they are not making progress. These students are actively involved in learning by setting goals and use self-evaluation or monitoring while reading (Flavell, 1987). Researchers agree that students need to analyze their own learning process which must be done in a positive, constructive way (Brown, 1988).


Mental Imagery


Mental imagery is a highly effective way of enhancing comprehension and increased reading achievement. Mental imagery requires the student to “picture” or visualize what is in the text. The content of the text comes to life as the student imagines utilizing the senses: sight, sound, physical sensations and emotions. Students draw upon past experiences and tie it into the content of the text. The reading process becomes a rich enjoyable experience that engages the reader while using all of the senses (Baer, 2005).

Teaching children visualization techniques allows them to “move beyond he commonplace into the extraordinary” (Baer, 2005). Figure 1 is an example of a students’ responses after using mental imagery while reading from The BFG (Dahl, 1982).




Figure 1

Shaunte's scene from The BFG (Dahl, 1982)

The BFG and Sophie in dreamland

Ability to Suspend Reality: "I placed myself on the ground. I placed myself here because I felt like I was looking up seeing all of these dreams flow by and I could see the hatred on the giant's face. I felt like I was a character in the book, like another girl the BFG caught."

What Was Seen: "I was seeing it in my mind and what the dream looked like and what the BFG looked like and how the dream country looked. I seen a whole bunch of white cloud-like things as the dreams floating in the air. It was real misty. And I

seen a tall, tall giant and then I seen the dreams, which is all different colors like bold colors. And then I seen the giant shoes. He just looked all weird."


"What Was Heard: "Nothing at all. 'Cause you had to be quiet or otherwise the dreams would, I guess, hear you and you wouldn't be able to catch the dreams or he couldn't hear the dreams real well 'cause he could hear you."

What Was Felt: "I felt like I was scared and I didn't know what to do and I wanted to know what would happen next. The giant was scaring me and how there could be a dream country. I felt like I was Sophie."


Strategy Use


Strategies are plans or tools used to teach students to be more skillful and strategic readers. Teaching students various strategies and how and when to use them should be part of every students learning schema. The process of how a student chooses the appropriate strategy and when to use the strategy is a metacognitive activity.




Building a student's metacognitive skills is challenging but fulfilling. The rewards to the student mean that the student has grown as a reader and is able to continue this growth academically in order to achieve future goals. The reward to the teacher is the knowledge that this student can comprehend the written text and, by doing so, achieve future goals. Through the use of different strategies that involve questioning, metacognitive ability can be enhanced and strengthened. The goal is for the reader to be competent and able to understand what he/she is reading. This ability will lead to success now and in the future which is possible and worth the effort.





Baer, A. (2005). Do You Hear Voices? A Study of the Symbolic Reading Inventory. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy,(49)3 pp. 214-225.


Blachowicz, C, Zabroske, B (1990). Context instruction: A metacognitive approach for at-risk readers. Journal of Reading , 504-08.


Brown, A. (1988) Motivation to Learn and Understand: On Taking Charge of One’s Own Learning. Cognition and Instruction. 5(4) pp. 311-321.


Buehl, D. (2001). Guided Imagery. In Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (pp. 59-61). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.


Flavell, J (1979). Metacognition and Cognitive Monitoring. American Psychologist ,34, 706-11.


Markman, E (1977). Realizing That You Don't Understand: A Preliminary Investigation. Child Development ,48, 986-92.


Meichenbaum, D (1977). Cognitive-Behavior Modification Plenum Press, New York, New York.


Oczkus, L.D. (2003). The Four Reciprocal Teaching Strategies. In Reciprocal Teaching at Work. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. pp. 13-28.


Pressley, M. (2002). Metacognition and Self-Regulated Comprehension. In A.E. Farstrup, & S. Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction. pp. 291-309.


Sanacore, J. (1984). Metacognition and the improvement of reading: Some important links. Journal of Reading ,27, 706-712.


Stewart, O., & Tei, E. (1983). Some implications of metacognition for reading instruction. Journal of Reading ,27, 36-43.


Tompkins, G.E., (2003). Literacy for the 21st Century: Teaching reading and writing in pre-kindergarten through grade 4. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.


Vacca, J.L., Vacca, R. T., Gove, M. K., Burkey, L.C., Lenhart, L.A., & Mckeon, C.A., (2006). Reading and Learning to Read. New York: Pearson.


Yopp-Nolte, R., Singer, H. (1985). Active comprehension: Teaching a process of reading comprehension and its effects on reading achievement. The Reading Teacher,39, 24-31.



External Links













Commentary by Philicia Randolph

Overall, you did a fine job on your wiki. I liked your questioning graphics and your charts within the wiki. I just found some corrections that could help your page flow better. First, in the quotation, there should be quotation marks around the quote and to fix the missing space behind the quotation mark where the author's name is supposed to appear. In the Introduction, you capitalized "Children's conscious. . ." Children's should not be capitalized and you need a page number since this appears to be a direct quote. I thought it would have been great if you could have linked more of your pages to that of your classmates. For example, you could have linked your self-monitoring page to the one found in the Reciprocal Teaching page, which would have strengthened your explanation of that point. In the self-questioning section, the first statement should be broken down and made more concisely. There was also a spelling error (superficial). I also felt that you needed a page for think-aloud, summarizing and clarifying or linked to a classmates' page (see Reciprocal Teaching page again.. Also, you needed a page for "contextual amplification" because I wasn't really sure what that was. In the clarifying section, I found an APA error with "Flavell, J, 1979" where the J should be omitted. In addition, I am not sure what is meant by "metacognitive experience" and feel that it would have been helpful if you could have created another page to explain this concept. In your second chart, you wrote "The following chart deomonstrates five after learning strategies." While I understand how concise you had to be in the table, I think that it might have been better if you had done a better job of setting up your table. For example, I think it would have been better to have introduced the particular strategies and then charted how which areas those strategies support (cognitive or metacognitive processes). In your mental imagery section, you wrote "Teaching. . . move beyond" and you forgot the "t" off of the. Finally, in your conclusion I think its important that you point out that students learn questioning techniques because those techniques actually foster and expand metacognitive abilities. In this sense, reading comprehension involves developmental processes and a deep understanding of how one perceives their own knowledge and understanding during the learning process. It also encompasses whether one is able to detect misperceptions while learning and whether one can select and utilize the appropriate strategies to fix-up or repair break-downs in one's understanding, which is, in essence, what metacognition really is. I am definitely a propronent of metacognition and believe that one cannot be a critical thinker and learner without understanding and being able to use metacognitive skills.


Commentary by Jeanice Lewis


Ladies, overall; you did a good job on this wiki. Philicia brought out some valid points about the body of the wiki. Your external links were very thoughtfully chosen. I particularly liked the last two, Special Connections and SEDL.org. I plan to bookmark the two and really use the questioning found on the SEDL site. The questioning falls in line with the Sunshine State Standards. The Special Connections website has valuable tools for any classroom teacher.


Commentary by Annette Gebhardt


Your wiki is full of a lot of useful information. You defined metacognition well and had a thorough list of strategies. I thought that the questions in your chart about the components of metacogntion were very pertinent. It is important not only to know definitions but to know the context in which they are used. I don't know if the strategy use section was necessary because you had referred to strategies from the beginning in the piece and it would be expected that the reader would either know what they were or they should have been listed at the beginning.


You mentioned The BFG but I had to look it up to realize that it was a book. I think that the title should have been underlined and listed in the Resources.


This was a great wiki and one that can be used as a resource by many teachers. Great job!!!

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