Monday, September 15, 2008

Metacognition for tiny tots

Margart Wente, in the Globe and Mail on Sept 12, explains that some poor unnamed Ontario teacher has been having lots of success with phonics, "but her approach is no longer acceptable." Instead, Wente claims, teachers must fill the time teaching students metacognition (both the practice and the term). She blames it all on the Ministry of Ed, which is "dominated by progressive educators who regard it as a crime to teach children how to read the traditional way, through scripted phonics programs."


As far as I know, students in grade one are still encouraged to solve unknown words using "graphophonic (phonological and graphic) cues (e.g.,blending and segmenting of individual sounds in words; visual features of words such as shape and orientation; sound-letter relationships for initial,final,and medial sounds; onset and rime; common spelling patterns; words within words).” In other words, phonics. The wording is straight from the Ontario Language Curriculum for grade one, section 3: Reading with Fluency.

Reflecting on reading skills and strategies is section 4, and here you'll find metacognition. Teacher prompts are: "What do you do to get ready to read a new text?” “What do you do if your reading doesn’t make sense to you?” “When you come to a word you don’t know, what do you do?” “What strategies help you the most when you are reading?” Notice that the terms 'schema' and 'inference' are not suggested, despite claims to the contrary in Wente's article.

I can't speak for the schools she mentions, but certainly where my kids go to school, phonics is very much taught. And from what I can tell, they're just following the curriculum. Perhaps Ms Wente should have a look at it.


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