Metacognition: Why are we doing this???

“Why are we doing this???” “Why do we have to stand up?” “Can’t you just play the movie the whole way through?” “Why aren’t there any desks in here?” “Do we have to read today?”

Ew. These questions deflate me. They taint the class community. To put it in the words of Faith Laux at iFLT last year, they are a tiny dropper of piss in the soup that we have been slaving over.

So, instead of getting pissed off and pissed on, I have learned to preempt these questions.


I have learned to use repetition and patience to teach them HOW we learn a language, which just happens to be THE SAME WAY we teach them the language itself.

Here’s how it looks:

  1. Continually repeat your version of the mantra: “We learn languages through understanding messages in the language.” (Acquisition learning hypothesis)
  2. Pop-up grammar Share a TINY bit of SLA research in student-friendly language:
    • “I want you to hear the words so many times that they just fall out of your mouth.” (Input hypothesis)
    • “Research shows you learn best when your stress level is low / when we have a supportive community.” (Affective filter)
    • “You pick up words 10 times faster when reading than when studying vocabulary.” (Krashen)
    • “Neurotransmitters help you focus. Movement resets your amygdala and brings fresh neurotransmitters.” (Neurologist Dr. Judy Willis)
  3. Repeat these SO MANY times, that students start parroting these responses. Create an allied front of students that can explain WHY we are doing this. Ask them to.
  4. Allow students time to digest some of this research themselves.
    • Mike Peto creates bookmarks with Reading research on them
    • Bryce Hedstrom displays his reading quotes and discusses them with his class.
    • Bryce also listens to Tea with BVP podcast with his students.
    • With the idea from Connie Navarro, my students completed group posters to answer the questions: Why do we do Movietalk? Why do we do stories? Why do we read? Why do we do brain breaks? Why do we listen to music? The students completed a gallery walk to read each other’s posters. When finished, I hung the best ones in class. Before every Movietalk, I point to the Movietalk poster and ask 3 students to explain WHY we are doing it.

Here are two of the posters:



Here are a couple more posters that I will be hanging in my room to start the year.

Feel free to borrow and adapt
why brain breaks doc
why brain breaks pdf



why deskless doc
why deskless pdf

IMG_1847 (1)

The final goal is that students not only know the language, but they know how to advocate for their language learning experience, and feel confident that they can continue learning it.

And when they ask “WHY ARE WE ___?” You just calmly turn to your class (and maybe point to your poster) and say “Hmm.. why ARE we doing this?”


4 thoughts on “Metacognition: Why are we doing this???

  1. “Repeat these SO MANY times, that students start parroting these responses. Create an allied front of students that can explain WHY we are doing this.” Yes! This is exactly what I did with my pleasure reading program, by October they were quoting Krashen for me. Great timing, I am going to be telling people about this post all summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Lauren, great post! Thanks for putting it together to share. It does work! I love how during a Parent Teacher conference (with most Ss) I can turn to the S and ask them to tell their parents what we do in class and why it works. I’m going to tweak my usual metacognition routine with some of your additions (the “supportive community” to what I say @ the affective filter & Dr Judy Willis’ quote) plus the posters! (Teacher trick…grab any of the extra “free desk calendars” that the armed services, et al drops off to the guidance secretary in the fall after those who want to use them as a calendar have taken some. Then use the backside to make posters, use as large storyboards, etc. Our guidance secretary knows I’ll take the extras off her hands.)


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