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Mar 5, 2019 |
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Metacognition is defined by Merriam-Webster online as, “awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes.” In other words, we know—or think about—how we learn. Metacognition drives our knowledge of ourselves and how we think about ourselves. The more we know about how we think and learn, the higher our level of educational self-confidence.

As practitioners, we are always learning—which is driven by metacognition. Teaching is a reflective process in which we evaluate lessons and use that data to inform future instruction. In turn, we foster independence in the area of metacognition with learners.

In family literacy and learning programs, educators engage students in metacognition by teaching reading strategies. Practitioners reteach and work with students to become independent readers, so they can become fluent and develop a deeper understanding of text. Using their own background knowledge—and strategies implemented by themselves or at the suggestion of others—students construct meaning from words on a page.

Practitioners can create an equitable learning environment for their most at-risk students by fostering two-generation learning. This approach equips parents to open doors for their children and give them experiences and tools to construct meaning from text. When we bring parents and children together for instructional opportunities, we begin to level the playing field for some of our most at-risk youth. Family literacy and learning programs accomplish this through Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, which provides a perfect opportunity to foster independent and thoughtful reading.

During PACT Time®, parents have an opportunity to foster reading strategies which helps students construct meaning from written text and build reading confidence. These strategies may include:

  • Think aloud. Model stumbling across a word and taking the time to stop and construct meaning by looking up the word or using context clues.
  • Pause for reflection. When working with a full class of students, it can be helpful to only distribute a portion of the text at a time when explicitly teaching this skill. Parents can cover a segment of the text with a piece of paper.
  • Crafting inner monologue. Practitioners can craft guiding questions to prompt students to think about a text more critically. For some learners, it may be helpful to have the questions in the margins. Students can also learn to annotate, or ‘talk to the text’, using this method. Parents can help by asking children questions about what they’re learning from and about the text.

With a two-generation approach, parents are introduced to strategies and techniques to help their children better understand text.

Metacognition isn’t just for students. Parents and educators can also benefit from thinking about learning—their own learning as well as the learning of their children and students. Most practitioners naturally reflect and adjust based on input from their students—such as a puzzled expression, fidgeting, or asking for help. Educators need to empower parents and with two-generation learning they have the opportunity to give parents tools—not only to model reading strategies at home, but to be an advocate for their child’s education.


It takes a village to raise—and educate—a child. What are some of your metacognition strategies for students? Parents?

To learn more about Family Engagement, visit NCFL’s website


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota Family Learning Program

Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University