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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, 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

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

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 guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

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®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

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, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

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.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website