Metacognitive Teaching Framework

By Holli Forrest

Metacognition is Thinking About Thinking (Wilson & Smetana, 2009, p.20)

"When readers have the disposition to focus on their thinking while reading, they are able to use reading strategies flexibly to enhance understanding" (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007, p.27). This idea of teaching students to understand the thought processes behind reading is what sets this theory or approach apart from other types of reading instruction. When you teach knowledge, it is a short term gain. However when you teach a child how to think or how to gain more knowledge, it is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

What is the Metacognitive Teaching Framework?

"The goal of the Metacognitive Teaching Framework (MTF) is to develop students strategies to the point where they can independently apply them with ease" (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p.63). The framework is centered around five cognitive strategies: predicting, making connections, questioning, visualizing & summarizing. It is a cyclical process that involves the four following phases:
  1. Think- Alouds
  2. Refining Strategy Use
  3. Letting Strategy Use Gel
  4. Self-Assessment and Goal Setting
(Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p.5)

How does MTF work?

MTF is taught in a 90 minute reading block or 120 minute reading block integrated with Science and Social Studies with the following features:
  • Whole Group Lesson
  • Small Group Lesson
  • Literacy Centers
  • Choice Reading - R5 & Literature Circles
  • Read- Aloud
(Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p.26-27)

I have really enjoyed this approach, because it is a comprehensive approach to metacognitive strategies. It takes the think aloud and transforms it into student practice. More information about this approach can be found at

Think- Aloud

This is the part of the process where teachers show their students how a good reader thinks when they are reading by discussing the strategies while reading a story or picture book. "Think-alouds enable teachers to demonstrate for their students how to select an appropriate comprehension process at a specific point in a particular text" (Block & Israel, 2004, p.154). There is an art to a great think aloud. Teachers who do this well are focused, plan ahead, and have a great dialogue with students. MTF incorporates three phases to their think alouds. The phases may be taught in one lesson or taught in many lessons based on student understanding.

The three phases of a MFT Think Aloud are:

  1. Introducing, explaining, and defining strategy components
  2. Noticing and applying strategy components
  3. Clarifying strategy purpose
(Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p.26-27)

Some teachers use flashcards, posters, guide sheets, and bookmarks to remind students (and themselves) of the strategies. MFT promotes the whole group and individual use of a tally sheet to mark when different components of a strategy occur. You can find some of these resources and citations on my message board post. The official MFT resources are found in the appendix of their book. More information about the book is found at

The video below models and defines the think aloud strategy (Callison, 2010).

Think Aloud

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Many aspects of teaching metacognitively require a gradual release of responsibility. The goal is not to think aloud for your students all the time. The goal is to model your own thinking so that they may start thinking about how they read. The gradual release of responsibility should have five components:

  1. Teacher Modeling
  2. Guided Practice
  3. Collaborative Practice
  4. Independent Practice
  5. Application of the Strategy in Authentic Reading Situations
(Harvey & Goudvis, 2007, p.32 - 33).

In short, strategy instruction needs to go beyond modeling and reminding students of their strategies. It should be scaffolded until students are using the strategies effectively on their own.

Independent Reading

"The NRP [National Reading Panel] set off shrills of controversy in the education world when it reported the lack of research support for independent reading, thereby challenging the practice of providing classroom time for SSR [Sustained Silent Reading] and related activities" (Gambrell, Marinak, Brooker & Mc-Creas-Andrews, 2011, p. 146). As educators, we know that the more kids read then the better readers they become. Why doesn't the research show this? I believe that independent reading alone does not create good readers.

MTF uses a practice called R5 - Read and Relax, Reflect and Respond, and Rap. "The lack of response or feedback during SSR leaves some students without a purpose for reading" (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 60). I have found this to be true in my own classroom.

During R5 students will:

  1. Read and Relax (20 minutes) - students read self-selected texts while the teacher monitors book selections and confers with students.
  2. Reflect and Respond (3-5 minutes) - students think about what they read, records a response log, and notes metacognitive strategies. Teacher monitors for engagement.
  3. Rap (10 minutes) - students share with a partner for 5 minutes while the other student actively listens. Then, they switch roles. Teacher facilitates a whole-class share from what she hears in the rap sessions.
(Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 63)

Rules for R5:

  1. Books must be pre-selected
  2. No getting up during R5
  3. No talking except while conferring with teacher or rapping with partner
(Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 65)

Literature Circles

According to Kelley & Clausen-Grace (2007), MFT alternates between R5 and literature circles in the independent reading time (p.27-51). Literature circles involve independent reading in a small group. The group reads the same text, discusses the topic, and notes the strategies in the text. Literature circle materials are chosen by the students. According to Hill, Johnson & Noe, literature circles:
  • promote a love for literature and extensive reading
  • Promote positive attitudes toward reading
  • reflect a constructivist, child-centered model of literacy
  • support diversity in literature and response to texts
  • foster interaction and collaboration
  • provide choice and encourage responsibility
  • nurture reflection and self-evaluation

After literature circles are well understood, MFT introduces textbook circles into this same time block. This is when a group is given a teacher-selected book or article, and the group discusses it in the same way as the literature circle (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 54-55). This allows student to use their knowledge of the five cognitive strategies in non-fiction. One element of the textbook circle is identifying non-fiction text features through a text feature walk before reading (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 56). Students need to understand how to navigate their way through non-fiction. After identifying the purpose for reading, students need to learn how to find information in non-fiction. The picture below shows a text feature wall that helps the student to remember the text features (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2007, p. 37).


My experience of teaching fourth grade was full of strategy instruction. Every reading professional development that I attended taught the importance of students using these strategies. One reason why I chose not to include actual strategy instruction in this presentation is that I know teachers are given new ways to teach the strategies all the time. I spent hours planning and teaching ways for my students to use the cognitive strategies: predicting, making connections, questioning, visualizing & summarizing. Some of my students used them, but not all. I found it hard to monitor this as well, because after all they are doing this on their own in their head. I think that the Metacognitive Teaching Framework (MTF) does a great job of introducing the strategies, guiding students through using the strategies, and releasing the students to using them on their own. We use strategies all the time without knowing it. When our students have on-going practice, discussion, and room to experiment, they will use them on their own too. I like this approach, because it doesn't rush through teaching important concepts. Traditional teaching models often have so many tasks to complete that kids are rushed through the important stuff. I think that slowing down and really modeling, teaching, and guiding students through the reading process is a much more effective way to teach.

Goals and Plan of Action

  1. The goal is to teach strategy instruction in a way that students "get" and use independently.
  2. I will educate my grade-level team and administration on the benefit of this approach.
  3. I will incorporate think-alouds in my daily routine.
  4. I will analyze my reading block to see how I can alter the reading block to teach in a metacognitive way.
  5. Implement as much of the MFT as possible in my classroom.


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Hill, B., Johnson, N., & Noe, K. (1995). Literature Circles and Response. Norwood, MA:Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

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