Stop, Pause and Think – Equipping Children with Strategies for Planning and Organisation in Approach to Tasks
By Chelsea Lauren Whalley, Teacher at Bellavista School
Each child is unique and dances to their own rhythm.
COVID-19 is a shadow that has impacted every facet of our children’s lives. The ramifications are not only evident with health, but their academic, social, and emotional well-being too. Day to day tasks of getting dressed in the morning; putting on school shoes; brushing hair and teeth; or even organising their bedroom and school bags can be difficult for some children. These children may arrive at school feeling overwhelmed, perplexed, and dysregulated, often having emotional outbursts which affects their availability for learning.
How can we effectively support children in executing these basic everyday tasks? Simply answered, by equipping children with metacognitive strategies.
What is Metacognition?
Metacognition entails the process of thinking, planning, and evaluating. It requires thinking critically and problem solving. Language is imperative to helping one to think and reason. The verbalisation of thoughts entails processing, understanding and internalising information to complete an action.
Using language, verbal reasoning develops. That is the ability to think critically about how to make decisions. It is important to mediate how to develop a conscious knowledge of strategies. By doing so, children regulate how they think and manage their own learning (Birsh & Carreker, 2008). Research suggests that direct instruction in metacognitive strategies is needed. When children are not sure of how to approach a situation using their learnt responses, metacognition should be the default.
What can you do at home?
To complete day to day tasks, children need to plan and be organised. Children do not learn how to be self-directed when tasks are done for them. To support your child at home, planning and organisation needs to be mediated. As a parent, come alongside your child and make the task accessible to them. Children need to be shown how. Together you need to establish the goal and discuss the steps to achieve the desired outcome.
To mediate thinking out loud, ask questions such as:
- How are you going to achieve your goal?
- What steps will you take?
- Can you think of alternative ways of achieving your goal?
To help children develop independence, routines need to be flexible, yet consistent. For younger children, you can document the steps by using the visual map of photographs. A visual map of photographs are pictures of the child completing the steps of a task. By having photographs of the child, it personalises and makes the steps easier for them to recall.
The visual map of photographs must be easily accessible and referred to, placed in a central position in the home. Children will learn the routines, without relying on you as a parent for guidance and input. For older children, you can provide a written checklist.
As a parent, it is imperative to work alongside your child. Equip them with strategies for planning and organisation. Model and ask questions to help develop metalanguage, of thinking about their thinking, in their approach to tasks.
If your child is feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated, help regulate them by doing breathing exercises, a walk around the garden, or a quiet moment of retreat in a relaxed space. Do not succumb to doing the task for them. Stop. Pause. Try again. Remember to help your child to plan, create consistency and routine. Developing metacognition is a journey that can start, as well as be reinforced at home.
For more information, visit www.bellavista.org.za