Make the Invisible, Visible

When we work with students, we help them "see" the thinking process. So, we use manipulatives to represent thinking—often in bits & pieces of writing. The struggling reader is on cognitive overload while reading, so comprehending and interpreting text suffers. When we work together, we can help share the student's cognitive load. When we write together, the paper shares the cognitive load! This is one reason that annotation is so critical to comprehension for all learners!

All students—struggling or strong—need time and practice to engage in interpretive thinking and notice the underlying meaning within our complex written language system. They need learning to be both "visible and enjoyable," so they become "meta-thinkers!"

"Meta" refers to our brains' ability to think about how we think, learn about how we learn, talk about and build concepts around our language system. This ability is called "metacognition." Invisible thinking is made visible when we get our thinking on paper!

Therefore, we manipulate the meta!

We get kids to not only talk about what they think, but to write about what they think, so they can stand back and analyze what they are learning! Seeing their thoughts on paper leads to even deeper analysis. The more analysis, the more engagement and learning. The more engagement and learning, the more students think about how they think.  

blue and pink post it notes in shape of plot arc with plot arc elements written on them


My student used our plot arc strategy from Annotating Literary Elements to engage in meta-comprehension: understanding plot, characters, implied messages and themes, nuances of the story, and which details mattered most. She created this huge visual to aid her understanding and memory for her AR test. She created the arc on her wall at home, then brought it to me on a poster board. She was full of smiles as she proudly reported that for the first time, she got a 100% on her AR test!

That is a giant WOO and a giant HOO!

Meta is invisible, so we make it visible. That is why all our strategies and products are hands-on, engaging, and manipulative. All ages and all stages benefit from this approach. Our bugs can be modified for older students, using sticky notes or other shapes. But don't think older students don't need to make the invisible, visible. They absolutely do need and benefit from these strategies!

Even as an adult, I want to see pictures and examples to gain understanding. My guess is (and research supports) that I am not alone!

~ Rita

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