Cognitive and metacognitive knowledge about writing of kindergarten children in a whole language environment

Nancy Rummel Steinberg, Fordham University


The purpose of this descriptive study was to investigate the cognitive and metacognitive knowledge about writing of kindergarten children in a whole language environment. A Knowledge About Writing interview, think aloud protocols, and retrospective reports were utilized to elicit verbalizations indicating accessible, concurrent, and retrospective metacognitive knowledge about writing. The subjects were twenty children in the researcher's kindergarten class in a small, suburban city. Eight children displaying the most verbalization during the Knowledge About Writing interviews were chosen to take part in the think aloud protocols and retrospective reports. The data from the interviews, protocols, and reports were analyzed to generate categories and subcategories of metacognitive knowledge about writing. This study found that these kindergarten children demonstrated procedural metacognitive knowledge about generating text and spelling and sounding out of words. They were able to describe and explain the processes and strategies they were using. They also demonstrated declarative metacognitive knowledge about writing through their statements about what they and others write. Many had knowledge about conventions of print and were able to give reasons for what they were doing. There was little evidence of conditional metacognitive knowledge of planning or predicting although cognitive level statements about planning and predicting did occur. The children demonstrated conditional metacognitive knowledge of evaluating in their judgements about the success or failure and the quality of their work. Conclusions drawn from this study indicate that metacognitive awareness about writing grows in young children along with the development of other concepts. Kindergarten writers devote most of their attention to procedures for writing and are able to verbalize those procedures and explain why they are being used. Interview and think aloud techniques provided a scaffold for constructing metacognitive verbalizations for these young children. This study highlighted the importance of metacognition in beginning writing. It demonstrated kindergarten children's ability to recognize and reveal their awareness of the processes and strategies they use when they write. The whole language environment in which this study was conducted contributed to their ability to do this by providing a supportive atmosphere where exploration of and discussion about written language was encouraged.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Preschool education|Elementary education|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Steinberg, Nancy Rummel, "Cognitive and metacognitive knowledge about writing of kindergarten children in a whole language environment" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9136338.