top of page

Using literature to support metacognitive development in the gifted classroom

Written by: Christina Barber

My third book in the philosophy series might seem a bit unusual. Where the first two books: The Three Questions and Who You Are Times Two engaged directly in the philosophies of Tolstoy and of Eastern Philosophers, respectively, my third choice is more a book to help nourish and nurture philosophical thought and practice in children. Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With an Idea? is another one of my favourite and perennial read-alouds for my students and has a wide appeal. While the target audience suggests 3-6 years old, I have found this title indispensable with an older audience of grades 4-7, where children are developing their metacognitive abilities and are able to appreciate the story on another level.


Writer and Illustrator duo, Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom are incredible together, and their suite of books What Do You Do with an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Chance?and What Do You Do With a Problem? are some of my favourite children’s books, and all have found a special place in my classroom.

The Story:

In Yamada’s story, the young protagonist has an idea and wonders: “Where did it come from? Why is it here?” and “What do you do with an idea?”. Through the story he discovers more about his idea, a delightful little crown-wearing, egg-shaped creature. He spends time with it, feeds it, cares for it and nourishes it. Not without difficulties, the boy will face challenges from other people who question him and put down his ideas and he will have to overcome his own defeatist thinking. But the boy is very much tied to his idea and he conquers those negative thoughts and words by spending a lot of time with the idea and allowing it to become a part of him until it reaches its potential and escapes the boundaries of thought, finally manifesting itself in the tangible world.

What I love:

As with Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Chance? this is a book about taking risks. It’s about recognizing our own gifts and working towards realizing them. I like using What Do You Do with an Idea? to help my students develop self-confidence, to help them take more risks, and to help them understand the journey that is involved in making your ideas a reality. In Yamada’s books, the character always faces some sort of external negative force like embarrassment and criticism, and also faces the internal negative forces of self-doubt; these scenarios are highly relatable and provide good points for discussion and for developing strategies. The space that the character makes for the idea is an exemplar for children to understand that good ideas take work and perseverance for them to become something more than nascent seeds. The journey that the main character takes to identify, understand, nurture, and realize his idea is one that we all must undertake when making our ideas become fully tangible expressions and creations.

In the classroom:

* Explore metaphor: the Idea takes the shape of a crown-wearing egg, Besom’s illustrations are full of animals and colour work that deepen the story and add nuance, the boy builds a house to give the idea space and a home in which to grow * Connection: How do you nurture an idea? How do you nourish an idea? What does it mean to spend time with an idea? * Reflection: What is an idea that you have had? How did you make it a reality? Do all ideas need the same level of nurturing?

* Social-Emotional Reflection: What strategies can you use to combat defeatist self-talk? What strategies can you use to try out ideas when you’re worried about what others will say/think? * Discussion: The egg shows the boy that it is important to take on new perspectives? Why would this be helpful in developing a new idea? How does one go about seeing things from a different perspective?


Kobi Yamada is a New York Times best-selling author of many inspirational books. He also the CEO of Compendium. Mae Besom is an award-winning illustrator who lives in China.

Publisher: Compendium Publishing date: Feb. 2014

Language: English

Softcover: 36 pages

ISBN: 9781938298073


Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches a full-time gifted program for students in Grades 5-7. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian literature and history through her reviews at The Miramichi Reader and on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays for her students.

bottom of page