We are teachers. We put our heart and soul into our profession. Our words are our tools in which we build learners. The words we use inspire, motivate, encourage, change, and teach. Our language matters. The messages we send our students matter. I was excited to start reading Opening Minds by Peter Johnson to learn more about how to talk to students in positive ways. I loved his book Choice Words. It is one I often flip back through to remind myself of positive ways to talk to kids.
As I read chapter 1-3 tonight I kept thinking about my language with kids. Do my words allow kids to take risks, to put forth effort, to have a mindset that they can learn if they try? Do I feed into children's fixed characteristics about themselves? Our most powerful tool as a teacher is our language and these chapters have me reflecting on how I can improve the messages I send to kids to empower them to want to change.
"A single comment can profoundly change the academic and moral choices children make." This is powerful. Words can build or break students.
"I also show you that our language choices have serious consequence for children's learning and for who they become as individuals and as a community. I help you make productive choices, because the language we chose in our teaching changes the worlds children inhabit now and those they will build in the future. Make no mistake wehn we are teaching for today, we are teaching into tomorrow."
A person with a dynamic learning frame or a growth mindset believes that their effort will result in success. They work hard when faced with a difficult problem. They feel smart when encountering a challenge. How will I use my language to send the message that effort is more important than achievement? We all know these kids too. These are the kids who work so hard at what they do. They place value on their own learning and try, try, and try again when faced with challenges. Johnston describes placing emphasis on process vs performance.
I like the idea of telling kids at the beginning of the year, "Your brain is changing and so is the way you experience ideas. Expect to change."
Johnston says we want kids to say, "I'm not good at this yet." and to take steps to change that.
I thought about a beginning of the year activity while reading chapter 3. Johnston talks about deciding which things in life are "essentially fixed, beyond our power to change, and which things we can change (even if it's just a tiny bit)." I was thinking students could as a group brainstorm things in the classroom that they could change vs things that were beyond their control to change. We could brainstorm stereotypes or fixed mindsets kids have about themselves that they could have the power to change...through hard work and effort, perseverance! Last year Patrick Allen inspired me to do beginning of the year read alouds on the theme of persistence. This talk seems like a perfect companion. While reading I kept hearing myself ask kids, "How will this year be different? How can you change the messages you tell yourself about your abilities" I keep thinking about how I will honor hard work and effort.
"Children must experience many things as at least potentially changeable, not just aspects of the world outside them, but also aspects of themselves-their learning, their identities, their intellect, their personal attributes, and their ways of relating to others."
I'm excited to keep reading to hear examples or nudges to use my language to change messages kids have fixed abut themselves as I read on.
Thanks so much to the organizers of #cyberpd. I can't wait to read other's thoughts!