Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Choice Words

Professional Book Suggestion: Choice Words : How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning by: Peter H. Johnson   *96 pages and an easy quick read J

One of the professional books I have been perusing lately is Choice Words by Peter Johnson.  This book provides examples of “apparently ordinary words, phrases and uses of language that are pivotal in the orchestration of the classroom.” As I think about providing students with productive feedback and guidance I can understand how the choice in my words can really impact the direction in which the student moves forth. Here are a few examples of teacher talk…

“One of the things people do when they start a story is think of what they know. Mathematicians do this too… Let’s try it.” (pg.45) Here the teacher is reminding the student to begin a new activity by taking stock of what they already know by activating prior knowledge.

“That’s like … OR What if…?” (pg. 46-47) Both of these allow for an imaginative act and can expand context by creating metaphors and making connections which is at the heart of comprehension.

Strategic Questions such as “How did you figure that out? What problems did you come across today? How are you planning to go about this?”  (page 30-32) invites students to review a process or strategy used to accomplish a goal.

One of the most successful teacher talk moments to me is actually not talking at all. “Wait time” or “Thinking Time” conveys the message that the teacher expects a student to accomplish an answer, self-correct or figure something out.  Failure to wait conveys the opposite message. Thinking time allows for more extended responses and opens up the possibility for more collaborative inviting conversations. (page 56)

I would encourage everyone to take a step back and reflect on how you lead your questioning.

Do you allow for students to drive the direction of an answer?

Are you patient with your students when opening up the forum for answers?  

Do you encourage a variety of responses?

The way you question your students is the model for the way they explore their own curiosities. 

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