After reading the first two chapters from the book Choice Words, How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning, by Peter H. Johnston I had to stop and think for a long time about my word choice in the classroom. I was overwhelmed with a flood of thoughts and reflections on my daily interactions with my students.
To start with the positive, I noticed a lot of things I already do. In my class we talk a lot about what went well when we are done with a project or an activity. We also reflect on what we would do differently next time. Sometimes we record our thinking in a journal or chart it all together as a class. I have noticed that students are often wanting to turn the focus onto the bad behaviors. They want to talk about what kids were doing to bother them throughout the group experience. By noticing this turn in classroom conversation I see a big flashing arrow pointing towards what I need to work on!
I also know that I am guilty of using the phrase “good readers.” By using this, Johnston points out, “it leaves open the question of who the bad readers are and how can you tell.” I point this out because I think it links back to our class reflection on projects or group work. There is a lot of room to look for and talk about bad group members or bad classroom workers because we are focusing so much on what a good group member or a good worker looks like. There is an obvious good-bad continuum at play in my classroom. We are all group members. By knowing that we are all workers, learners, readers, writers, and scientists, we can focus on how we treat each other and our environment instead of highlighting who is good and who is bad.
Another word choice goal I want to set for my self is my words used during behavior management during work time. I am guilty of threatening punishment when a child isn’t doing their work. “If I look over and see you talking again, you are going to get your clip moved down.” I am forcing the child to read or write out of fear of punishment. I want to tweak my language to get students to see themselves as people who respect and care about the other children in the room and see themselves as people who can solve problems in the classroom. Which of course these are the ideals I want to instil in my students. These are some of the reasons I became a teacher and I love what I get to do everyday.