Saturday, November 27, 2010

magic wand #3, teacher language

While I was attending the Learning & the Brain conference in Boston I couldn't help but think about how many of the research-based methods are being done daily in the think tank. In our current national education debate it seems that everyone is looking for that one silver bullet or magic wand that will suddenly turn around struggling schools, teach all children to read, dance, lose weight, and be nice to each other in a single motion. Those of us in the trenches seem to know it takes many magic wands waving all at once, with everyone holding the wands talking, collaborating, researching, thinking, and constantly making improvements on the practice. Not so magic after all it seems.

One of the important practices I heard mentioned again and again at the conference was how we talk to our students through praise, questioning, and motivating them to do their best. Many of the researchers as well as presenters like Alfie Kohn mentioned Carol Dweck's Mind Set research which examines how we praise children- explaining the need for specific, deliberate praise and that we are actually doing children a disservice when we simply say, "good job!" or, "you are so smart!"  I wrote about applying Carol Dweck's research in the classroom back in June you're interested...

Responsive Classroom has a fabulous book called The Power of our Words by Paula Denton that also discusses how we talk to children. 

How we interact with the students we are teaching says more to them than what we teach, or even directly what we say. Sometimes simply saying, "good job" doesn't send the message that we think they are capable of doing a better job. Sometimes our fast, witty comments actually undermine the relationships we're building with our children. I attended many sessions on how stress interferes with brain development and learning, and it goes without saying that stressful interactions with a teacher can impede learning and memory. How we interact with our students matters, even when we're truly cranky and really just wish Johnny would raise his hand.

What the think-tank does so well when looking at teacher language is that we have many groups that sit down and examine our language. A few years ago we put together a book group on Mind Set and met to discuss how we could use it to improve our interactions with children. We are hoping to do the same with The Power of Our Words and Choice Words. It's not just that we know to watch our teacher language- it's that we're constantly reflecting on how we interact with our students knowing that by paying intentional, conscious attention to our language we will make our actions more meaningful.  

1 comment:

magpie said...

This is the BIG KAHUNA for me.
Thanks for the book reference, I'll be looking that up. I'm always yabbering on a bit too much and brief direct praise is such an art. The teacher's that do this effortlessly must've had years of practice. ☺☺☺ Hoo Roo ☺☺☺