Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston
I believe that Words Have Power. The words we use and the feedback we give our students can impact them either positively or negatively. According to Johnston, "The language we choose in our teaching changes the worlds children inhabit now and those they will build in the future." (p. 7)
Johnston talks about the meaning of errors. When we make a mistake it should be viewed as an opportunity to learn. I can't tell you how much this resonated with me, it's a belief that I have tried to instill in my students over the years. Teachers and other adults make mistakes too. As Johnston suggests, we want children to feel valued even when they make mistakes. Consequently, my students enjoy catching my mistakes and they are quick to point them out. Johnston confirms the importance of creating an environment where students are safe to make mistakes in order to risk participating in learning challenges. This book and it's big ideas are centered around productive talk and creating a culture of positive language.
Dynamic-Learning versus Fixed-Performance
- In a dynamic view, the process (how things are done) is most important. In the fixed view, the outcome (performance) is most important.
When students operate within a fixed theory, they view everything as being out of their control. Students operating within a dynamic theory believe that things can change and improve. As I was reading, I started to ask myself, "What is the best approach for changing a fixed view to a dynamic view? I found the answer on page 18.
Johnston gives three major points of influence:
- The first point is what we choose to say when children are successful or unsuccessful at something--when we give children feedback or praise.
- The second point of influence is the way we frame activities.
- A third point of influence is what we explicitly teach children about how people's brains and minds work.
I love the idea of turning attention to change rather than stability. The teacher reading the story, Martin's Big Words, was a perfect example of embracing change. I can't count how many times my students have told me another teacher had already read the story I was about to read to them. While I think my responses to that statement has usually been appropriate (For example, when we read a story for the second time we often notice something new, something we didn't notice before.), I love they way Pegeen Jensen responded. When she reminds her first graders they are not exactly the same people they were in kindergarten. By sharing this moment, Johnston gives a wonderful example of weaving change and growth into our classroom conversations.
There are so many important ideas in the first three chapters of Opening Minds, I can hardly wait to share my reflections on chapters 4-6.
Quotes I Like:
- "Teaching is planned opportunism. We have an idea of what we want to teach children, and we plan ways to make that learning possible." p. 4
- "Our language choices have serious consequences for children's learning and for who they become as individuals and as a community." p. 7
- "By affirming that someone is smart, we agree that smart-dumb is the way to think about people." p. 10
- "Because we all make mistakes, even teachers and presidents, and it doesn't make us bad people. It makes us people who are trying--taking on challenges in order to learn." p. 31
- "Indeed, school interventions based on the dynamic-learning framework can change the trajectory of children experiencing difficulty in school." p. 18
- "Since learning is fundamentally social, basing a classroom on dynamic-learning principles offers a double boost to learning." p. 21
- "Turning attention to change rather than stability makes a difference to all kinds of learning." p.26
- "Process information removes the "genius" from performance and replaces it with both a dynamic-learning frame and the strategic knowledge of how the success was accomplished." p. 31