Opening Minds: Using Language to change Lives by Peter Johnston
"How we give children feedback is probably the most difficult for us to change, but it is probably the point of most leverage." (Opening Minds, Chapter 3, p. 37)This is the last sentence in chapter 3 and after reading it, I could hardly wait to read chapter 4.
- It gets children into the habit of explaining successes and failures in terms of strategy use.
- The more process talk becomes part of classroom conversations, the more strategy instruction will be occurring incidentally, without the teacher having to do it.
Chapter 5, Johnston describes a dialogic classroom. "A dialogic classroom is one in which there are lots of open questions and extended exchanges among students." (p.52) Theses are classroom where rich conversations are created. A lot of these conversations are created around books. Johnston referred to books as "tools for growing minds". Having conversations around books is right up my ally. I think my classroom is one where a lot of dialogic instruction occurs. It's not where I want it to be, yet, but as I read this chapter, I can honestly say I'm on the right track. Here's a quote that Johnston shares, which I want to remember and keep in the forefront at all times, "Judith Lindfors observes that dialogue is a bit like a game in which keeping the ball in play is the goal rather than winning." (P.57) I had never quite thought about dialogue in that way. However, It's a good analogy for promoting rich conversations.
Johnston states that having children talk about others through storytelling is a good place to start. He goes on to state that, "Social imagination directly affects the child's ability to comprehend complex narratives." (p. 72) That statement alone puts a smile on my face. I love my classroom reading time. For me, it's the best part of the day. Being able to support the idea of social imagination by having conversations around books is a major bonus for me. I had to laugh, however, when Johnston stated that the hard part for teachers is keeping our mouths shut while our students engage in conversations. Fortunately, most of us have learned from experience that the more the teacher talks the less students listen. This book shares a lot of great examples of the way we should facilitate the conversations in our classroom and not dominate them.
Johnston also shares that there are other benefits too. "Children with well-developed social imaginations have, according to their teachers, more positive social skills than those who do not." (p73) Not only are we building comprehension skills, we are helping our students learn to problem solve on their own, and all of this contributes to better classroom management.
Below is a Wordle I created with some of the key words from chapters 4-6.