With the holiday weekend coming to a close, I am coming off an abundance of overindulgence! Isn’t it divine to have so many days to rest up, read and reflect? I spent my time catching up on blogs, reading great articles from the Choice Literacy website and delving deeper into the stack of books that is never far from my side. I have joined two book groups to start in the coming months (Anyone else reading Pathways to the Common Core or The Book Whisperer?). Despite the need to jump into these, I continue to find many other books, articles and posts that draw me in, leaving me mulling over things and making connections in entirely different ways.
My thoughts today centered on Language. Choice Words had me recognizing the power of language within a classroom. I found myself thinking most specifically of the kind of language Celina and I work tirelessly to get imprinted into our students, a language of possibility, of thinking, of doing, of being. In turn we look to hear this language among our students. What are the 5 essential components of our classroom language that you might hear? Read on:
1. We continually speak about Growth Mindsets with our kids, and recognize it in ourselves, as a post or tweet can have us researching and reading into an entirely new arena. It is no surprise for us to have a student talk about some tangent they came across in their reading, some metaphor they have developed from a discussion or some new topic that they can’t wait to find more about. We recognize it and support it, encouraging that child to “go find it!” At the same time our students speak to each other with support and inspiration, often pointing out to us how another student’s find or growth was made evident.
2. It is in our language to speak of trying and doing every day, kids often reply back to us the words from Sousa that started our school year: “The brain that does the work makes the most growth.” They know themselves as learners through extensive study of their learning styles, intelligences and preferences, and they know that so armed they are accountable and responsible to themselves as students.
3. We also routinely remind them to use a resource, encouraging them to think about what they need to answer their own questions, to evaluate the sources around them for validity and usefulness, and that asking and seeking answers to their own questions will help them grow. We have helped them to create a personal resource in their Brain Books so that they can connect and reflect on a daily basis. At the same time we tell them, “We are not your resource!” Every time that we guide them into recognizing their own potential, rather than relying on others to tell them the answers, is a moment of empowerment.
4. Talk! Talk! Talk! Whether a turn and talk moment, asking for student opinions, or sharing in a one-to-one conference, student voice is an essential component of the language within our classroom. Their voices lead us in new directions, embolden their classmates, and drive the essence of possibility within our classroom community. They learn from and teach each other, and we all grow through the variety of talk.
5. Need It or Got It? Learning is a process of building blocks within our classroom. This has led to a language of recognizing that learning is a lifelong process of discovery, and that failure is not an end but a beginning. “I can’t do this” is not a part of our language, it has been replaced by “I need it” or “I need to set a goal in that”! Moving along the building blocks is not for the sake of covering a curriculum but rather the process of creating a solid foundation to grow from.
Our language also continues to evolve and grow as new learning occurs. The past few months have added perseverance, reason, passion, evidence, “prove it!”, wonder and countless other words to our lexicon. Our students talk project based learning like there is no substitute. They chant and dance their way through the CCSS Mathematical Practices like it is the only logical way to process through the words. They even belt out a little, “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy” to make a connection or get a laugh, and we do laugh. That is another language element that we can never get enough of.
All this reflection had me processing too about language acquisition. The research often says that being immersed in a language is essential and that the brain is hard-wired to best learn language when children are young. Is this the language that students are hearing everywhere? Is this what they are hearing from an early age, a language that supports them in making growth, being independent thinkers and problem solvers? Are the actions and environments matching the words? Or are they hearing instead to listen, do what they are told, to follow directions to one right answer. I wondered what does that lead to? How does it translate into the future? Then I found this quote:
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” by Ludwig Wittgenstein
My take-away: I am grateful to be in a classroom where I hear and speak a language that is out of this world. ~Ann