I have come to realize that the language I use in my classroom greatly impacts student achievement. Teachers subtly build healthy and intellectual environments with their language of caring and support. Whenever I think about my own use of language, I can’t help but think about Peter Johnston and his book Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. I first encountered this book as part of one of my graduate school classes. Of course, it quickly became one of my favorites because it transformed the way I spoke to my students.
There are several things I learned from Peter Johnston about praise and student achievement as I read and digested his book:
All these ideas need to be used consistently and in a genuine way. We can’t get away with isolated words, phrases, and sentences Our tone, voice, and body language communicate the feeling behind our message and students are quick to pick up the sincerity of our words. When students question the why of the words used (why is the teacher saying that?), the impact of our language is less, and student achievement is sacrificed.