Language is the stuff of growth. Each word is like a brick that lays a foundation for a positive identity, and grants permission for empowerment. A teacher constructs a student’s world one word at a time. Each word is a deliberate choice that yields an impact for a dynamic learning environment.
Our goal today is to explore the work of Peter Johnston. We strive to go from theory to practice. His work is deeply linked to our own personal beliefs about teaching. We do believe that language creates a narrative that children can inhabit. Through language teachers actively construct classroom environments that offer up opportunities and if we are not careful – constraints. So let’s think on that, and create a more dynamic classroom – one that will create a world of possibilities.
It’s subtle, sometimes a single word can have powerful effects. Meaning becomes apparent through the filter of language in which we immerse students. Do we promote encouragement or judgement? We encourage our students by making room for their thinking with the understanding that what they say has value and makes impacts on our learning community.
It is important to Identify students as a resource of knowledge, or being a teacher who models learning. This serves to empower them and lets them know they are valuable members of our classroom. This is true for all students and not just some of them. This is an environment that is being carefully crafted to sustain agentive learners who are building theories on their own identities
It’s not the end of the world when they make mistakes – it’s seen more as a challenge. Their efforts in learning are being greatly enhanced as they rise to the challenge of learning. There is an expectation to work hard and this is integral to their personal beliefs. The message that we must make clear to our students is that mistakes yield learning and this will create risk takers. We want them to be fearless, to experiment and to think outside of the box. It is essential that they feel safe to make errors and be given the opportunity to learn from them. Without errors they will be deprived of growth and stagnate in their learning.
Words matter – children understand the rules for accountable talk. Through meaningful conversation they are establishing a democratic system. They engage each other – they disagree and when they disagree they promote growth. This kind of talk creates openings for empathy and healthy moral development.
Tomorrow, we plan to look for evidence of our beliefs in the classroom. We will be blogging to share how Johnston’s work comes out of his books and into our classroom practice.