As I continue to read Choice Words, How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning, by Peter H. Johnston I find myself asking and answering a lot of questions.
Since my last post I have tried to move some of my small group word choice to whole group and it has helped. My students do not notice the different but I have noticed that they are more positive and hear them encouraging each other. Since they are fourth graders sometimes encouraging phrases are not something you typically hear from them, but since I use them daily in small group and have moved more of them to whole group they are now using them when working in partners and groups.
After reading chapters three and four in Choice Words I am now pondering a whole new set of questions and noticing things in my classroom.
In Chapter three Identity- Helping students find an identity in the classroom an in their literature life. This is something I have not thought about a lot. Prompting students with phrases like: “as writers…” allowing them to take charge of their learning and identity. This goes for all content area. It gives students confidence in what they are learning and helps them to take ownership. Finding and creating an identity in the classroom can be difficult especially if the student does not think they are good at the subject. This is so powerful in the classroom. As a teacher I know this is something that I need to add to my practice. I have used this randomly but after reading, this is something that I want to be more aware of. When many of my students are struggling they tend to shut down and convince themselves they are not good at the subject. By affirming that they are good at the subject and referring to them as the writer, reader, mathematician I think they will change their thinking about the subject.
Chapter four is all about agency. How can we as teachers help build an identity for our students with a supportive atmosphere? In order to this we have to have a strategy and teach our students different strategies that allow them to take on an identity and realize that they are making the difference. To help students build agency in their learning we have to question ourselves and them. Why questions are a great to do this. Asking why allows the student to dig deeper into their thinking and create and understanding for themselves, allowing them to see that they can do the work. I often find my students asking why a lot and any of their whys are directed at me. They are always eager to know more and create an understanding. I also find myself asking students why to explain their thinking and learning. This is the most powerful thing that happens in the classroom. Having students explain their thinking allows them and me to understand what is going on. This helps me and my students build strategies to help their learning and planning. When they are struggling shutting down is easy but facing them with whys and questions that cause them to think help them redirect their selves to realize that they can do and take ownership for me.
Creating and identity and agency for my students is something that seems to come and go in my classroom. I was unaware of this until recently. Now I have a bettie idea of how I can help my students take control of their learning and identity in the classroom.
This is also makes me think back to word choice in different group settings because again I realize that more of these questions that help build agency and strategy for students are used in small group. While reading Choice Words I am becoming more aware of what is going on in my classroom and reflect more on my own practice.