But the point remains that year after year, eventually students will internalize the language they hear over and over and begin to incorporate it into their own speaking. This fact is both inspiring and scary!
At this time of the year I start to really analyze my language patterns even more than usual. Did my body language match what I said? How was my tone of voice? Could I have phrased _____ in a more positive way? Is there something I said today that I shouldn't have?
This realization, coupled with my desire to run a more student-centered, responsive classroom has prompted my latest read:
Might I say, it was very eye-opening!! This book is bringing out elements of teacher language that I never even considered could be counter-productive. It outlines some general guidelines for teacher language (listed below) and then goes into more detail by given specific examples of language that promote learning.
- Be direct and authentic: Use direct language--don't phrase commands as questions (Ex:
Will you put your markers away?Put your markers away). Stay away from sarcasm. Watch the tone of voice and body language. Avoid over-generalizations, such as "This is going to be hard." (That last one was an eye-opener for me).
- Show faith in children's abilities and intentions: Notice positives, avoid baby talk, and be aware of language that treats boys and girls differently.
- Keep it action oriented: Connect abstract terms with concrete behaviors. (Example: What will it look and sound like in the lunchroom if we are being responsible?) Describe behavior, not character or attitude. Keep the wording non-judgemental.
- Keep it brief: Children can get lost in long, wordy explanations. Short, concise words work better.
- Know when to be silent: Provide wait time, listen to what students have to say, refrain from repeating directions, avoid voice-overs (repeating what students have just said for the rest of the class). That last one was an eye-opener for me. I thought teachers were SUPPOSED to repeat things students said, but apparently "...the unintended message is that children's words are important only if I repeat them and the rest of the group needs only to listen to me since I'll repeat everything that is important."
Some of these general guidelines are affirmations for language I'm already using, but I know there are a few aspects I need to work on---especially since little ears are listening, remembering, and eventually repeating the things I say.