Peter Johnston, in his book, Opening Minds, talks about how the words we, as educators, choose affect the worlds that are our classrooms. I have read and re-read parts of his book over the past few weeks-and it has made me uncomfortably aware of my language choices-but in a REALLY good way.
The whole goal, the entire focus of what we do as teachers, is to encourage kids to be learners, to be confident, to try things out, to talk about what they think, what did they notice, what are they wondering about, and to examine what happened and why they think that happened. We, as the organizers and facilitators of conversations, must make note of what we say, how we say it, and the impact it has on children.
On page 2, Dr. Johnston provides the following example of the power of one word in the context of a spelling test.
Introducing a spelling test to a student by saying, “Let’s see how many words you know” is different from saying, “Let’s see how many words you know already.”
It’s one word, but the already suggests that any words the child knows are ahead of expectation and, most important, that there is nothing permanent about what is known and not known. (The bold is mine.)
Up until this point, I must admit, I had never given much thought to the power of the quiet little word-already. It has now been moved onto my favorite words list-and I am keeping track of how and when I use it.