#CyberPD – Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston

For the next month, I’m going to partake in #cyberpd – professional development online.  One way I’m participating is through an online professional book club.  Educators are reading Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston, blogging about their reading, and sharing their thoughts online through their blogs and through a twitter chat.  Today is the first day of our blog reflections on chapters 1-3. 


I haven’t read Peter Johnston’s first book, Choice Words yet, but a few chapters in to Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives and I’m thinking that I should.  The concept of both are important – the idea that the language we use in teaching can have profound effects on children’s development.

I taught for five years before having kids of my own.  After having my own children, I always said I would be a different teacher when I went back into the classroom.  I had a different perspective to draw from.  Through the years that I was home with my children, I really began to think about how the words I used would affect them.  The same now holds true for the children I work with.

We really need to explicitly think about and plan the words and language we use with our students.  Johnston draws on the research of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  Johnston calls the two mindsets the dynamic and the fixed performance.  When children view ability, or intelligence, as if it were a general character trait, something people have more or less of since birth, they are living in a fixed performance world.  When children believe the more they learn, the smarter they get, even if it takes hard work, they are living in a dynamic performance world (pg. 11-12).  These worlds or mindsets hold true for everyone, including teachers, and they permeate all aspects of life, not just education.

In the first three chapters of Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, Johnston lays the foundation for understanding the way in which we can change our language to support dynamic performance and achievement in children.  On page 15 and 16, Johnston states, “Children in a dynamic-learning frame actually use deeper processing when reading difficult material and they become more rather than less strategic when they encounter difficulty.”  This really ties in with the common core standards and their emphasis on critical thinking skills.

So far, Johnston’s point is that we all make mistakes, we all make errors.  What we learn from the errors, or what children learn from their errors is what is important.  In a classroom, we must focus on the how and not the outcome.  We must work to change our learning narratives.

I’m looking forward to continue my reading as chapter 4 goes into feedback, which is extremely important for students, but I feel must be worded in certain ways in order to be effective.

©2012 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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