#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 we are posting our blog reflections of chapters 4-6.

Check out My Primary Passion by Jill Fisch for the roundup of reflections today.  If you are interested in reading what others had to say about the first three chapters, please see Cathy Mere’s blog, Reflect and Refine for last week’s roundup there. 

Here are my thoughts on chapters 4-6:     

Chapter 4


Chapter 4 is an interesting look at feedback in the classroom.  As educators, we give feedback all the time.  Some positive, some negative, but it’s pretty constant.  On page 36, Johnston made a powerful point, “We have to remember that we are not just giving students feedback; we are also teaching them to provide it.”  A classroom is a community.  It’s not just about the feedback we provide our students, but it’s also about teaching our students how to provide appropriate feedback to their peers.  This is something I would like to work on this coming year, teaching students how to provide feedback.  I think for this to be effective, it will begin with laying the foundation at the beginning of the year, creating a classroom community so that children are comfortable to grow together.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 provided a lot of food for thought. The basic gist: our classrooms need to become dialogic and not remain monologic.  “A dialogic classroom is one in which there are lots of open questions and extended exchanges among students (my emphasis)” (p. 52).  In line with the Common Core, Johnston says that dialogic classrooms are those with multiple interpretations and perspectives.  Open ended questions that lead to inquiry are the keys to a dialogic classroom.

My favorite quote from this chapter was, “ …Books are not merely to entertain or to teach kids to figure out words or even to learn things from.  They are tools for growing minds” (p. 56).  This particular section has made me re-think some of my read alouds as well.  I normally use read alouds to model strategy instruction, craft, etc.  The read aloud takes on a different role in a dialogic.  The read aloud “is not the central feature of the activity” (pg. 57).  I think using read alouds to build a dialogic classroom and to guide students into a dynamic mindset will be helpful and engaging.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 delves into social imagination.  “Learning is fundamentally social.  Social development is the foundation for intellectual, emotional, and physical health, even in adulthood” (p. 67).  Johnston goes on to explain mind reading and social reasoning.  In order for children to develop social reasoning, they must actively construct their own representations of people’s thinking.

A powerful quote for me was, “Critical literacy requires imagining others’ intentions, adopting multiple perspectives, and imagining social arrangements that don’t yet exist” (p. 73), thus leading me back to the standards of the Common Core.  The goal of the Common Core is to make critical literacy front and center and I think that the components of Opening Minds will really help to build that critical literacy.

To Do:

  • Create a plan to guide students to provide feedback to each other from the beginning of the year.
  • Compile read alouds that will become “tools for the growing mind.”
  • Create a plan to help students develop social reasoning.

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