Sunday, June 28, 2015

Choosing Your Language

The hidden power of language has the "ability to convey subtle messages that shape our thinking, sense of self, and group affinity. (Ritchhart, 2015, p. 61).

My connection to chapter three is personal on many levels. When speaking, my focus is often on word choice. Am I using the right words to say what I mean? Or am I selecting vocabulary I assume the listener will understand? Ritchhart (2015) says word choice should be an important and deliberate act. He speaks about how our language choices shape "our behavior, interactions, thinking attention, and feelings in ways that we might mot be consciously aware of" (Ritchhart, 2015, p. 64).

In the book, Creating cultures of thinking, the focus is on the use of language in a classroom setting. It was a joy to read about how the words a teacher chooses to use can evoke specific responses of thought. I am sure we do this now, but we need to be more cognizant of this process. If not, here is a professional development discussion we need to have. And chapter three is our guide. Ritchhhart (2015) stated how "our language helps to shape out intention and that of our students, making it worthwhile to examine our language and strive to harness its power" (p.65).  Here is a worthy goal for the fall. Coaching and practicing the intentional use of language can have a tremendous impact in creating a culture of thinking teachers and students.

Now, I haven't finished reading chapter three. I just got excited about the topic.  As I read further into the chapter it discussed how word choice isn't the only objective. How we interact in conversations is important as well. Gauging a conversation tells us what is understood and where meaning might be lost or need more clarification. In a classroom setting "interactional language conveys interest in the students' thinking and signals authentic engagement with the task at hand" (Ritchhart, 2015, p.65).

I wonder...
What should the language of thinking be in our buildings? Communities? Our identities as teachers, leaders, e-trainers? We have T-2-4 and the 'one team one goal' motto. What language should are we using to reach this shared objective?

Sidenote: I find it was funny how my spell checker wants me to add a verb between creating and cultures in the book title. Lol!


Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking. San Fransico, CA: Jossey-Bass. 


  1. Like you, I really enjoyed Chapter 3. It is interesting how some "habits" for word choice are rather easy to develop. Using "we" and "might" have become ingrained in my conversations. I know that I am challenged by and will be working to develop better word choices for probing and "being aware of what it is we want to highlight and reinforce." (pg. 70) Who knew (OK, language arts folks) that language is so deep? Just attending to the seven categories (pg. 68) was mind blowing for me.

    I'm wondering if it might be helpful for me to get into more classrooms to develop that awareness. I wondering how I can do a better job in trainings for my teacher students as well, knowing that I require process time to respond. Anyone have any ideas for me?

    I also found the point made about the pronoun "they" (pg. 73) very helpful. It was like a "duh" moment!

    As you read further in the book, you'll see examples of teachers using the language of identity well. It seems to me that I might be able to easily grasp this one - at least in the classroom as we are pretty good at labeling roles.

    I know I need to do a better job of probing - to direct a learner's attention. I hope to be able to develop my "strategy talk" questions (pg. 76) in the residencies and trainings I will conduct in the fall.

    There has been a lot of focus with Carol Dweck's work already. still not habitual for me though....

    Listening... I know that is a skill I'm working to develop. I find that I grab onto a statement someone has made and get stuck there instead of following them through their thinking. Again, getting the learner to clarify their thinking is key. I like his recommendations (pg. 85) and plan to attempt to use some of them!

  2. You both are way ahead of me, but I hear you loud and clear on word choice. A friend of mine is a habitual frequenter, looking up any and all words to check out their connotation. On a whim, after using the word adore as a stand in for the word love, I decided to try it for myself. I don't actually adore lemon squares, as I learned when I went to to check it out. Or maybe I do intensely love them! ( I can't seem to link or paste an image or anything in comments.)

    So since then I have been very careful with my language. I agree that we play fast and loose with vocabulary without regard for how the words should be actually used. We send a message without meaning to many times.