Using Supportive Language

Words matter greatly.  They have remarkable power to build up or tear down.  This is especially true in the classroom setting.  In the book Turning High-Poverty Schools Into High-Performing Schools authors William Parrett and Kathleen Budge encourage teachers to use language that supports academic learning development of self-control, and builds community (p. 144).  Some specific things teachers can do are as follows:

  1. Encourage a growth mindset.  Students benefit greatly from the positive, “you can do it” spirit evident in a growth oriented classroom.  Speak that kind of language into your students.  Put up posters that convey those messages.  Make it part of your classroom culture. 
  2. Provide feedback that helps students own their learning.  Students benefit greatly from feedback that is specific and helps them understand where they can make improvements.  Employ feedback language that promotes ownership and empowers student learning.
  3. Help students self-monitor behavior.  Students benefit greatly from gaining the ability to know their behaviors and modify their behaviors in order to be successful.  Self-monitoring leads to great levels of independence, and we want our students to be independent, life-long learners.
  4. Teach and practice social skills.  Students benefit greatly from direct instruction related to social skills and opportunities to practice social skills.  Teachers can incorporate language and lessons throughout the curriculum to help students develop the necessary skills.  
  5. Redirect in positive ways.  Students benefit greatly from correction expressed in ways that demonstrates respect for individuals and encourages improvement.  
  6. Help students identify strengths. Students benefit greatly from understanding the things that they do well.  Be overt and specific in your language regarding student strengths, so they can fully understand what you see.  
  7. Promote positive identity development.  Students benefit greatly from interactions that build them up.  Teachers have a tremendous opportunity to help students see who they are and all the positive things that they can contribute. 
  8. Develop student sense of efficacy and agency.  Students benefit greatly from believing that they are capable and can use all of their abilities to establish and meet their goals.  The words you use with your students regarding these matters carry much weight.  

As you prepare for next week, think of ways you can use your teacher language to help bring out the very best in your students.  They will be glad you did!

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