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How can you improve participation, increase motivation and encourage excitement over learning without expending much effort or spending a dime? Stumped? The answer is actually on the tip of your tongue. Literally.
There’s a lot of power in the way you say things to your students. Here are some simple tips for turning daily classroom discussions into positively-charged learning experiences.
Tone it Down
Opting for normal conversational language, rather than an academic-sounding tone, is more engaging and less intimidating (not to mention less boring!). Opt for an inviting, conversational tone. Directing conversations at students’ lives and feelings can also lead to a surprising amount of learning. Not everything has to be school-related (gasp!). Showing that you care and are interested in their lives paves the way for open minds and eager learners.
- “How are you doing?”
- “What did you do this weekend?”
Don’t Pick the Orchid
One of my college professors used to say “don’t pick the orchid”–meaning don’t lead your students to a bed of flowers and then rob them of the joy of picking for themselves. Instead, allow the students to explore, talk it out and come to their own conclusions–without encouraging a certain way of thinking. Try using questions that engage the students to think on their own, instead of questions that seek a particular answer. And, rather than providing further information after a student answers a question, just simply repeat the student’s statement and give him or her time to go further independently.
- “What’s one more thing you could add?”
- “How are you going to challenge yourself?”
- “How do you feel about that?”
- “What do you think about that?”
- “Imagine what this would look like….”
- “How did you figure that out?”
- “What did you notice?”
- “That’s what readers do!”
- “What are you doing as a reader today?”
- “Why do you think a reader would do that?” (OR: mathematicians, scientists, writers, etc.)
- “What’s your reason for that?”
- “How could you check?”
- “What part are you sure about?”
When it comes to addressing negative student behavior, try to phrase your response in a positive way.
- “What does ‘great’ look like to you?”
- “This isn’t like you; what do you think is the problem?”
- “How could we address this?”
- “Is that the right decision?”
- “Let’s think about how we could do this.”
Talk Like the Glass is Half Full
Using generally positive statements goes a LONG way toward a positive classroom environment. Here are a few to incorporate into your daily dialogue.
- “We get to have Math class, now!” (as opposed to “We have to do Math, now.”)
- DON’T SAY: “Get your work done, then you can play.” (which implies that school is “work” and not fun)
It takes a little diligence to watch our speech, but the power of our words can be transformational in the classroom!
Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.