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Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning
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Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,030 ratings  ·  140 reviews
In productive classrooms, teachers don't just teach children skills: they build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities. Teachers create intellectual environments that produce not only technically competent students, but also caring, secure, actively literate human beings.

Choice Words shows how teachers accomplish this using their most powerful teaching t
Paperback, 120 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Stenhouse Publishers
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Some education books add to my toolbox-- giving me management techniques, lesson ideas, or assessment tips. Other books are game-changers-- profoundly changing my view of teaching and learning. Choice Words is a paradigm stretching book about how we can change the dynamics of our classrooms and guide students toward their independence and agency. I've read Johnston's book 5 times at least and it definitely helps remind me of what matters.
A strip of a book at 83 pp. All about agency. And about what you say (and how you say it). Of course, just reading the expressions won't help if you don't mean it or if your whole approach to teaching isn't reflected in this kind of talk, so really it's a little book that would require a major adjustment. Some of the lines recommended for disputes reek a bit of PC, but whatever. Written in 2002 or so. Aimed at elementary, but applies at all levels. Nice add for any teacher trying to shift the un ...more
An informative and practical book. "Choice Words" is great for the teacher who is working to inspire a struggling reader and enhance language arts instruction.
Dec 15, 2007 J-Lynn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teachers and administrators
Johnston states the purpose of the book simply; “I focus on those things teachers say (and don’t say) whose combined effect changes the literate lives of their students.” (p.2) When discussing teachers, Johnston says “Talk is the central tool of their trade. With it they mediate children’s activity and experience, and help them make sense of learning, literacy, life, and themselves.” (p. 4)

Johnston believes that speech is an active process, “Speaking is as much an action as hitting someone with
Ken Rideout
I really wanted to give this book 4 or 5 stars because I think the underlying idea is so important for teachers and parents. But like so many education oriented books, the whole thing can be collapsed into a short paper. Be careful about how you communicate, the words you use, the tone you set - all these "intangibles" really do define and set expectations for students' (childrens') self perception, role as a learner, relationship to teacher and each other, etc. Think of word choices as importan ...more
I actually ended up abandoning this book many, many times. My dept head bought if for us several years ago, and being the dutiful teacher I was, I wanted to read the book quickly and gather up all of it's wisdom. I tried exceptionally hard, but I found the book to be extremely dry and long winded.

Recently, I tried for the third or fourth time to try and read it, determined to get through it. It's only 100 pages after all. But I dreaded reading time in class, and I was constantly frustrated by t
I've read this book three or four times. My copy of this book is filled with underlined text, notes in the margins and post-it notes. It reveals the complexity of teaching that is not made clear in most professional books or in "research-based" approaches. It reveals the power of a teacher's language to nurture students' ability to notice and name what they are doing as strategic readers/writers, to nurture their sense of identity as readers/writers, to build on their sense of agency ("I can do ...more
Chelsea Courtois
A lot of what's in this book seems like common sense. At the same time, Johnston makes me reconsider effective dialogue practices.
Feb 10, 2014 Sau53 added it
In productive classrooms, teachers don't just teach children skills: they build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities. Teachers create intellectual environments that produce not only technically competent students, but also caring, secure, actively literate human beings.
Choice Words shows how teachers accomplish this using their most powerful teaching tool: language. Throughout, Peter Johnston provides examples of apparently ordinary words, phrases, and uses of language that
first read 4/20/10

1/16/12: Interesting how perspective can change a book. I read this over a year and 1/2 ago and thought it was ok. Upon reread I think Johnston is so wise and that this is one amazing book. I'm not sure what was going on during that first read but am I glad I reread it. This is one to read again and again to remind us, as teachers, what is important.

reread 8/9/13 = brilliant
Julie Gardner

As it turns out, the words we say reflect our perspective; the way we talk about our classrooms/students/kids shows how we see ourselves in relation to others. Am I the giver of knowledge? The doler-out of rules and allowance? The facilitator? A collaborator?

Choice Words is short, but intense-a must read that combines pedagogy with classroom management.
I really appreciated this book for A.> Validating what I already know and treasure about "right speech" and how it relates to the education of children and B.> being a concrete way to start conversations with colleagues about how much what you say and how you say it affects the students' experience of you as the teacher and of school as a whole.
Shira Reiss
I am an educator and this book was given to all teachers to make us more aware of the words we use with our students. I read it once and then read it again writing down notes that I posted around my desk to remind me how to be aware of the words I use with my students.
Mr. Price
It was interesting what messages you can discover through the careful analysis of language. It really struck me how much weight phrasing something a certain way can carry. I found myself freezing mid-sentence in front of my class and thinking through how I wanted to say it.
What we say to students matters. This book is a good reminder of how to speak carefully and consciously to students.
Kris Patrick
I planned to read Choice Words last year but bought it used via Amazon and it never arrived in the mail. ugh! Then I attended AllWrite! Conference back in June and three presenters mentioned the book independent of each other. Whoa! I assumed it would be much like Denton's The Power of Our Words. Well, yes, but not really. Choice Words emphasizes the psychology perspective on things, and therefore not such a breezy read. And to those who blow off this kind of stuff as nonsense, check out his eig ...more
Alyssa Black
Though small, this book is powerful. A friend of mine had recommended this book to me earlier this year, and after consistently sharing examples of how I could reframe my speech with my students and colleagues, I finally bought it.

Choice Words is a book that shows teachers how they can better talk and interact with their students. It gives example phrases that you might use in different situations to promote social/emotional/academic growth. Immediately, I noticed my language changing.

How can I
This was required reading for my masters-level reading survey course. At first, I did not like it but it grew on me as I got more into the text. Katherine Bomer mentions this book in her book Hidden Gems so I would read this first before reading hers.

Johnston delves into the realm of not only what teachers say but also how they say it. I found it especially interesting because I know that I, personally, so not always say things the right way and he provides a lot of great examples of how to say
Fred Gorrell
This book distills the author's experience visiting classrooms over many years, and codifies effective word choice for teachers who wish to amplify the positive impact of communication with students. Of particular interest are his discussions of language targeted at helping children develop independence, efficacy, and self-images that promote lifelong learning and love of literacy.

The ideas in this book can be taken into the classroom and put to use immediately; in my experience, they yield pos
Peter Johnson makes a case for the use of language within the school environment needs to be more inclusive for the children and allow for more independence with independent thinking. His notion is that more learning will occur if the children are led by questioning where they come up with their own conclusions and asked hot share their thinking. He further follows this thought with that these students will be more able and willing to put themselves in other people's shoes and be better adults f ...more
“Although language operates within relationships, language practices also influence relationships among people and, consequently, the ways they think about themselves and each other. Language even structures our perception.“ [p.9]

“Through our noticing and naming language, children learn the significant features of the world, themselves, and others. These understandings influence how they treat each other and their environment.“ [p.20]

“The language we choose in our interactions with children infl
When visitors enter a classroom, they can immediately sense specific things about what goes on in that classroom. Peter Johnston and his colleagues studied classrooms where students appeared to have a sense of agency, were strategic thinkers, viewed themselves as literate readers and writers, and treated one another with empathy and respect. Johnston found that there was a definite commonality that could be detected in these highly effective and productive classrooms. That common piece was the w ...more
Katie Reynolds
After reading Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston I had to go back and read the first book Choice Words. I am so impressed by the readability and ease of relating to the stories and examples of classroom and teacher speak that are given throughout. Being a Literacy coach in a big urban school district I am always looking for new ways to help teachers help their students find engagement and look forward to discussions about books and writing and their learning. The best way to do this is through t ...more
Memory Toast
Had to read this book for an education class, but I'm glad I did. Johnston's short, but well-written discourse on the subject of teachers' language made me stop and think about how I have been speaking to my students, and the under-lying beliefs indicated by my way of speaking to them. It affirmed some of my communication and gave me reason to reassess and, hopefully, change others.

The 4/5 rating is because I believe what this author did, he did well, but I would have liked to see more full len
One of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. Peter's book will challenge you to think about the power of discourse in your classroom. Long before MINDSET came along, Peter had us examining how the language we use with our students shapes their thinking, perception and their self esteem.
A must read for teachers and maybe even parents!
I've always believed that the real teachable moments come not from the explicit instruction by a teacher but rather in the modeling of language that affirms that what kids think and express matter. Peter H. Johnston asserts, "Teachers can position children as competitors or collaborators, and themselves as referees, resources, or judges, or in many other arrangements. A teacher's choice of words, phrases, metaphors, and interaction sequences invokes and assumes these and other ways of being a se ...more
Choice Words gave me a lot to think about... my favorite chapter was "Who do you think you're talking to?" I liked that it made me think about how the messages we send kids aren't always communicated through our spoken language but by all the non verbal cues we inadvertently use. A great quick read :)
Great ideas about ways to ask questions that spark children's conversational skills with each other. Also some good ideas to help kids learn to notice what they're thinking, how they solved problems, etc. Loved it, but it took a long time to move to the finish pile despite it being so short.
Very helpful book for educators. We can be genuine in our speech but also intentional and plan some of the things that are helpful to say within class. It's all about getting our students to take control of their own learning and figure out how to see themselves as agents. Very quick read. It would be worth a second read in a few years to see if I am doing some of these suggestions in my teaching then.
Peter Johnston poses ideas about how language affects students, including the language the teacher speaks in the classroom. I don't necessarily agree with all his ideas, but they are food for thought.
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