Friday, August 29, 2014

Choosing One's Words

Is that person a stranger or a friend I don’t know yet? Is that situation a problem or a challenge and an opportunity?

Our words reflect our attitudes, yes, and our words can also shape our attitudes. My husband insisted our children say, “I haven’t learned to like mushrooms yet,” rather than “I don’t like mushrooms,” and “No, thank you,” rather than “Stop it!” (Though that didn’t always prevent  the words “no, thank you” from being whined or screamed....) 

So on my first day of school reading inventory, I chose my words carefully when I asked 10th graders to identify what kind of readers they are--on a scale from “avid” to “I haven’t yet found a book I like.”  

I found that students tend to adopt the vocabulary and the phraseology modeled in the question:
  1. Many students used the word “avid” in their answers--from “Avid and I would like to read more than I have time for” to “I am not an avid reader though I enjoy reading occasionally.” Use specific high level vocabulary in context, and kids will pick them up and use them. I wonder where else I can use that approach?
  2. Many students used the sentence “I haven’t yet found a book I like.” Maybe if we can keep using that phraseology, they’ll start to believe it, and start to think there just might be a book out there that they will like, and start to be on the lookout for it.
Some went beyond just repeating my sentence and continued the conversation on those terms: 

  • I haven’t found a book in English that I like yet, but I often read books in Japanese.
  • I haven’t found a book that I really like. But I am starting to find books that are interesting to me in either English or Japanese.

Yes, there were 3 or 4 who weren’t enticed into the conversation: 

  • I don’t like reading and I never choose to read. 
  • I am not a good reader because I get bored reading books. 

And I’m going to choose to see that situation as a challenge and an opportunity rather than a problem, and those students as unengaged readers rather than as reluctant readers. The challenge is to engage them. The opportunity is to shift a self-perception and to create life-long readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment