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Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives

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on 9 August 2018

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Transcript of Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives

Theme #1
Theme #2
Classroom Practice Related to Theme #1
Feedback & Praise

Teacher, peer, and self-reflection are all components of feedback. Here a student is explaining how she gives herself feedback by reflecting on her own reading independence and agency with a reading log.
Classroom Practice Related to Theme #3
Explicit Teaching (and Thinking) About HOW People’s Brains & Minds Work

Teacher explains what her own thinking looks like as she reflects on her reading life, unpacking the thought processes she expects from her students.
Classroom Practice Related to Theme #2
Framing Activities
is versus could be

Student responds to text by determining what is important to think about while reading. The teacher does not give a format that restricts how the student will interact with the text, but allows the students to determine what is meaningful in their reading.
Book Overview
Image from: http://www.albany.edu/education/education_images/EDU_Johnston.jpg
Links Between Themes & Course Readings
Theme #2: Framing Activities

(CCSS link): Ellen Langer terms “premature cognitive commitments” a “rigid belief that results from the mindless acceptance of information as true without consideration of alternative versions of that information" (Johnston, 2011).

argued that cognitive growth is “more likely when one is required to explain, elaborate, or defend one’s position to others as well as to oneself; striving for an explanation often makes a learner integrate and elaborate knowledge in new ways" (Johnston, 2011).

"Comprehension of written and verbal language is as much about experience with the worlds of home, school, and work as it is about words" (Gee, 2001).

"...meaning in language is tied to people's experiences of situated action in the material and social world" (Gee, 2001).

"Teachers expect students to be self-regulated but do not actively teach them strategies for organizing their time and assignments and working independently in the absence of direct teacher supervision" (Pressley et. al., 1998).

"In order to create critical questions, a student must identify or construct main ideas, determine the author's intention, and use the meaning constructed to formulate questions" (Afflerbach et. al., 2011).
Links Between Themes & Course Readings
Theme #3 Explicit Teaching About How People’s Brains & Minds Work

"Metacognition is critical for reading success: It contributes to reading comprehension (Baker & Brown, 1984), and it promotes academic learning (Paris & Winograd, 1990). Borkowski and Turner (1990) characterized metacognition as learners' knowledge related to cognition, their awareness of their own thinking processes, their understanding of what is needed for learning, and their regulation of cognitive strategies, skills, and the learning process" (Afflerbach et. al, 2013).

"The ability to set goals, work through, and succeed with increasingly complex texts and reading tasks demands metacognitive awareness" (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010) (Afflerbach et. al, 2013).

"Oh, so that's how you do it!... In other words, talking aloud about our mental processes when reading or writing helps to make the steps or processes of the reading and writing "magic trick" obvious to students who do not easily or intuitively grasp these processes through normal exposure to reading and writing" (Reutzel, 2011).
Main Themes of the Text
Links Between Themes & Course Readings
Theme #1: Feedback & Praise

Positive feedback is used to build on what the child already does and turn it into a “successful agentive experience” (Johnston, 2011).
Zone of proximal development & Marie Clay “partially correct”

"Discourse integrates ways of talking, listening, writing, reading, acting, interacting, believing, valuing, and feeling (and using various objects, symbols, images, tools, and technologies) in the service of enacting meaningful socially situated identities and activities" (Gee, 2001).

"As instruction is occurring, teachers need information to evaluate whether their teaching strategies are working. They also need information about their current understanding of individual students and groups of students so they can identify the most appropriate steps for instruction. Moreover, students need feedback to monitor their own success in learning and know how to improve" (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001).
How can we help children take-up a Dynamic Learning Frame rather than a Fixed Performance Frame?

Our feedback & praise when children are successful or unsuccessful.
“Good job.”


“Good boy.”

Positive feedback is used to build on what the child already does and turn it into a “successful agent narrative”.
" Say more about that..."

Successful agent narratives level power differences between students and teachers. They give the opportunity for students to explain the meaning of their errors. It also positions students as people who can act and have an impact of their learning and the world. Legitimizing student comments helps build a Dynamic Learning Frame in students and the classroom.

How can we help children take-up a Dynamic Learning Frame rather than a Fixed Performance Frame?
The way we frame activities
“Let’s see who’s the best/quickest at…”


“Let’s see which of these problems is the most interesting.”

Students (and teachers) with a DLF accept uncertainty, the spirit of inquiry, recognize that making sense of information requires considering context, and invite dialogue amongst peers.

Teachers recognize the importance of shifting questions from:
The three main reasons for … were…

According to whom…
There were many reasons…
From the perspective of…
Some people think…, others think… “What’s your view?”
In what ways might…?

• Peter Johnston text,
Opening Minds
, comes from a position of thoughtfulness on how we talk and
the implications of our word choice, especially when working with students. He explains how our
language choices reflects personal values, beliefs, histories, and the context in which we work. He also
states that these choices have "serious consequences for children's learning and for who they become
as individuals and as a community" (Johnston, 7). In other words, as teachers, we have an obligation
to teach the whole child, not just the curriculum.

He reminds us that in order to change our language choices (talk), we must "gain a sense of what we are doing, our options, their consequences, and why we make the choices we make" (Johnston, 7). Through the lenses of a
Fixed Performance Frame
and a
Dynamic Learning Frame
, Johnston explains the implications and consequences of each of these frames. As a teacher's perspective, he stresses our responsibility in carefully chosen talk and how this impacts the learners we teach. He argues that since we are teaching the foundations of a democracy, we should be conscious that we are teaching towards justice for all learners. This text gives practical, explicit examples of how to choose more productive talk in the classroom and make the most of the opportunities we are offered by children.

Coming from a stance of social action and responsibility, Johnston emphasizes that, “Making meaning is good. Doing meaningful things is better" (p, 124). And this book is a testament to his philosophy. Not only does he describe the practices necessary to promote a
Dynamic Learning Frame
in the classroom, he uses research and concrete examples that bring his work to life. It is easy to see the conversations and prompts described in the book coming to life in any classroom.

Opening Minds:
Using Language to Change Lives
Peter H. Johnston

Johnston claims that by choosing our words, we choose our world. As teachers, this choice not only impacts our daily lives, it constructs the world in which our students inhabit in the classroom. On page 2, he states, “In classrooms, events happen, but their meaning only becomes apparent through the filter of the language in which we immerse them.” Through this statement it is clear how we are considerably impacting the world of twenty or more individuals on a daily basis. It is our responsibility to build this world with language that reflects the values we want our students to embrace.

When describing what types of frames are possibilities in how we use language, two frames are identified by Johnston. He names these the
Fixed Performance Frame (FPF)
and the
Dynamic Learning Frame (DLF)
. The three biggest differences between
are the following:
• 1. Ability and intelligence as
• 2.
Learning goals
• 3.
How things are done
outcome, performance & speed

Fixed Performance Framework
You cannot change your mind•
Learning happens quickly
Goal is to look as smart as you can
Challenging & novel activities are stressful/risky
Pressures group to conform
Favor & adopt autocratic interaction patterns & perspectives (Irving Janis' term “groupthink” )
Dynamic Learning Framework
You can change your mind
•Learning takes time & effort
•Goal is to learn as much as you can
•Challenging & novel activities are engaging
•Efforts to understand, engage, & persuade
•Favors democratic patterns & perspective
Suggestions & Implications
Teachers - Part #2
Strategy #3: Creating a dialogic classroom
. (pg. 52) “They are classrooms in which there are multiple facts are multiple interpretations and perspectives – classrooms in which facts are considered in different contexts and which people challenge each other’s views and conclusions.”

Recommendations to build collaborative inquiry in the classroom.
1. Ask open questions “So why do you think…?”
2. Give enough wait time for others to respond
3. Do not judge the students’ ideas
4. Invite others to respond “What do the rest of you think? What does everyone think about this idea?”
5. Uses responses that show you are taking ideas seriously & listening to them
6. Use tentative markers when presenting an idea you’d like the students to consider “I’m wondering if... Maybe…Perhaps… Hmmm…”

Message: The perception of uncertainty enables dialogue.

Parents (and Teachers & Everybody)
Strategy #1: Remember that we are not just giving feedback, but also teaching children how to give feedback themselves. Use process-orientated feedback to promote a dynamic-learning framework.
Implications of a dynamic-learning frame rather than a fixed-performance frame
Research shows that, “Thinking well together leads to thinking well alone.” (pg. 96)

Prompts for Group Talk
Why do you think that? Could you explain?
I agree because…/I disagree because…
I agree and…
I have evidence…

What's Important in Group Talk?
Including ideas, evidence, logic & possibilities
Everyone participates

Interested in Reading More? Texts That Informed the Author’s Work

Choice Words
by Peter H. Johnston

Comprehension Through Conversation, Talking About Texts, Expanding Comprehension with Multigenre Text Sets
by Maria Nichols

Talking, Drawing, Writing
by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe

About the Authors
by Katie Wood Ray

Already Ready
by Matt Glover

Black Ants & Buddhists
by Mary Cowhey

For a Better World
by Kathy & Randy Bomer

Teaching Children to Care
by Ruth Charney

Mindset, Self Theories
by Carol Dweck

Words & Minds, Exploring Talk in Schools
by Neil Mercer

Book Review Compiled by Joy Verbon
Image from: http://www.homeofbob.com/professionalReads/images/openingMInds647.fw.png
Fixed Performance Frame
“I’m very disappointed in you.”
“You’re not good at this.”
“You’re a bad boy/girl.”

Note: Same results for feedback/praise in the positive that is person-orientated
“You’re a good boy/girl.”
“ I’m proud of you.”
“ You’re very good at this."

“I like the way you…”

Dynamic Learning Frame
“Maybe you could find another way to do it.”
“ You really tried hard.” (effort)
“ You found a good way to do it, could you think of other ways that would also work?”(strategy)

“Look at how you…”
Casual statement “You did this (…) with this consequence (…) – builds agency
“You did this (…) and if you tried (…), then it would have this (…) effect.”

Use a Dynamic Learning Frame. Focus on process and possibility.
Strategy #2: Talk to Support Social Problem Solving
Model productive social behavior, explain your logic, and emphasize the effects on other people.

Ask “What’s the problem?”
Restate the problem (agree on, amendable to solution, not personalized)
“How could we solve this problem?”(offer possibilities if needed)
Offer an agentive narrative “ You solved that problem. You figured out…”

Teachers - Part #1
Strategy #1: Turn their attention to change instead of stability when referencing themselves & others
Message: People are not permanently bad or good. It depends on situations, learnings, & decisions made by the person and these can change.

Strategy #2: Use casual processes in student feedback
Message: The importance of learning is how someone did (or could do) something. This is what we learn from.
"He's a bad boy." (FPF)

“He made a bad choice, don’t you think?”

“Not a bad guy. He just made a decision for his own benefit and didn’t consider other people.” (DLF)
“You did this…, so this happened.”
“This happened because you did this…”

“How did you do that?”
“How did you know that?”
“How could we figure that out?”
“What are you thinking?”
”Are you ready to get started?”
“Do you have a plan?”

How can we help children take-up a Dynamic Learning Frame rather than a Fixed Performance Frame?
Our explicit teaching about
people’s brains & minds work

Johnston defines the term “social imagination” as consisting of mind reasoning and social reasoning. He defines mind reasoning as,“the ability to read what’s going on behind your face” and social reasoning as “the ability to imagine and reason about other’s actions, intentions, feelings, and beliefs from multiple perspectives.” (Johnston, pp.70-1). He explains that although these skills are not taught by telling; they can be facilitated through talk.

Benefits of these skills can be seen in: academic learning (ex. idioms, irony), social relationships, moral reasoning, self-regulation, and behavior problems (ex.

assuming best intentions).

Some Talk to Promote Social Imagination Includes the Following Prompts:
What are you thinking?
What am I thinking?
What is he/she thinking?
Imagine, feel, believe, wonder, want, like, need, know

Theme #3
What are the consequences of a
Fixed Performance Frame
versus a Dynamic Learning Frame?

FPF: Agency & Helplessness

“I’ve never been good at this sort of thing. I have a terrible memory. I guess I’m not very smart.”
Students who use this frame, are easily self-defeated. When faced with a mistake or unsuccessful attempt, they will frequently use negative self-talk and view the situation as proof of lower intelligence or abilities.

“You shouldn’t have put the problems so close together. You interrupted my thinking.”
Blame is another quality of this frame. When faced with the situation that the learning "performance" is not going well, they will resort to blaming others.

Another common technique of this frame is to distract attention from their challenge by telling tales of their success in other areas.

DLF: Agency & Helplessness

Students who use this frame, act strategically. When faced with a mistake or unsuccessful attempt, they will view the activity as a challenge. Often they will
respond with enthusiasm
to try other challenges,
bank off of the collective knowledge
of their peers, and
look to other resources
for support. They view these situations as a
learning opportunity
and do not gauge their intelligence or ability on individual activities.

FPF: Dealing with Consequences

In this frame, students (and teachers) tend to work from a stance of
judgment and punishment
. Teachers evoke punishment and students expect punishment to be given for inappropriate behavior.

When working with peers,
disagreements turn into relational confrontations
and shift from the idea to the person.

Quick judgments and forming stereotypes
are also characteristics of those who function in this frame.

DLF: Dealing with Consequences

In this frame, students (and teachers) tend to
expect that people act the way they do because of psychological processes
: beliefs, knowledge, and feelings. They expect that people can change, making persuasion possible.

Teachers and students expect a
restorative stance towards justice
where they forgive and forget inappropriate behavior.

When working with peers, they
engage in disagreement and try to synthesize views

They are
slow to judge and form stereotypes

FPF: Classroom Performance
"I’m just not good at it."

Fixed Performance Frame is represented as permanent characteristics of the learner. In this frame, mistakes or unsuccessful attempts are seen as indicators of personal traits. This frame can be crippling for the learner.

The teacher might say,
“This is your score. It’s a very good score. You must be smart.”
which implies that the student's abilities are fixed. It gives the same message of permanence when the teacher states (or the student implies the following feedback:
“You’re not good at this.”
“You always…”
“You never…”

Message: Research shows that this language in feedback reduces effort and success in later challenges. (Carol Dweck)

DLF: Classroom Performance
"I’m just not good at it

Dynamic Learning Frame is represented as dynamic characteristics of the learner. In this frame, ability and intelligence grow with learning and depend on the situation. Mistakes and unsuccessful attempts are seen as opportunities to learn something new.

The teacher might say,
“This is your score. It’s a very good score. You must have worked hard.”
This implies that each time the student tries something, it is a new opportunity. Their performance is not fixed, but can change with effort.

Message: Research shows that this language in feedback increases effort and success in later challenges. (Carol Dweck)

Afflerbach, P., Kim, J.Y., Crassas, M.E., & Cho, B.Y. (2011). Best practices in literacy assessment.
In L.M. Morrow & L.B. Gambrell (Eds.), Best Practices in Literacy Instruction: Fourth Edition (pp.96-116). New York: The Guilford Press.

Afflerbach, P., Cho, B.Y., Crassas, M. E., Kim, J.Y., & Doyle, B. (In press). Reading: What else matters
besides strategy and skill? The Reading Teacher.

Allen, D., Ort, S. W., & Schmidt, J. (2009). Supporting classroom assessment practice: Lessons from a
small high school. Theory Into Practice, 48, 72-80.

Gee, J. P. (2001). Reading as situated language: A sociocognitive perspective. Journal of Adolescent and
Adult Literacy, 44(8), 714-725.Pressley, M., Wharton-McDonald, R., Mistretta, J., & Echevarria, M. (1998). Literacy instruction in 10 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in upstate New York. Scientific Studies of Reading, 2, 159-191.

Johnston, P.H. (2012). Opening Minds: Using language to change lives. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Reutzel, D.R. (2011). Organizing effective literacy instruction: Differentiating instruction to meet
student needs. In L.M. Morrow & L.B. Gambrell (Eds.), Best Practices in Literacy Instruction: Fourth Edition (pp. 412-435). New York: The Guilford Press.

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