Choice Words, by Peter H. Johnston

The first book I would like to recommend is Choice Words:  How Our Language Affects Children's Learning, as it comes HIGHLY recommended by Dr. Maria Walther.  According to the back page blurb, it "shows how teachers accomplish this [building emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities] using their most powerful teaching tool:  language."  


  1. I really like how Johnston reiterates that speech is action on pp. 8-10. By naming a student "an author", "a poet", etc., we are inviting this child to take on this role. What a great way to empower a student who might not feel s/he is good at something we are learning about in class!

  2. So, I have been attending the Literacy in Motion conference at Judson University all week; hence, the reason I have not been able to read and blog. However, I was able to spend some time with Mr. Johnston this afternoon --- by reading a few more chapters. I absolutely LOVE his thoughts on the use of positive language in order to NOURISH, NUDGE, and STRENGTHEN (thank you Ruth Ayres!) our students to help them become critical readers, writers, and thinkers.

    Johnston writes on page 29: "If nothing else, children should leave school with a sense that if they act, and act strategically, they can accomplish their goals. I call this feeling a sense of urgency."

    He continues by writing: "This desire for agency persists throughout life and is so powerful, that when people feel there is no relationship between what they do and what happens, they become depressed and helpless" [Seligman 1975, Skinner, Simmer-Gembeck, and Connell 1998].

    This is powerful! We must remember that if we don't nurture our students, they will feel helpless and show little to no growth. It seems like all the PHENOMENAL people I've been meeting (Dr. Maria Walther and Ruth Ayres) are all saying the same thing. We need to stop and ask ourselves EACH AND EVERY DAY how we are encouraging and promoting these attitudes and beliefs in ALL our students. I don't think we do this enough.

  3. I have yet to read this book, but it is on my list of books to read this summer!

  4. Noor, I'm in the same boat as you... it's in my "stack" of things to read this summer! I'm definitely looking forward to diving in based on all the great things Dr. Walther said about it though. :)

  5. Ok, so it's been a few weeks since last I made a contribution to this blog. What can I say?! I've been BUSY!! Anyway, I had some time tonight to pick it up again, and I immediately get excited and think of ALL the powerful words we can use with children to give them a sense of agency in their writing. For example, there are three little words that have an immense amount of power when used correctly or incorrectly:
    1. and
    2. but
    3. if
    Johnston discusses this idea on pp. 34-36, and it just gives me goosebumps! "You really have me interested in this character [in your writing] because of the things he says, and if you show me how he says them and what he looks like, I will get an even stronger sense of him" (p. 34). WOW!! This would totally affirm what the child is push her/him to the next level by insinuating the author is going to continue editing the piece to truly engage the reader. This is good stuff!