What will you hear teachers saying in a good school? Part 2

where can i purchase clomid online In the last article I described some of the ‘soft’ skills that you should expect to hear when an excellent teacher is talking to his or her students. This time, I will write about a few of the ‘technical’ or ‘professional’ speaking skills that are routinely used by expert teachers and which you will probably notice if you have the chance to visit a classroom. What follows are brief descriptions of five such skills, all of which are based on research confirming their effectiveness in influencing the quality of children’s learning:

1.    Teachers praise children’s effort, not their achievement.

source url Rationale: success in any aspect of life is based, at least in part, upon how much effort the individual or team is willing to expend in order to achieve that success. When a teacher praises a child’s achievement it can have the unfortunate effect of saying to the child, “You’ve done everything you need to do, well done”.  A child who hears this may therefore lose the motivation to continue. It is much better for the teacher to thank or praise a student for their hard work, thereby conveying the message to the child that further hard work will help raise the child’s level of achievement – which is always true!

2.    Teachers do not give feedback to the student in order to provide ‘comfort’.

price of diovan Rationale: At first this idea may seem harsh. After all, we all like to be comforted don’t we? But let’s consider the example of a child who has just performed badly on a test, perhaps an end of term mathematics test. The teacher who says,” Never mind, I know it was a difficult test and you did your best” may seem to be kind, but it’s the wrong sort of kindness! The message the child hears is “I’m not very good at maths and I could not expect to do better.” A child who thinks she cannot do better will certainly not do better in future! The skill of the teacher is to use supportive language to the student while helping her consider how she can do better in future.

3.    Teachers use open-ended questions.

Rationale: A fundamental aim of teaching (and parenting) is to help students improve their learning (much more on this in future posts). Open-ended questions are those which imply that there may be more than one answer to a question. An example of an open-ended question is: “What are the likely results of this experiment?”. The effect of open-ended questions is to encourage the child to search for multiple answers, which is how an individual’s learning and the whole of human knowledge develop. The teacher who asks only closed questions such as, “What conclusion did you reach from reading this chapter?” is in effect saying to the student, “There is only one answer to this question and I know what it is.” Closed questions result in closed minds.

4.    Teachers use both the “approachable” and the “credible” voices* when speaking to students.

Rationale: The “approachable” or “invitational” voice has a softness of tone and, in the English language as well as some others, may have an upwards inflection at the end of the sentence. This voice invites the children to participate in the discussion and is used by teachers in many contexts including when they want to check with students what they have understood. The “credible” voice has a stern tone and sentences may end with a falling inflection. A teacher is correct to use this when giving firm instructions or in cases of emergency. An extreme example would be the case of giving directions to children during an emergency evacuation. When choosing which voice to use, the key thing for the teacher to remember is that children take more note of the tone of the teacher’s voice than the actual words she uses.

5.    Teachers use silence as a means to improve students’ learning.

Rationale: There is nothing wrong with the enthusiastic ‘buzz’ that we often hear in a classroom where children are learning well. But sometimes the old saying ‘silence is golden’ can also true. A good example is when the teacher asks a question to the whole class. The skilful teacher will not allow the quickest student to call out an answer. Instead, she will insist upon a period of silence while all students have the opportunity to think their answers through. This is called ‘wait time’** and its skilful use has been found to improve the thinking of every child.

There are many other speaking skills that are used by excellent teachers, but those I have described above may be of particular interest to parents who ask themselves, “How should I speak to my child?”

Thank you.

*Many of the strategies that we use when working with children and adults are described in an excellent book by Robert Garmston and Bruce Wellman entitled The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups.

** The term “wait time”, known to most teachers, was coined by Mary Budd Rowe in the 1970s. If you are interested to learn more, you will find plenty of information about it on the Internet.

Next time: Three questions that will tell me how well my child is being taught (for parents’ eyes only!).


What will you hear teachers saying in a good school?

There are so many things to listen out for when you visit a school. Most important are the things that you hear the teachers and students saying – and the way that they say them. If you are a current or prospective parent, or perhaps an applicant teacher, it’s good to know exactly what you should expect to hear in a happy and high achieving classroom.

First, though, I wish to give you an outline of the next few articles so that you understand the sequence of what I am writing. In this article and the next I will explain ten things that you will be sure to hear excellent teachers saying in the classroom. Following that I’ll suggest some simple questions to ask your child – or indeed any student.  The answers they give to these questions will tell you how well they are being taught.  Finally in this group of articles, I will explain why the student’s personal expectations of success are vitally important and how the parent and teacher can contribute to raising those expectations.

I’ll start today with five of the ‘soft’ skills that you should expect to hear when an excellent teacher is talking to his or her students. These apply to all ages and grade (year) levels. By ‘soft’ skills I mean the tone of voice and the choice of vocabulary that the teacher chooses. To the listener these provide a window into the mindset* of the teacher. Excellent teachers have a positive or ‘growth’ mindset about their students and about the expectations they have for each student’s academic achievement. Children are sensitive to the language and tone of voice used by their teachers, and they respond accordingly. They thrive in the classroom of the teacher who is positively disposed towards them. You will no doubt recall this from your own days as a schoolchild!

1.    Teachers use language that shows that they trust their students.

Rationale: Nobody responds well to a teacher, mentor, or friend who does not trust them. Unless a student feels trusted she will not accept responsibility for her own learning, nor will she be held accountable for her learning or her behaviour. Without trust there is a vicious circle of despair.

2.    Teachers use respectful language towards every student.

Rationale: All students deserve equal respect regardless of their academic achievement to date (called ‘readiness’), ethnicity, language proficiency, religion, cultural sensitivities and so forth. The teacher needs to be able to adapt his or her language according to the individual child. The key skills for the teacher are the ability to listen to themselves and observe the reactions of their students.

3.    Teachers use language that shows they care for their students.

Rationale: Students in school are not young adults. They are children in the process of learning about how to think and how to live. Teachers are responsible for their welfare – in fact they act in loco parentis, which means they are standing in place of the parent. A survey of American students about their teachers some years ago showed that some 60% of high school students wanted their teachers to care for them more than anything else. This may not have been the easiest thing for older teenagers to admit!

4.    Teachers are honest with their students.

Rationale: Like everyone else in this world, children rely on those around them to be honest. This includes being told the hard truth – but in a kindly way that includes counselling on how to improve. A teacher who shields a child from her misunderstandings or shortcomings is telling that child that she should be satisfied with the way things are. This shows a ‘fixed’ mindset, which prevents the student from growing.

5.    Teachers do not ‘dumb down’ their language for students.

Rationale: The use of simplified or ‘baby’ language by the teacher is disrespectful. Just because a word is long, or the students haven’t heard it before, does not mean that they cannot be helped to understand it. The important thing is for the teacher to know each student’s readiness to understand the concept that the word represents. A short word can represent a deep concept – and vice versa.

It is not difficult to recognise and appreciate the ‘soft’ skills of effective teacher-talk when you hear it. However, it may take years of training and experience – and learning from each other – to be able to use these skills. It is one of the teaching skills that your child’s success in school depends upon. The same can be said, of course, of the language used by the parent in the home. If you are a parent it may be useful to consider your own ‘soft’ language skills when talking with your son or daughter.

Thank you.

*If you would like to find out more about mindset, read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Next time: What are some of the technical skills that you will hear when an excellent teacher is talking to his or her students?