While on a site visit at Winton Woods Intermediate School last Thursday, I was able to be present for a staff conversation about the science of learning words. Did you know the word "run" has 62 different meanings?! (I'd be lying if I pretended like I haven't been trying to come up with all 62 since that staff meeting!) Since there are so many complexities to words that may seem so simple to us, you can imagine how difficult it might be fore a student who struggles to understand ONE word, let alone a whole bunch of them put together into a phrase or sentence! There was a strategy shared for supporting students comprehension of word meanings which really stood out to me. It's a strategy that I've seen/heard so many effective teachers and school leaders use multiple times, but we often take it for granted when thinking about using this particular for the purpose of supporting students sense-making of words. The strategy is this.... rather than telling others what they shouldn't do, tell them what they should do.
Seems so simple, right!? Yeah.... I thought so too, until this strategy has been driving every interaction I've had since that meeting on Thursday!!!! My now 10 month old son, Owen, has found his inner-monkey. Seriously, this kid climbs on EVERYTHING!! My husband and I have found ourselves lowering our tone of voice, saying "Owen, don't step up there" or "No no. You'll get hurt" as Owen begins to step onto the fireplace hearth, the opened dishwasher door, the toy box, blah blah blah. Effective? Maybe. But all we're communicating is what we don't want to see him do (as we know it will result in a non-favorable outcome). Instead, we should start telling him what we'd like to see him do. "Come play on the floor" and "Let's roll a ball instead." Not only does that build an entirely different vocabulary for him (whether he understands it at the moment or not), but in the long run, won't leave him feeling confused and thinking, "But I want to climb! What on earth would I do instead!?"
As an amateur photographer (I have 32GB-ish of photos of Owen now, so that makes me a "photographer" now, right?!?) , ;) I was asked to take Senior Pictures for the daughter of one of my friends at the gym. As I started posing her at our photo shoot today, I found myself paying attention to what can make or break the flow of a picture... her hands, her arm & leg placement, the tilt of her head... it all matters! As she sat on a fallen log, I started to say to her, "don't slouch when you sit" and then the strategy of should's vs. shouldn'ts came to mind. "Roll your shoulders back and down". YES! She went from scrunchy to elongated in just six words! All I had to do was communicate an alternate method for achieving the goal (one that I was able to see and she was unsure how to execute without guidance.... just like Owen and his monkey-like tendencies...)
At the gym, I know my form's off when I perform a heavy clean. I've found myself getting frustrated with coaching cues like, "you're pulling too early" and "your elbows are out on the 2nd pull." I KNOW I KNOW!! And now it makes sense! I'm feeling frustrated because, yes...while those are true statements (and good to know), what's lacking is a statement of what should be happening at those moments instead. "Use your hips & legs to drive the bar, with arms straight until the bar is weightless." Huh....alright then. Let's try that method!
You get the drift, right?! Pay attention to yourself as you communicate with your team teacher, support staff, students, significant others, children, pets.... What message are your words sending? Are you getting your desired results? How are you communicating, or could you communicate, alternate methods for achieving the goals? What specific language is/can be used to help others make sense of your expectations? Of the message you're really trying to send?
Peace, love, and too many examples,