In productive classrooms, teachers don't just teach children skills: they build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities. Teachers create intellectual environments that produce not only technically competent students, but also caring, secure, actively literate human beings.
Choice Words shows how teachers accomplish this using their most powerful teaching tool: language. Throughout, Peter Johnston provides examples of apparently ordinary words, phrases, and uses of language that are pivotal in the orchestration of the classroom. Grounded in a study by accomplished literacy teachers, the book demonstrates how the things we say (and don't say) have surprising consequences for what children learn and for who they become as literate people. Through language, children learn how to become strategic thinkers, not merely learning the literacy strategies. In addition, Johnston examines the complex learning that teachers produce in classrooms that is hard to name and thus is not recognized by tests, by policy-makers, by the general public, and often by teachers themselves, yet is vitally important.
This book will be enlightening for any teacher who wishes to be more conscious of the many ways their language helps children acquire literacy skills and view the world, their peers, and themselves in new ways.
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About the Author
Peter Johnston grew up and taught elementary school in New Zealand before coming to the United States to earn his Ph.D. at the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois. At the time his plans did not include staying in the United States let alone getting married and raising a family. He now lives in Albany, New York, with his wife Tina, and a cat left behind by one of his (three) children returning briefly from college.
Peter's research and writing spring from his fascination with children's learning and, no less, teachers' teaching. Perversely, he believes that education is not simply about delivering information to children. He thinks it is more about building a just, caring society and that doing so will not detract from our more obviously pragmatic educational goals. In his most recent Stenhouse book, Choice Words, he uses his fascination with the relationship between language and learning to show how this works moment to moment in the classroom.
A professor at the State University of New York at Albany, Peter and his colleagues Becky Rogers and Cheryl Dozier recently researched their own teaching of beginning teachers in Critical Literacy/Critical Teaching: Tools for Preparing Responsive Teachers. Knowing Literacy, his most recent book on assessment, arose from his interest in the ways assessment teaching and learning are linked. His research on assessment has given him reason to be skeptical of high-stakes testing because of its effects on teaching and learning.
When asked to describe himself as a writer, he says that he "binges." While not recommended, this approach has resulted in some eight books and about fifty research articles, along with occasional awards from professional organizations. Some of this, of course, is accounted for by age. The departure of his youngest daughter into a teacher education program, along with his recent election to the Reading Hall of Fame, asserts his "old fart" status.
Beyond his family, research, soccer, singing, and humor sustain him. Failing that, a glass of chardonnay helps.
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