|Three of our specialist teachers practicing|
use of teacher language while working
as a conferring trio.
"I have a tip to give you. While walking around listening to your conferences, I heard you deliver specific feedback related directly to the skills of writing that were evident in the work. I heard things like: 'I like how you chunked your different sections into paragraphs,' 'I appreciate your use of content specific words- for example here you wrote soil instead of dirt,' 'I really like how you thought of a way to introduce your story to grab the reader's attention.' This was great, specific feedback about the skills your students were demonstrating. Now- for my tip."
"Get rid of 'I like…'" A few teachers stared back at me with puzzled looks. "I know this sounds odd, but here's why: When we deliver feedback to students using the words, 'I like,' we suddenly make students' writing efforts about pleasing us rather than about them practicing to develop the skills of good writing. It's not about what we like and pleasing the teacher, rather it's about our students striving to become good writers for themselves. Let's all give the power back to our students and stop saying 'I like…'"
Suddenly, the room of teachers started quickly jotting notes on their papers or furiously typing on keyboards while nodding their heads in agreement. When sharing out at the end of the day, many said that getting rid of "I like…" was their big take away. Teacher language matters- this little phrase is the difference between students writing for us or students writing for themselves and their audience.
I confessed to our groups that for 12 years as a classroom teacher, I constantly said "I like…" while giving feedback to students. Without knowing it, I made the feedback about me. It's not until it was pointed out to me last year as a classroom teacher that my conferring practice changed.
"As a writer, you made sure your pictures and words matched to show and tell your story to your audience." (show the writer an example of where he did this).
Honestly, this is something I am still continually working on refining. When giving demo lessons and conferences in classrooms, I sometimes find myself using the phrase "I like…" When I do, I immediately point it out to the observing teachers. Then, I go in and correct my language with the students. Perhaps this isn't the smoothest way to go about it, but it's the way that is helping me to consistently think about my own language and how it impacts our student writers and teachers.
Please join me in retiring the once loved phrase "I like…" Let's all make a conscious effort to make our teacher language about our students and not about us.
Happy writing, friends!