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Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives [Paperback]

Peter Johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2012 1571108165 978-1571108166
Sometimes, a single word changes everything. Discover how the words teachers use can engage students, empower their learning, and create classrooms that support not only intellectual development, but the social, emotional, and moral development of children.

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Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives + Choice Words + Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent resource that should be required reader for all teachers. The impact of the words we use when speaking to our students has been a neglected area of our profession for too long.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Insightful March 5 2012
By Bill Gallagher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Peter Johnston has made a career researching and articulately presenting insights into how to help children grow as readers and develop intellectual curiosity. In Opening Minds he focuses on how the words and state of mind we inhabit can make a real difference in the classroom. For instance, when introducing a spelling test, he asks that we observe the difference between saying, "`Let's see how many words you know' and `Let's see how many words you already know.'" The sentences are only different by one word, "but the "already" suggest that any words the child knows are ahead of expectation and, most important, that there is nothing permanent about what is known and not known."

In Opening Minds, Johnston covers a wide range of issues, from more skillful ways to work with motivating students to ways of developing social intelligence (or, as he calls it, social imagination). Johnston does this in ways that hint at how he hopes others will teach. That is, he never hits us over the head with "shoulds" and "must-dos", but gives examples that help lead us to developing more thoughtful approaches.

I especially liked his chapter on praise. In it he points out how relying heavily on praise (which is a popular approach in this era of self-esteem boosting) has some downsides, such as creating an arms race around what is real praise and what is faint praise -- and ultimately keeps us in an externally-motivated rewards and punishment system. Instead, he gently leads us to see the greater value of taking a real interest in your students work. By asking questions that bring out greater depth, the student learns depth and intellectual probing is most important, and that you genuinely care; all this, without setting up a dynamic that leads the student to look for praise. The work itself becomes the reward. In retrospect this makes obvious sense: in a way, praise can be an easy short cut, while really paying attention and putting yourself in the student's frame of mind takes more work and effort. What I especially liked about this chapter is Johnston got us there in such a gentle way, that I wasn't left with the feeling of "what a dope I'd been in the past." This approach leads by example.

It's hard to imagine a teacher not benefitting from this book, and non-teachers too for that matter. Since we're all kids underneath our adult facade and protective layers, we can communicate more clearly with his gentle but thoughtful approaches.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!! April 1 2012
By Courtney P - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought his first book, Word Choices and I was amazed at the knowledge. Opening Minds will not let you down. What teachers say and how they say it to their students really affects their learning in the classroom. You could apply this knowledge to parenting too. I'm ready for the next book!!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every teacher who wants to truly make a difference must read this!! April 7 2012
By AMW - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is so informative. It shows you how to teach more effectively just by changing how you say things. I was attached to this book and finished it within two days!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opened my mind Aug. 21 2013
By D. Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Opening Minds opened my mind to how we categorize students, thereby passing on our "fixed" mindsets of learners. I would like to suggest that every teacher read this book. It is applicable to gifted as well as our most marginalized learners.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ for all teachers April 17 2013
By ScottyMusicTchr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No matter what subject you teach or grade you teach, you must have this short little book. I read it in one afternoon--short, but jam-packed with great stuff. It's basically qualitative research told in narrative form. It compares and contrasts teaching styles and what is more effective for students to excel. It really questions our government's current obsession for testing which loses the whole love of learning for the sake of learning! The teachers described here have classrooms based on respect and high expectations and they get results, man. A major portion is devoted to developing a student's sense of self-efficacy. It replaces destructive thought patterns like, "I'm stupid at math" and "I'm no good at spelling" and "It's the teacher's fault for making me get an F on the test" with positive, realistic, can-do thoughts--but realistic, honest thoughts, not ooey-gooey feel groovy crap. I highly recommend this book and the companion book "Choice Words." Both books recognize the great power that teachers have over the thought lives and academic lives of their students. We teachers must use that power in constructive ways. WOW!!
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