Saturday, July 21, 2012

Opening Minds #CyberPD Part 2

This is the second week of our #CyberPD conversation about Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  Thank you Cathy Mere for hosting last week's conversation on your blog.  This week, we are discussing chapters 4-6 and Jill Fisch is hosting the event on her blog My Primary Passion - thank you Jill! Next week, Laura Komos will host our final reflection of the remaining chapters.

My Thoughts and Reflections from Chapters 4-6:

Chapter 4 resonated with me more than some other chapters because many of us can probably say we are guilty of saying, "Good Job" or "I like how..." and according to Johnston this is the opposite of the kind of feedback we should be giving children.  I often hear teachers say, "I like the way..." or "I like how..." to try to build confidence and to encourage other students to correct their behavior.  This kind of feedback, however, does not promote learning but is person-oriented praise rather than process-oriented praise which we want to give.  Johnston's line on page 38 struck home when he said, "saying 'I'm proud of you' has the same effect as saying 'I'm disappointed in you.'" This made me realize that when we say, "I like the way..."  we are giving other students the impression that we don't like what they are doing and the feedback is in the form of a judgement.  Also if we say, "Good job" to one student but then say, "Excellent job" to another student, how does that make the first student feel?  I admit I am faulty of using person-oriented praise at times and am going to work extra hard this year to give productive feedback that is process-orientated.  I am going to take Katie Dicesare's idea of creating "cheat sheets" of some of this language until I fully internalize it.

Some of the language from these chapters that I may add to my "cheat sheets" are:
  • "Look at how you..."
  • "How did you...?"
  • "Why do you think...?"
  • "Could you think of other ways that would also work?"
  • "You tried hard to..."
  • "You can teach others..."
Some of the language I'm going to work hard to eliminate are:

  • "Good job"
  • "I like the way..."
  • " I like how..."

On page 48 in Chapter 4, I love the line, "The purpose of feedback is to improve conceptual understanding or increase strategic options while developing stamina, resilience, and motivation - expanding the vision of what is possible and how to get there." I love how Peter Johnston suggests that we maybe call it feedforward instead of feedback - makes so much sense since our goal is to move students forward in their learning process.

Opening Minds by Peter Johnston has made me think of language in ways that I have never thought of before and I thank him for pushing my thinking about the way I talk to kids in new and better directions.  This is a must-read book for all educators and it is a book that I will continue to reread and refer to often - I'm glad I have the e-book version so I have it with me at all times :)

To read more reflections about Opening Minds by Peter Johnston, please be sure to visit Jill Fisch's blog and Cathy Mere's blog. Laura Komos will be hosting #cyberpd next week on her blog for chapters 7-9.  

Happy Reading! :)


  1. Melanie,

    Thanks for such a great start to the cheat sheet list. I will be borrowing this. As I read your post I was already feeling like I need to reread this book now and I haven't even finished yet. There is just so much to absorb. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Mel,
    I also like the part of page 47 when Johnston states, "Positive feedback is not really for establishing self esteem. It is particularly for establishing the foundation on which to build." He goes on to talk about the two advantages of feedback: "First, it takes what the child has already done and turn it into a successful 'agentive' experience." Second,... "it starts instruction with something the child already knows." I too love the idea of calling it feedforward! It is much more conducive to the ideas shared in ch. 5.