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The Language of Learning
Seven languages need to be reinforced in the classroom
08/01/2017
Dr. Alain Gholam recently presented at the 4th Annual International Conference on Humanities and Arts in a Global World organized by the Athens Institute of Education and Research (ATINER), which took place from 3-6 January 2017 in Athens, Greece.
 
His research focused on the power of language used in the classroom and how this affects the learning environment.
 
Any teacher can find it extremely easy to define the term, ‘Language’. According to the Oxford dictionary, language is a method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Most probably, when teachers come to think about language in their own classroom, they perceive it as the system of communication used by the students to construct meaning and shape group understanding around certain beliefs, thoughts, ideas, behaviours, and actions. Yet, as educators, it is crucial we don’t underestimate the power of language. The power of language doesn’t depend solely on words and sentences that transmit a message and provide meaning. The power of language is revealed when we come to comprehend and realize how it can shape our inner thinking, perception of who we are, and our social identity,” Dr. Gholam explained.
 
It is well acknowledged that teachers want their students to attain – in addition to knowledge and facts – a variety of skills, concepts, and attitudes. Teachers want their students to ask questions, show curiosity and interest, enjoy investigating and experimenting, exchange feelings and thoughts through the learning process, express their ideas freely and creatively, think critically, make and admit mistakes, be honest and helpful to others, respect dynamics and different viewpoints, and definitely think and reflect on what they do. In order to observe such elements flourish in the classroom, a teacher needs to make sure he/she creates a culture of thinking.
 
According to Ron Ritchhart (2015), seven languages need to be reinforced in the classroom in order to reinforce a culture of thinking: language of thinking, community, identity, initiative, mindfulness, praise and feedback, and listening. Dr. Gholam’s paper inquires into the seven languages in more depth to better recognize how each functions in a classroom setting, what it might look like, feel like, and sound like, and how it can shape the learning of the individual student and the group. 
 
Understanding how to efficiently make use of such languages is useful for the whole school community: teachers, coordinators, principals, leaders, parents, and students. As teachers, we must always question our language: Are we conveying the views, feelings, opinions, and thoughts we truly want? Are we being judgemental and critical? Are we noticing and naming the thinking occurring in our classrooms? Are we making use of inclusive, community-building language, such as “we” and “our”? It is essential that we come to realize the hidden power of language and how it can outline who we are.
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