Cultures of Thinking (CoT)
Language: Words Shape our Thoughts and Actions
Language (noun). The system of communication used to create meaning and build group coherence and understanding around ideas, behaviors, and actions.
Ron Ritchhart (2015), author of this critical text for educators states, "The words and structures that make up language not only convey an explicit surface meaning but also impart a set of deeper associations and connections that implicitly shape thought and influence behavior. This is the hidden power of language: its ability to subtly convey messages that shape our thinking, sense of self, and group affinity" (p. 61).
Language can facilitate the development of a culture of thinking in classrooms, schools and even at home. Ritchart defines seven key areas of language:
Each of these key areas shape and inform our thoughts, feelings and experiences. Lev Vygotsky (1978) stated, "The child begins to perceive the world not only through its eyes but also through its speech. And later it is not just seeing but acting that becomes informed by words" (p. 78). When educators notice their students’ behaviors and and positively name the type of thinking they are exhibiting, the learners will want to repeat those behaviors. For instance, when focused on the language of identity, instead of saying to the learner, "Please do your work," the teacher states, "Time to do your learning." Work is something we do for someone else, whereas, learning is personal, and we learn for our own benefit. Classroom protocols can also promote Ritchart’s key areas of language. "See-Think-Wonder " requires the learner to look closely, notice details, observe, make connections and question. When the teacher debriefs the protocol, noticing and naming the type of thinking can take the learning even further.
The culture of language can seem so obvious, yet for many, the patterns of speech are so much of who they are that they do not even notice the words they are using. Being aware and being intentional of how language can shape a learning culture are the first steps.