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Magazine Issue 18: Language for Learning
December 2011

This month ideas about and techniques for Using Language

Article: Using Language
New Resources
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Using Language

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Using Language An Article exploring the gift of language and challenging us to get our children talking rather than keeping them silent.

Language is the dress of thought.
Samuel Johnson

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. 
William Butler Yeats

What is language? What is communication? How can thinking about language help learning?

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, English, Educators

Tags: Language Speaking & Listening
Groob Pleakness clibbed Fulsy Beechive helkering jibly un tib wrink dablet. Nonsense, yet meaningfully structured. The words are gobbledegook but the grammar is familiar; we can make a reasonable guess as to what Groob and Fulsy might be up to. Leikwsie the oredr of ltertes mnakig up inidiavdul wodrs is nto as estsenial to unandrsntdeig as we mya hvae ocne toghuht. Phonics-politics aside, Language is mysterious, diverse and beautiful. Children are born with grammar engines already puffing away in their heads and all we parents and teachers need do is shovel in huge bags of words as fuel, keeping our own engines on show and turning . ‘If Groob keeps doing what he’s doing’, we might ask a four-year-old, ‘what would we say?’ ‘Clibbing,’ could be the reply; no idea what the verb means, but hardwired to understand how verbs work.

Over 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today, many sharing common linguistic heritages such Proto-Indo European (PIE). Words emerge and decay; grammar mutates; old languages cling on in the mouths of elders; variants and deviants r cr8ed. Language is alive and has been evolving ever since humans dropped their emotionally driven grunts and mumbles and picked up sophisticated verbal tools. We needed to collaborate to acquire food but complex food acquisition required complex communication. So when the hunting was difficult the guy with the good idea used language to tell the tribe his plan and to coordinate group action.

When the brain uses language it integrates thought, senses, memory and emotion. When children talk about what they are doing, as they are learning, they use more neural resources than if they are silent. (how often do we start to self-talk, muttering under our breaths, when challenged by a particularly difficult problem).  Ironic then that a very popular classroom instruction is still ‘stop talking’ or variants thereof. The classroom should be purposefully noisy and flooded by structured, relevant talk. Children should be bathed in language and taught how to swim. Rather than shutting them up we must set them off.

Language makes thought visible and public. We express the past and imagine the future. Stories are told, culture and behaviours preserved, plans made and aspirations articulated. Language lets us say who we are and express what we might become. What a gift we have to give to our young ones.


New Resources:

Loom Thinking

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Loom Thinking A hands on Thinking Skills Tool to help pupils clarify their subject knowledge then weave it into new combinations.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Creativity, Any Subject, DT, Junior

Tags: Active Learning
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English Think Sheet - Story

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English Think Sheet - Story A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas for understanding and creating narrative.

Categories: Think Sheet, English, Junior, Thinking Skills

Tags: Story
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Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Think Sheets are activities that combine knowledge and thinking skills. More available in previous issues including,

Geography Think Sheet - Cities

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Geography Think Sheet - Cities A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas for creatively exploring urban living and sustainability.

Categories: Think Sheet, Geography, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Cities Sustainability
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DT Think Sheet - Product Ideas

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DT Think Sheet - Product Ideas A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas for considering design requirements and innovative/creative product problem solving.

Categories: Think Sheet, DT, Junior, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Design
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ICT Think Sheet - Sharing Information

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ICT Think Sheet - Sharing Information A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas for exploring the high quality exchange of information.

Categories: Think Sheet, IT, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Technology Communication
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Next month we think about Emotional Intelligence