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What we say to students and how we say it is one of our most powerful teacher tools. We cannot welcome a student to our classroom, handle a classroom conflict or teach a lesson without using our words. Our teacher language has the ability to lift students to their highest potential or tear them down. It influences how students think and act, and ultimately how they learn.

Reinforcing language identifies students’ specific positive actions and provides encouragement to continue. We all need reminders, but reminding students with reminding language before they begin a task or start to make a mistake helps them stay on task, organized, responsible and safe. When students are too emotional to correct themselves, too far into a mistake to correct themselves or doing something harmful to themselves or others, they need to be redirected with clear words through redirecting language. Our goal is to encourage autonomy, but at times it is necessary to provide external control to keep them safe and productive when their self-control is failing them.

There are five general guidelines for effective teacher language: be direct and authentic, convey faith in students’ abilities and intentions, focus on action, keep it brief and know when to be silent. Incorporating these five principles into our classroom helps students feel safe, respected and engaged.

Learning and growing require hard work and in order for students to do that hard work they need to see themselves as successful and capable. This is a fundamental goal of teachers and a key tool for helping students achieve is envisioning language. An effective envisioning statement helps students see their potential as learners and provides the necessary motivation to fulfill that potential.

But, effective teacher language takes practice. Teachers must craft their words deliberately and responsibly. Remember, teacher language, when used effectively, can influence achievement and classroom management. But, changing our language can be challenging!