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Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives

4.8 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1571108166
ISBN-10: 1571108165
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  • Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives
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Editorial Reviews

Review

By combining rich descriptions of classroom interactions with research to back up his claims, Johnston writes convincingly and paints lasting images of effective ways to engender agency (the will to act), positive self-theories, and constructive perspectives to change lives within our classrooms. --Language Arts

Johnston's thinking is transformative. He has created a layered effect of ideas and theories that form a solid path to becoming a master in the apprenticeship of children into humanity. --MiddleWeb

It is brilliant. Just as in Choice Words, Johnston packs a ton into a small book. --A Year of Reading blog
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers (January 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571108165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571108166
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Peter Johnston has made a career researching and articulately presenting insights into how to help children grow as readers and develop intellectual curiosity. In Opening Minds he focuses on how the words and state of mind we inhabit can make a real difference in the classroom. For instance, when introducing a spelling test, he asks that we observe the difference between saying, "`Let's see how many words you know' and `Let's see how many words you already know.'" The sentences are only different by one word, "but the "already" suggest that any words the child knows are ahead of expectation and, most important, that there is nothing permanent about what is known and not known."

In Opening Minds, Johnston covers a wide range of issues, from more skillful ways to work with motivating students to ways of developing social intelligence (or, as he calls it, social imagination). Johnston does this in ways that hint at how he hopes others will teach. That is, he never hits us over the head with "shoulds" and "must-dos", but gives examples that help lead us to developing more thoughtful approaches.

I especially liked his chapter on praise. In it he points out how relying heavily on praise (which is a popular approach in this era of self-esteem boosting) has some downsides, such as creating an arms race around what is real praise and what is faint praise -- and ultimately keeps us in an externally-motivated rewards and punishment system. Instead, he gently leads us to see the greater value of taking a real interest in your students work. By asking questions that bring out greater depth, the student learns depth and intellectual probing is most important, and that you genuinely care; all this, without setting up a dynamic that leads the student to look for praise.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought his first book, Word Choices and I was amazed at the knowledge. Opening Minds will not let you down. What teachers say and how they say it to their students really affects their learning in the classroom. You could apply this knowledge to parenting too. I'm ready for the next book!!
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No matter what subject you teach or grade you teach, you must have this short little book. I read it in one afternoon--short, but jam-packed with great stuff. It's basically qualitative research told in narrative form. It compares and contrasts teaching styles and what is more effective for students to excel. It really questions our government's current obsession for testing which loses the whole love of learning for the sake of learning! The teachers described here have classrooms based on respect and high expectations and they get results, man. A major portion is devoted to developing a student's sense of self-efficacy. It replaces destructive thought patterns like, "I'm stupid at math" and "I'm no good at spelling" and "It's the teacher's fault for making me get an F on the test" with positive, realistic, can-do thoughts--but realistic, honest thoughts, not ooey-gooey feel groovy crap. I highly recommend this book and the companion book "Choice Words." Both books recognize the great power that teachers have over the thought lives and academic lives of their students. We teachers must use that power in constructive ways. WOW!!
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In this relatively slim volume, Johnston includes a wealth of ideas and techniques for teaching literacy and language skills in a more just, compassionate and socially responsible manner. He focuses on dialogic instruction—specifically on the language we use when we speak to and with students—and the value of using a dynamic learning frame that emphasizes every student’s ability to learn, grow, and develop not only cognitively and intellectually but also emotionally and socially.

Johnston is interested in far more than “just teaching.” He believes that teachers have a responsibility for helping their students mature into responsible and concerned citizens who are equipped with the academic, social, and emotional skills to effect real change in the world.

This book will benefit anyone interested in social justice education—that is to say, anyone who is interested in meaningful education.
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I used the ideas in just the first four chapters of this book with my many students during the last month of school, and couldn't believe the difference it made! Everyone who works with PEOPLE should read this book. It's the real way we should be teaching and dealing with children if we REALLY want to be a country that can compete in the world. I wish all those working in educaiton and those making laws about education would be required to read this book!
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Opening Minds opened my mind to how we categorize students, thereby passing on our "fixed" mindsets of learners. I would like to suggest that every teacher read this book. It is applicable to gifted as well as our most marginalized learners.
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The book has lots of great ideas and is easy to follow. I used some of the ideas from this book and even though some of the things seem very obvious it causes you to think about childrens perspectives and the things we say as teachers.
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This book is so informative. It shows you how to teach more effectively just by changing how you say things. I was attached to this book and finished it within two days!!
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