Use Word Power to Jump-start the Learning Process

"Class, guess what my dog, 'Mr. Perfect' did this morning at breakfast!"

“Class, you’ll never believe what my dog, ‘Mr. Perfect’ did this morning at breakfast!”

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus to feature…

…attention-getting phrases that…

  • surprise and delight kids
  • instantly invite students into conversation with you and their classmates
  • prepare children to “use their thinking caps”
  • lead into and make connections with specific lessons and activities
  • support your classroom management strategies

When I work with students to help them master basic writing skills, I always encourage kids to become “picky, picky, picky about the words they choose to use.” “Words have power, I explain. “Different words hold different powers,” I elaborate on the theme. “For example,” I continue, “adjectives have the power to describe. Verbs have the power to show action.”

Picky Teachers

How picky are you, as a teacher, about the words and phrases YOU choose to use? My experience tells me that teachers can prompt kids to participate in class by using pre-selected words, phrases, sentences and questions that engage them. 

You don’t have to be a writing teacher, per se, to use word power to jump-start the learning process. Have some fun with words yourself; your students will pick up on your clever command of language and join in.

All languages of the world have fascinating origins and cultural connections that amaze kids (and interested adults). I tell students that we can’t OWN words; words are for everyone to use. “But,” I explain, “when we put words to work in conversation and/or writing, we OWN what we say aloud or in print.” Kids like this concept. They begin to understand that word power – language mastery – opens the door to ownership.

Try sharing the following attention-getters with your class and see if the anticipated response I’ve noted is on target.

Surprise and delight kids – You say:

“You’ll never believe what my dog, ‘Mr. Perfect,’ did this morning at breakfast…”

Likely class response and your follow-up:

Eyes and ears “glued” on you, kids will call out, What’d he do?!!!!! You reply, “He stole a piece of bacon right off my plate!” Listen for laughter after you tell on “Mr. Perfect.” Then add, “Sometimes ‘Mr. Perfect’ isn’t so perfect.” Kids love this!

Teachers can choose to share snippets, like the one above about “Mr. Perfect,” that are true or made up. The magic is in catching and keeping kids’ attention to jump-start the learning process. Read on…

"Have you ever seen a monkey at the zoo (or in the wild)?

“Have you ever seen a monkey at the zoo (or in the wild)?

Instantly invite students into conversation – You ask:

“How many of you have ever been to a zoo?” (Optional, hold out masks of animals as you inquire)

Likely class response:

Hands up of all students who have visited a zoo. Some kids will call out, “I saw a _________________ (animal they liked seeing).”

If you have time, ask students that didn’t raise a hand to say what animal they’d like to see IF they get to visit a zoo. This inclusiveness creates a sense of community.

Prepare children to use their “thinking caps” – You say:

“I’m going to make you guess what I’m thinking about as we prepare for writing time…”

Likely class response and your follow-up:

Kids begin to call out random guesses to which you say, “Wait, I want you to listen carefully to my description of what I’m thinking about and then raise your hand with a guess.” Offer this, for example…“What Am I? I have soft wings” (continue describing a butterfly or bird that’s native to your region)

Lead into and make connections with specific lessons and activities – You say:

“Look what I found on my way to school…”

Likely class response and your follow-up:

“What’d you find? Is it in that bag/box? Then, you reach into the bag/box and reveal a discovery that’s related to the day’s science lesson.

Teachers can generate interest in any subject by sharing related objects, books, photos, etc., pretending that the find is an unexpected treasure.

Support your classroom management strategies – You ask:

“You know what I was just thinking about, class?”

Likely class response and your follow-up:

Kids will stare at you; some will be quiet waiting to hear your next words; a few students may call out, “What?” to which you reply, “I was thinking about how awesome you all are when you stay focused and on task in class.” “Let’s get ready for ______________” (subject of next lesson).

NOTE: If you enjoy “playing” with words, make up engaging phrases, questions, etc. that are tailored to your goals and your students’ interests and needs.

Ask yourself if you sometimes take words for granted and could perhaps be more thoughtful about the words you choose to use. Carefully selected and creatively presented words are amazing tools for teachers.

Please send comments with your favorite teaching phrases. Stop back here on Monday for another Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers.

Under the Magic Hat today...Using word power to jump-start the learning process

Under the Magic Hat today…Using word power to jump-start the learning process

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Students continue to use lackluster verbs in their writing.

Solution: Show toy cars and pretend to make them zip across a page, telling the class that good writing includes action words (verbs) that have "zip." Ask the class for examples of "zippy" verbs like zoom, race, flash, rush, etc.

Related Posts: Start Students' Engines for Writing