Watch Your Language! Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code by Carmen Y. Reyes, The Psycho-Educational Teacher, is a comprehensive resource (360+ pages) of skilled language-based interventions aimed at improving classroom behavior by improving the way teachers and students relate, placing special emphasis on those strained interactions with students exhibiting habitually disruptive patterns of behavior. Founded on theory and principles in interpersonal communication this interactional approach is rooted in the belief that teachers’ ways of talking play a crucial role in influencing how students behave. In other words, students’ behaviors are a reflection of both the words that teachers use and how we say those words to children. A core belief in interpersonal communication is that high expectations that are goal-oriented influence positive behaviors while low expectations lacking a behavior or academic goal influence negative behaviors. This innovative resource is a 10-chapter book divided into three core parts:
Part One: The Basics (Chapters 1-3) On this introductory section the essential elements of interpersonal communication are explained, including channels and styles. Chapter Two details four interpersonal communication theories with high relevance to the classroom setting; Chapter Three introduces the two main components: receptive side or listening and expressive side or speaking, including full lists of both listening and speaking skills.
Part Two: Interpersonal Communication is Everything… And Everywhere! (Chapters 4-7) This second part analyzes popular behavior-change procedures from the unique perspective of therapeutic communication (Chapter Four). Among these enhanced approaches we find: assertiveness, optimism, rational thinking and talking, goal-oriented language, social problem solving, and solution-oriented messages. Chapter Five gives us guidelines for becoming an effective communicator focusing on language skills such as rapport and empathy. The section ends with an analysis of nonverbal communication in the classroom including ways in which teachers can align verbal and nonverbal language to send supportive and encouraging messages to students.
Part Three: Speech Acts (Chapters 8-10) On this closing part, teachers learn how to manipulate different parts of a sentence (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives) to modify the meaning of our messages (Chapter Eight). Chapters Nine and Ten are all about disciplinary speech acts and how our messages to students can evolve from flat and short-term (short-lived) to transformative and long-term (i.e. discipline that the child internalizes or self-discipline). Using unparalleled disciplinary language such as suggestions and hidden commands coupled with child guidance speech acts such as: interpreting, reflecting, reframing, decoding, challenging, and confronting teachers will be able to turn-around day-to-day interactions with tough to reach and noncompliant students from antagonistic to collaborative problem-solving. Our language makes the difference!
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