Thursday , 22 February 2018
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Does Language in the Classroom Matter?

languageEvery minute of the day, students in your classroom are listening to language.  This would include language in the form of words, tone of voice, or the speed of your pacing as you share ideas and concepts with students.  Without words, the classroom would be viewed differently.  Could you imagine a classroom without words?

Language is proven to be the integral part of a classroom.   As our curriculum continues to become more rigorous, it is imperative that teachers use specific language to help students understand concepts. Paula Denton, author of Reinforcing, Reminding, and Redirecting: The ‘3 Rs’ of Teacher Language, explains the effective strategies to help reinforce language within the classroom.  Each of the three R’s (Reinforcing, Reminding, and Redirecting) of language is important in making sure that the students are successful.

Reinforcing Language:  The teacher focuses on areas of strengths for the student instead of weaknesses.  Teachers, in general, tend to address areas upon which the student may need to improve.  However ,consistently acknowledging what the students do well will prove to be a powerful resource in the classroom.

Ask yourself these questions related to Reinforcing Language:

  • Do I highlight students’ accomplishments, effort, and attitudes to reinforce language?
  •  Do I use specific language to explain the skill that I am focusing on when talking with a student?
    • Example – Stating, “John, you remembered to capitalize the first word in each sentence.” is more effective then stating, “John, I am so proud of how you added the capital letters in your sentences.”  It is important to focus on thespecific skill, not on general praise.

Reminding Language: The language that involves reminders is reminding language.  Take a moment to ponder how many reminders have you have had in this one day.  Adults require reminders to keep organized and on track. This is also true of students.  Students need to be reminded through language.  We can accomplish this by specifically stating what is expected of them.  Teachers who use good reminding language give the reminders to students early and in a brief manner.  This allows the students to remember the expectations.

Ask yourself these questions related to reminding language:

  • Have I given my students a reminder of the expectations for the day?
  • Do I keep my directives brief but specific?
  • Do I use body language while reminding my students of the expectations?
    • Often, we are not even aware of our body language.  It happens to the best of us — we have a stressful morning, a personal conflict at home, a frustrating exchange with the cable provider, a misunderstanding with a colleague.  Sometimes, we allow our personal or non-classroom professional issues creep into our body language.  It is important when working with students that we do not show our frustrations, use sarcasm, or take our negative energy out on them.

Redirecting  Language:  The teacher refocuses the student on the skill or task at hand.  This language is extremely important when students are likely to harm themselves or others with their behavior.  This type of language also needs to be brief and stated without body language.

Ask yourself these questions related to redirecting language:

  • Do I provide redirected language in a specific and direct manner?
    • Example:  Instead of saying, “Susie, you need to work harder,” say,“Susie, you need to put the scissors in your desk and get to work on your assignment.”
    • Do I redirect what I want the students to do instead of what NOT to do?  This allows the teacher to focus on the intended task.
    • Do I redirect by posing questions or statements?  When a teacher uses questions, he/she allows the student to have a choice in completing the task.   When teachers use statements, they redirect the student to the exact task that they need to accomplish.

Reinforcing, reminding, and redirecting languages help the teacher with management of the classroom.  Being aware of language can help to influence the academic achievement of all students by promoting quality use of language.


“Reinforcing, Reminding, and Redirecting: The ‘3 Rs’ of Teacher Language” by Paula Denton in Responsive Classroom, Winter 2014 (p. 1-5), (excerpted from Denton’s book, The Power of Our Words, 2nd ed, 2013).


About Tammy Brown

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