When a phenomenon is complex, it tends to have many words to describe it. Consider love, sadness, and thinking. Each of these abstract concepts are complicated and can be described with many different words, actions, and experiences. When we expose young children to abstract concepts, it is our job to make them as clear and concrete as possible. Tishman, Perkins, and Jay challenge readers to consider the meaning of these six words:
While all the words mean to form an opinion, each word marks a slight but significant difference. As teachers, we are challenged to use a wider variety of thinking words when we want a specific task from our students. The more ways of directing our students’ thinking, the more opportunities they will have to direct their thought processes. As a result, students will think more precicely. A teacher’s language can send different signals to students promoting specific patterns of thinking. Even children in the early elementary grades have acquired the necessary conceptual apparatus to understanding a range of thinking vocabulary.
While textbooks are simplifying language, we need to expose children to a larger variety of more specific thinking cues. Tishman, Perkins, and Jay describe words as precision instruments that will elicit detailed, thoughtful thinking in our learners. Just as teacher questioning has become a staple in unit planning, I hope we can add more precise thinking vocabulary in planning for instruction as well as directions on assessments.