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Creating Cultures of Thinking: Language

Resources for "Creating Cultures of Thinking: The Eight Forces We Must Master To Truly Transform Our Schools" by Ron Ritchhart of Project Zero at HGSE. [Guide by Stephen Taylor for Western Academy Beijing]

LANGUAGE: Appreciating Its Subtle Yet Profound Power

The system of communication used by a community to negotiate shared meaning and build group coherence and understanding around ideas, behaviors, and actions. As a culture shaper, language helps us to direct attention and action. However, the words and structures that make up language not only convey an explicit surface meaning, but also impart a set of deeper associations and connections that implicitly shape thought and influence behavior. This is the hidden power of language: Its ability to subtly convey messages that shape our thinking, sense of self, and group affinity.   [Source: Project Zero]


Chapter Summary

Resources & Links

Development of a Culture of Thinking Self-Assessment

The Language of the Classroom

Below is a list of five ideas to consider when creating a Culture of Thinking in your classroom 

  1. I make a conscious effort to use the language of thinking in my teaching discussing with students the sort of thinking moves required by verbs such as elaborate, evaluate, justify, contrast, explain etc.
  2. I seldom use generic praise comments (good job, brilliant, well done) and instead give specific, targeted, action-oriented feedback that focuses on guiding future efforts and actions. 
  3. I use "conditional" phrases such as could be, might be, one possibility is, some people think or usually it id that way but not always. 
  4. I try to notice and name the thinking occurring in my classroom. For example, "Sean is supporting his ideas with evidence here, or Same is evaluating effectiveness of that strategy right now, or Iris has presented an interesting analogy today. 
  5. I use inclusive, community-building language by talking about what we are learning or our questions.

10+1 Things to Say To Your Students Every Day

So simple, but so good. 10+1 things to say to your students every day. 

Click the image to open the original from 

Sketchnote by Lisa Hoang: 


A Typology of Classroom Questions

Recalling and reviewing of Knowledge and information

• Terminology

• Procedures

• Content

• Events and context


Procedural: Directing the work of the class

• Going over directions and assignments

• Clarifying

• Checking for attention, agreement.

• Task completion

• Organizational and management related


Generative: Exploring the topic

• Authentic questions or wonders that teacher doesn’t know the answer to.

• Essential questions that initiate exploration of a topic


Constructive: Building New Understanding

• Extending & Interpreting

• Connecting & Linking

• Orienting and focusing on big ideas, central concepts, or purpose

• Evaluating


Facilitative: Promotes the learner’s own thinking & understanding

• Requesting elaboration, reasons, evidence, justification

• Generating discussion among the class to hear different perspectives

• Clarifying and Uncovering

The Ladder of Feedback

Ladder of Feedback


In this version of Daniel Wilson's Ladder of Feedback, Sonya terBorg has added a "thank-you" rung, to show appreciation for the work. See her blog post on how she uses it (and other feedback tools) here


Seven Language Moves for Learning