Building Common Language

Things are happening! I am seriously thrilled that the new iPads are inventoried and ready for pick up tomorrow. My mind is racing with ideas for provocations next week. I love that the term is coming to and end, report cards are done, and there is a natural space to consider new possibilities. I haven’t been patient but perhaps thats my take away this time – good things come to those who wait hmmmm… Timing is everything!

In the mean time, we’ve been (re)activating our common language and developing new connections and questions about the Core Competencies. Initially the kids seemed to think that personal awareness was the Competency that needed their attention in a pressing way, but since then they’ve decided that communication is more essential – “how can we work on this inquiry if we don’t speak the same language?”.

So, we’ve been developing our understanding of communication. The returning crew (my 4/5s) previously defined communication as “sending and receiving information” (or ‘giving and getting’). This language continues to resonate with them and with our new crew (my 3s). Building on that understanding we revisited an activity from a few years ago to a) see how our understanding has changed and b) create space for a share experience for the WHOLE class.


The kids were tasked with doing some ‘homework’, which is a term I use loosely to mean ‘some additional thinking at home.’ They had to go home and find one example of, or synonym for, communcation. I quickly put them into a table and added the headings “sending,” “receiving,” and “both.” When we first tired this activity the kids quickly requested a “both” heading because, after much debate, they realized that some forms of communication require both sending and receiving. So when I made our most recent iteration of the activity, I made sure to include the “both” heading before being asked.

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The kiddos cut out and sorted the examples/synonyms in triads and each slip of paper needed ‘three voices,’ meaning each person had to speak to each slip (no divide and concurring, ha!). The point of this experience really wasn’t about getting it “right.” It’s actually about activating prior knowledge and sharing it with peers, to engage respectfully in discussion/debate, as well as an opportunity for me to observe and listen for patters, common ideas, and misconceptions about communication. In addition to the text based sort, I introduced a ‘picture sort’ that was generated when I did a similar activity with a k/1/2 class. I think, upon reflection, the photo sort generated more conversation because pictures are more open-ended and thus more open to interpritation?

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We did the sorts and then swapped to the sort we hadn’t done. If we started with text, we swapped to photos, and vice versa. We then debriefed the experience and compared and contrasted the two different sorts. There was lots of passionate discussion and I found myself enjoying the opportunity to observe instead of being the ‘teacher.’


We activated communication language, and were able to begin developing a common language through the shared experience. We added the sorts and photos to our Core Competency Board as reminders of the experiences, and as a ‘touch back point’ for the kids if they are searching for words/ideas in the future – a place for them to independently revisit the experience and the ideas.

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