Sharing a common vocabulary is so important to sharing ideas. But finding a common vocabulary can be tricky. In fact, sometimes we use the same words only to find we intend different meanings. Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with another person who is using the same word as you but whose context seems out of place? Our relationships bring our communication skills into sharp focus.
Students are still defining the framework of their vocabulary. They bring varied contexts and may have misconceptions about what words mean. The risk of misconception is especially high when it comes to words in the emotional intelligence vocabulary. We use these words (think: frustrated, distrust, scared, excited) at the peaks and valleys of our feelings and in those moments we don’t always do the best thinking before we speak.
When we begin using these words in the classroom, it’s important to really hone the definition of the words being used. Take the word respect, for example, ask five people to define the word and enjoy reading five very different definitions. Without a uniform definition, the words lose their power and we struggle to truly communicate.
Of course, teaching students vocabulary is nothing new. Educators are adept at teaching vocabulary. Words which describe how we feel should be taught no differently than other adjectives. As you introduce your students to their emotions, be sure to add defining terms to the ground rules you set. This way the classroom is not only safe, it’s speaking the same language.
Students may feel that redefining words they use regularly is unnecessary – especially older students. If you meet hesitation, prove it to them. Ask them to each write their definition of respect. Then, share the definitions. The variety of answers will help them to understand how words they are using may not carry the meaning they are intending.
PS – check back tomorrow for a fun and effective way to teach vocab!