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The Power of Talk

The Power of Talk
How Words Change Our Lives

March 2009 | 200 pages | Corwin
'The authors show that by thinking critically about how we interact with others and by making the necessary changes in our own behavior, leaders can model respectful and collaborative ways of addressing and responding to others and gradually change the norms of the whole community' - Gordon Wells, Professor of Education University of California, Santa Cruz

Unlock the power of language to promote equity in your school! This enlightening book shows how everyday speech can be a transforming force in today's schools, creating a more equitable environment for people of all backgrounds. Written by experts on language and diversity, this resource combines research-validated tools and real-world insights for addressing verbal communication issues within the classroom and schoolwide. Readers will find:

- Case studies and vignettes that show how language contributes to school change and shapes community relationships

- Thought-provoking exercises that strengthen language awareness and leadership skills

- Guidance on effectively coaching students and colleagues on equity issues and the use of appropriate language.

By using language to overcome barriers, foster collaboration, and promote respect, leaders can make a significant difference in the quality of life and work in schools.

List of Tables
List of Figures
About the Authors
Why? The Same Old Problem

What? The Book’s Purpose

How? Achieving the Purpose

What Will You Get Out of This Book?

Avoiding the Master’s Language Tools

Overview of the Chapters

Where and When Might the Book Be Used?

1. The Power of Language: A Medium for Promoting Social Justice and Equity
In What Ways Is Language a Transformative Force in Society?

What Are Educational Equity and Social Justice

What Are Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Language Awareness

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

2. Becoming Effective in Using Critical Language Awareness
Noticing How Language Constructs Our Social World

Relating the Trees to the Forest, and the Forest to the Trees

Imagining Alternatives


Teaching With Critical Language Awareness

Using Memorable Examples, Metaphors, and Quotes

Modeling, Teamwork, Inclusiveness, and Respect

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

3. Avoiding Othering: Practicing Including

A Change Agent in Action

How Is Othering Harmful?

Digging Deeper Into Othering

From Othering to Inclusion and Dialogue


Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

4. Disrupting Prejudice: A Communicative Approach


Communicative Model

Developing a Data Culture

Activity: Developing Language Skills for Disrupting Prejudice

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

5. Exceptionalizing or Democratizing?

Exceptionalizing: How It Promotes Inequities

The Importance of Context

Cognitive Disequilibrium and Exceptionalizing

The Context of the Interviews

Recognizing Exceptionalizing Discourse

Revising for a More Democratizing Discourse

Activities for Developing Democratizing Language Skills

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

6. Recognizing and Revising Stratifying Discourse

Key Concepts

Recognizing and Revising Stratifying Discourse

Activities for Developing Language Skills for Social Justice

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

7. Contesting Labels

Contesting Labels

Acronyms as Deep Abstractions

Talk Strategies

Redressing Labels Through Institutional Action

Thoughtful Inaction

Activity: Crowning With Labels

Conclusion and Summary of Key Points

8. Conclusion: The Power of Talk
Revisiting the Book's Objectives

Using the Power of Talk for Social Justice

A Final Thought


"In a down-to-earth style, the authors explain how, by paying attention to how we talk, people can make a difference to the quality of life and work in schools. Drawing on real-life examples, they show that by thinking critically about how we habitually interact with others and by making the necessary changes in our own behavior, leaders can model respectful and collaborative ways of addressing and responding to others and gradually change the norms of the whole community."

Gordon Wells, Professor of Education
University of California, Santa Cruz

"The authors appeal to educators on both a professional and a personal level. Changing the discourse will not only improve school achievement for students, but will allow educators to more effectively express their beliefs about equitable and socially just education."

Karen L. Fernandez, English/Language Arts Coach and Teacher
Denver Center for International Studies, CO

"I like the specific strategies in each chapter for helping educators become aware of how language influences beliefs and assumptions. I also like the suggestions for how to develop skills for using language in a more equitable way."

Lynn A. Smolen, Professor
University of Akron

"I really liked the tone the authors used throughout—it was never negative or condescending. The authors did a good job of explaining the effects of language without preaching or looking down on those who might not be aware of the effects their language has on others."

Christine Landwehrle, Language Arts & Reading Teacher
Bedminster Township Public School, NJ

"This book will be very useful for teachers and teacher educators. The organization and accessibility of the concepts in this book are a major strength. The examples that are given are concrete and make concepts easy to understand."

Theresa Abodeeb-Gentile, Assistant Professor
University of Hartford

"This book needs to be in the hands of every educator and administrator. Too many times, the adults involved in education forget the power of the words they use."

David Callaway, Eight-Grade Language Arts Teacher
Rocky Heights Middle School, Highlands Ranch, CO

"Any chapter is enough for a year's worth of conversation, and occasionally a good argument—among students, staff, and families. It is an invitation to a dialogue with one's peers, but it also works as a dialogue with oneself. I found myself both arguing with the authors and shifting my own stance as I went. A must-read."

Deborah W. Meier, Educational Reformer, Writer, and Activist

"I couldn't stop reading this book! It masterfully pinpoints how language plays a critical, fundamental role in our daily lives as educators. Most important, it shows us how our deepest thoughts are manifested in language and how we can deal with them in our continued efforts to dismantle gender, racial, and class prejudice."

Susan Roberta Katz, Professor and Chair of International & Multicultural Education
University of San Francisco

Didn't get sufficent votes from
department members to warrant adoption, however, I reference it in my Intro to Inclusive Ed course and recommend that
students purchase it and add it to their professional library. It's one of the best books I've seen for
teaching in the language of the learner.

Dr Harry Dissinger
Administration and Leadership Program, Georgian Court University
September 2, 2011

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1 excerpt

For instructors

This book is not available as an inspection copy. For more information contact your local sales representative.

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ISBN: 9781412956024
ISBN: 9781412956017

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