This excerpt is the complete first chapter of Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning. With an initial interest in how teachers' use of language might explain their students' success in becoming literate (as documented on literacy tests), author Peter Johnston further expands his approach to include reducing the guilt teachers feel for teaching complex learning that cannot be measured on tests. He supports classroom examples with reading and education research (Vygotsky et al.), and points to the significant impact teachers can both have and in turn cultivate with their students. Johnston discusses word play as important in making meaning and enlivening classroom discussions, even in grades K-4, and uses a variety of examples and research references to illustrate his point. His emphasis here is on language and its power to transform conversations in our classrooms.