Implementing Think Math!
What is it?
Silent teaching is a teaching-without-talking technique in which a teacher uses examples instead of words to involve children. In some silent teaching lessons students must participate verbally, but the teacher never talks; the teacher communicates only by doing things that students watch and then join as they catch on. For example, the teacher might start a pattern (sorting objects, or writing numbers), beckon a student volunteer to continue and then accept or correct the student's response silently through a nod or an action; or the teacher might answer students' yes-or-no questions by nodding. A periodic feature of Think Math!, this technique also appears in Montessori pedagogy.
Because you are doing rather than telling, the examples you choose are important. Click on examples for ideas about inventing clear examples. See Guess my rule, What's my number?, and Difference of squares for examples of silent teaching.
Why do it?
Silent teaching is highly engaging and effective, and it's easy on classroom management.
- A teacher's silence is so unusual, it is riveting. Students perceive the activity as a game.
- The teacher's silence demands visual attention from the students, and leads them to listen to each other.
- In the absence of teacher explanation or narration of events, students must piece together the pattern or meaning themselves, developing focus, attention, and problem solving skills.
- As students catch on and participate, they feel smart because the discovery is all theirs; nothing was explained to them.
- "Quick" students participate early, generating more examples for others. Because there are still no explanations, even by other students, the opportunity to solve a problem is not "stolen" from students who need the extra time; they still get a chance to participate, figuring things on their own. Thus, silent teaching is a useful technique for differentiated instruction.
The first time you teach without talking
Because students expect you to be talking, the first time you teach without words may require a special move so that students realize that you are already doing something with them, not just preparing something that you will then talk about.
The special move could be as simple as gathering the students to the rug or in front of a board, or saying "Watch for a pattern" or "Guess my rule" or "What's my number?" (and then silence!). For most classes, as soon as you offer the marker to the students, they realize the activity is started; as soon as one child responds, the rest are (usually) fully at attention, hoping for their turn.