So I read this blog post from a teacher about how she taught for an entire class without speaking. I’m not talking about giving a test or lab and sitting back, but actually running a class, where students are taking notes, answering problems, and interacting with me and with each other. I accidentally tried it today and it was awesome!
Sorry that I can’t give you credit, whoever you are–I looked for your blog post, but couldn’t find it. Please comment if you are the one who tried this so I can give you credit!!
It actually started accidentally–students were finishing a quiz, and I wanted to start teaching despite not everyone being finished. I first put some problems on the board, and then got the students to begin working on them silently. Towards the end of class, I was showing them how to do the problems without speaking (simplifying radicals), and since it was only the last 5 or 10 minutes of class, students commented “Mr. Newman, you should teach a whole class without talking!” so I told that I’d “think about it.”
Well, the very next class was a continuation of what we had started, so it just made sense for me not to speak as they did the warm-up. Not only was it really fun, but students had to really think for themselves. They didn’t beg me to talk, they simply accepted that I wasn’t going to talk. If they had a question, once one student understood the concept, I would gesture for that student to share what they learned with the class. One by one, students began getting the concepts, and reinforcing those concepts because they were teaching each other as I put more and more problems on the board.
The only drawback was the one students who didn’t do as well, and it is because she is a big note-taker. She’s a great student, she’s just not good at math (yes, there is a difference!): I know she goes back over her previous notes until she understands the information, but she doesn’t pick up information quickly. Therefore, by the end of class, she was lost, although I hope her notes were complete enough for her to put the pieces together later.
I also had a lot more energy at the end of the period. I think that when I teach, especially to that class, I get excited easily, and so burn up all my energy talking faster and faster. I felt like I had plenty of energy to keep working during my planning period immediately after that class (which doesn’t always happen…)
I do not think I could do this with a class like Chemistry, but this Precalculus class was just the right combination of bright students who know my mannerisms well enough to get when I’m trying to communicate something, as well as a subject where you can put problem after problem on the board and have students learn and I increase the complexity of the problems.
**Edit: Here’s a link to one wonderful blogger who preceded me in the “silent teaching” idea. Much thanks to her and others who helped me have such a fun day in math class!