My students are studying poetry. I’ve chosen to share one of the most profound poems I know with them: “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden. I’ve attached a video of the poem with an animation so you can see it, too. The theme of the poem touches on the power of silence. Therefore, I decided to use this to enhance my teaching and to provide today’s new experience.
I spent the day teaching without saying one word. I did speak — to adults outside of class — but within the confines of my classroom’s four walls there were no words that passed through these lips. Obviously, this requires a bit of preparation. I had all my activities on the board ready for students so there was little question. It was interesting how students paid more attention and were more engaged in general than on days I talk. Perhaps it was the novelty; perhaps it was the need to watch body language, perhaps it was coincidental.
It didn’t take long for students to begin to notice my lack of speech. Early in the day, students noticed but continued with business as usual. By the end of the day, word had spread among my students and they entered my class on a mission to get me to speak. At that point, it began to become more of a distraction. However, once students moved on to the day’s activities, they settled down and engaged in the lesson.
I would definitely do this again, but it would have to be on a very occasional basis. It helped drive home the point of the power of silence and it provided enough change in class that students took notice which kept them more engaged. Additionally, because I was not talking, they could not depend on me. They had to depend on each other. This was an added bonus.
Perhaps sometimes — like in parenting — my desire to help only hinders growth. If I am doing all the talking and explaining, it doesn’t leave room for students to ruminate on the material.