Silence is Golden.

This is my first post for so be gentle with me! I have kept it short but sweet and any feedback and criticism is welcome but with a focus on constructive comments only please. Right here we go…

This post has stemmed from the following tweet:

“Gave silent debate a whirl with Yr10 today! It’s a peach of a technique!”

It bought home to me the realisation that one of the most powerful tools a teacher possesses is the art of silence. This is also perhaps one of the hardest techniques to master. It may feel as though you are letting the lesson wander, that the pace is too slow or simply that as the teacher surely you must say something…anything! Nothing could be further from the truth. Putting silence into a lesson allows the learning to breath, to grow of it’s own accord and not because you as the teacher are driving the lesson forward on a pre-determined path.

And so we arrive at Friday 12th July, period 3, GCSE Drama. The context of the lesson is fairly straightforward. The students are completing their first controlled assessment by performing a duologue from the play Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter. It is important that students understand the play as a whole not just the extract they are performing. They should form independent opinions about the characters and the action and so I decided the use the technique of silent debate to assess how well students were doing this.

I greeted students at the door with a sign that read:

“Good Morning.  We are going to have a silent debate. Do not speak, take a seat, choose a pen and read the statement in front of you

On the table was a selection of coloured pens and a large piece of sugar paper that read, ‘Donald is to blame for his own death.’ I then presented students with the following simple instructions:

Step 1: Write an initial response the opening statement.

Step 2: Read what others have written and either challenge, support or question their responses.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 to open up the debate…I will be joining in too.

As this was the first time I had tried this technique it was important that I took part to model the type of learning I was looking for. I used my input to provoke further response and to guide them to question one another in silence. The outcome was as follows:

With each student having a different coloured pen it was easy to see the understanding for the task and the play of each individual.

This was the opener for this lesson and we then went on to apply our opinions from the debate to our performances and how our creation of the character of Donald may differ depending on how we view him as actors.

It was the first time I have used this technique but it was incredibly effective. I am planning on using it with Yr 13 in the coming week as a plenary activity to establish what they have understood about progression routes in the performing arts industry. If they are able to debate the topic I will know they have not just taken in the information but processed it and formed an opinion.

Silent debate is one of the numerous techniques that I have stumbled across in the wonderful world of twitter, and I am sure many of you have already used or know of it as an exercise but I hope you have enjoyed reading how I incorporated it into my lesson.

Ronan Keating was on to something with, ‘You say it best, when you say nothing at all.’ Ssshhhhhhh…

2 thoughts on “Silence is Golden.

  1. Jude Moir

    Thanks for sharing Donna, this sounds like a great idea. I agree that silence is a great way to let ideas grow, and sometimes it is under used. I feel that I talk an awful lot when teaching and need to plan for moments of silence. This would be great, I am trying to think how I could adapt for m Primary 4s…

    1. Hana Price

      Hi Jude,

      Did you manage to use this with primary 4’s? I’ve just stumbled across this entry and was intrigued and considering it with my Year 5’s. Trying to think of how best to do it, to establish good written responses and effective written discussion.

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