Silent teaching, part 2

I was very interested to enjoy the success Fergus had enjoyed through the loss of his voice. So I planned a lesson where I was not going to speak until a debrief. The class I chose was the class I felt were my worst listeners. I did spend a good while planning the activities and double checking the resources to ensure they stood alone. This was a useful thing to do and helped me think and plan the transitions between tasks.

The lesson was based around a practical to investigate catalyst activity that required following step by step instructions and lightly analyse collected data. I started the lesson with a reviewing question about what do we remember about catalysts? I simply passed a pen to the first person through the door a pen and pointed at the door. It did not take long for the students to write their contribution on the flipchart and then pass the pen on, allowing me to respond to their responses with questions.

I took some of these ideas and annotated a graph of how enzymes work, it was at this point when they realized that I was not speaking. They instantly saw it as a bit of a game and even the more reticent students started testing their ideas out “does it mean this sir?” This was a remarkably self regulatory session, I even noticed several students stop themselves from shouting out to listen to other students. I prompted the discussion from time to time with written questions. Again a useful process for me as it ensured quality within my questions.

I issued the practical instructions and wrote on the board safety and step 1 step 2 etc. The students responded and I recorded their ideas. I then wrote a deadline of 30 minutes on the board and they set off to work and I began to circulate with a pad of post it notes, onto which I could write messages. At first the messages I gave were instructional, and I quickly identified a problem of this mode of teaching. The students were very keen to get a post it note for themselves, asking why I am I not speaking. A cult of wearing the post-its as a badge of honour spread quickly. A few terse notes “I am more interested in your learning than I am my teaching” soon refocused the class. It was at these points it was most difficult not to speak.

Although it only lasted a few minutes it was very tempting to speak. Luckily (though perseverance and planning were part of this) the lesson moved on and the interactions I was now enjoying were much more productive and subject based. I was also able to catch students doing the right thing and recorded it for them.

The student-student interactions were better than normal with them very active helping each other out, checking ideas in text books and on the internet without prompt.

Darren Mead


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