Silent Teaching

 For reasons I still do not fully understand, my grade 10 classes were combined with another teacher’s classes today. Classes are 80 minutes each, and are split up into two 40 minute blocks. I spoke to the teacher of the other group beforehand, and from what I could tell from her limited English (and my non-existent Kazakh), it seemed like we would each teach a 40-minute lesson to the combined classes. It was not until the lesson began that I realized this teacher wanted her group to work separately from mine. The lesson ended up being a disaster, a huge flop, an extreme “UGH” moment if you will, and one that I’m not too proud of. It felt like I was trying to teach against a storm. I felt disrespected by the other teacher and students in the room because they were being extremely noisy while I was trying to get through my lesson. I asked them to quiet down a couple times but then the noise level would eventually go up again. 

Thinking back, I wish I had been more adamant on insisting that I kept my classes and never combined groups in the first place. Again, for reasons I cannot explain, it seemed imperative to the other teacher that we kept the two groups together. So by the time my second class came along, I devised a new plan. I was better informed the this time around. I knew I had to share the same physical space with the other teacher and her students, and I knew that there would be at least minimal amounts of talking. I also knew that I didn’t want to enter in a shouting match with the other class (fighting fire with fire just makes a bigger fire). Instead, I tried my hand at silent teaching. 

I left the following note up on the board for my class at the beginning of the lesson: 


Our goal was to prove the six basic trigonometric sum/difference of angles identities today.

The Results –

What Worked: 
The silent teaching definitely got the students’ interest and forced them to keep an eye on the board so that they could keep up with what was going on. A few students got the idea and were able to explain verbally what I was trying to do non-verbally – and English is their third language! (So proud!) The other class was noticeably more quiet this time around, and without me having to go into a shouting war with at least a dozen other voices, the noise level was much lower in general. I also noticed that some students from the other class were intrigued by what we were doing on the board, and stopped to observe our lesson. Once all six trigonometric proofs were finally complete, I gave a dramatic pause, and POOF – I got my voice back! 


Me but with clothes on.

What Didn’t Work
The students who are less visual were really craving verbal explanations. While classmates volunteered to help explain concepts to those who didn’t understand the first time around, two students told me that they still felt really confused after the lesson. I wish I could find a way to make this a less teacher-centered lesson, and create more opportunities for students to get involved. I did call a couple of students to the board once I felt they got the general idea of the proofs, but I was not able to assess all my students one-on-one. An exit slip would have been useful had time permitted. 

Next Steps
I’ll try my hand at silent teaching again in the future, but I’d like to find ways to create even more student involvement. Our topic this time was the sum/difference identities for trigonometry and it was very theory-heavy. Next time I think a topic (or even short demonstration) that is more straightforward to understand will be more effective with this teaching strategy. Also, I resolve to make facial expressions more dramatic for a fuller effect! 

Other Notes
I later realized my big dramatic moment at the end wasn’t as dramatic as I had hoped. I called a student up to the board to complete the last proof, and it wasn’t until after I “regained my voice” that I realized there was a major sign (+/-) error!

One Comment

  1. You are such a great problem-solver! I would have loved to be in this class and see how students responded, and supported each other, as they tried to meet your expectations!
    Don’t worry too much that the lesson wasn’t perfect. Few lessons are. You have nailed down what worked and what didn’t work, and that is what is most important. Students are sometimes more resilient than we teachers are! They’ll figure this out, and I know you’ll give them more chances to work on the same skills in future lessons.
    I would love to find you in five or ten years and be prepared to be absolutely BLOWN AWAY by your teaching. You are developing your reflective skills, and as a consequence, your teaching will improve steadily. You are consciously molding your skills and your style, and I am lucky to have had this year to get to know you!



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