The Power Of Teaching In Silence

Silence isn’t something you get much of in schools but we need more of it. We need more silence.

I’m not suggesting we adopt a Monastic modus operandi but I do think we could make more of silent teaching through ‘Chalk Talk’.

Chalk Talk is a silent way to teach, learn and assess. It is a way to generate ideas, solve problems, make connections, reflect, check on learning and develop projects.

How does it work?

1. We write a relevant question or statement in a circle on the board:

  • What does gravity look, sound, or feel like?
  • What did you learn today?
  • Banning mobile phones is old-school.
  • What do you know about Nauru?
  • School should start at 10am because children need more sleep.

Don’t worry, whiteboards are fine and you don’t need chalk despite the name. Use flip chart paper on tables if you want.

2. Explain to everyone that this is a silent activity and they are invited to write a response around the question or statement without saying anything.

3. Tell children that it more than one person can write on the board at the same time.

4. Explain that people can write a response to what other people have said too or draw lines between responses that seem to connect.

5. You can choose to interact with the board yourself by drawing lines between ideas or stand back and let things unfold.

6. After a while and the board has been filled with responses, the class then talks about what has been written. This is the time to speak and discuss ideas, provide clarifications, pinpoint misconceptions, chat about any surprises and try to answer any questions.

There are lots of reasons why Chalk Talk works effectively and I’m surprised it isn’t used more often. Chalk Talk:

  • Serves as an idea-generator
  • Prompts questions
  • Makes connections
  • Encourages problem-solving
  • Promotes reflection
  • Engages all learners
  • Promotes independent thinking
  • Gives everyone an equal say
  • Exposes to different ideas, perspectives and worldviews
  • Honours silence as a way of learning
  • Kick-starts conversations

Chalk Talks are so simple to set up and they are brilliant activities for brainstorming and assessing the level of sophistication children are working at. They allow you to plan next steps in learning with far more insight and they teach children that ‘silence is a virtue’!

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