From the vantage point of a doctoral student in education leadership and policy, as well as a teacher at a public Montessori, I'm learning and sharing as I go. This is my space to explore the child's interior life, our discoveries as educators, and work of learning together.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The Silence Activity in Preschool: Practice with the Control and Coordination of Movement
This activity is
part of the exercises of practical life, under the category of control and
coordination of movement, like walking the line. Maria Montessori once brought
a baby to the classroom, challenging the children in the room to be very quiet.
They called it "The Silence Game". Naturally, children do have an
urge to see how quiet they can be-- it is observable in American culture in how
children enjoy playing hide and seek so quietly. You can seat all the students
and very quietly whisper their names, so that they can move. Or, you can show
them the sounds of certain objects dropping and have them identify what the
sound is, with a hand raise.
The best time to do
the silence activity and access this meditative space is when all the children
are working well together. How can we begin such a meditative exercise with
children who would struggle to sit quietly? They have to have a degree of motor
development and awareness. They have to have control over their movements,
because noise is movement. They need a development of the will, because they
will be deliberately inhibiting their movements. There also must be a
refinement of sensory perception, attuned to the softest sounds. The children
need to have enough language development to be able to follow the verbal
directions. Finally, they need a level of social consciousness that we each
participate in the success of the game, or objective, to participate to the
best of their ability. They also need the ability to focus for periods of time.
We can start working
on the line early, but this game requires a bit more development. It is a
process. They become conscious that when they move, there is noise. They need
that feedback from their senses to be in control. If they can play the game
with the legs, then add the arms, then add more. If the first silence is 30
seconds, that's good. Then expand and extend it from there.
If one or two
children cannot play, you can have the aide walk them away so that the rest can
enjoy it. It is a group, collective activity so that everyone can participate.
Explain to the children, "This is what you call silence." Later, you
can say, "Whenever you see me write the word 'Silence' on the board, then
we will all begin to make silence." And that will be the subtle reminder
that they can independently create the silence, for short periods.
Then on different
days, you can play different games. The sounds of objects being dropped, the
sounds of objects in the environment, the sounds of everyday activities… And
use a voice with no tone, only the whisper. If the child does not hear their
name, whisper it again. If a child mistakes another name for them, that is
okay, too. You can also keep yourself invisible from them, so they will not
have the visual cue. Keep a list of the students' names, so that no one is
forgotten. It will teach the student trust that the teacher knows and thinks
about each one.
Finally, never use
silence as a punishment, such as a "silent lunch". Silence is a gift.