I was sick over the weekend, and for some reason, I always get laryngitis after I’m better. Today is no exception. So, it’s time for another silent class.
I picked this up from my high school band conductor, a wonderful instructor (and apparently, now the district flipped-classroom guru and @fellbop on Twitter), who had actually studied mime in college (a long story, I’m sure). It also made him incredibly expressive while conducting, and the “Feller Lean” was something no one else could do without guide ropes (yes, we tried).
At any rate, one day, Mr. Feller had laryngitis, and couldn’t talk over 100 band kids. By miming and charades, we had an entire period of really intense rehearsal that made us listen to each other and respect his conducting at a high level. Between actual playing, when there was normally chatter, it was pin-drop-silent as everyone’s eyes watched Mr. Feller for the next instructions. It was so effective that we had other silent rehearsals through the year, even when he could use his voice. Clearly, it stuck in my head too.
When I taught public school, I did it. I ran a class without talking. Granted, I did have some instructions written on the board, but I didn’t talk the whole day (actually, two days). The kids had to respect me and my miming instructions, otherwise they didn’t know what was going on. They tried asking me questions, and I tried croaking out answers, but when they heard how little voice I actually had, they’d tell me, “oops! I’ll just ask my neighbor.” Like actual games of charades, usually one or two kids would shout out (and translate) what they thought I meant, and the others would catch on. Okay, I had some problems miming “stoichiometry” and “freezing point depression,” but the drama kids helped me out and since the kids had a worksheet or project in front of them, I could point to what they were working on, and they’d get the idea. The strangest part was that while they worked, it was near-pin-drop-silent, although they had no restrictions from me on their noise levels (and I couldn’t tell them to be quiet, even if I wanted to).
For them, it was kind of a game, figuring out what was happening (who doesn’t like watching someone else do charades and jump around the room?), and for me, it was awesome to have that kind of respect from my students. It also showed me what kind of respect they had for each other.