Monday, April 20, 2015

The Silent Way

To be or not to be silent in class? - Reflections after Ayat Tawel's Presentation

This post is a reflection about Ayat Tawel's presentation at Learning2gether about "The Silent Way" method/approach and two goals from The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers - Cycle 5 - 2014 "#8:Share an activity" and #29:Grow through reflection".

Before you read my post, you can both read Ayat's blog about The Silent Way and/or listen to her presentation at Learning2gether.

First of all, let me tell you I was so happy to attend my dear friend, colleague and twin-sister-in-the-heart Ayat Tawel's presentation/webinar at Learning2gether, hosted by Vance Steven.

Ayat was extremely brilliant at presenting how she worked and dealt with "The Silent Way" in her classes. After her presentation, I was thinking of how I could use it in my large classes (36 students in each class) and I came out with some ideas which were put into practice today.

Apart from this, I was thinking that "TSW" (The Silent Way from now on here) reminds a bit of Ferdinand de Saussure's dichotomy - I would say, it might have had its roots there.
Saussure wrote about the Paradigmatic and Sintagmatic Relations. The idea is that the relations are not only vertically but also horizontally.
Let me exemplify:
The cat is big
The black words are in sintagmatic relation with the words in purple. On the other hand, all the other words are the paradigmatic ones since if we exchange them, we have the "paradigm". 

What I learnt from Ayat is that if we use the Cuisennaire Rods (or any other similar supply) we can learn new structures, esp. if we are kinesthetic and visual learners.
Though Ayat exemplified "TSW" with the verb "have got", I was thinking that we can use it with other structures, verb tenses and even with connectors / linkers.

Once the students have lots of practice, as Ayat suggested, they would be ready for the written part. They would have the incorporated structure and later they would write it automatically without mistakes.

Ayat also talked about large classes... I don't think that implementing this method/approach would be inconvenient because teachers can divide the class into small groups and they can work independently. I know that Cuisennaire Rods might me expensive, but, students can use color pencils, or cardboard paper instead. So the teacher can walk around the class and observe them "in silent".

Last but not least, another attendee asked about "confusion with color when teaching new topics". My reply comment was that teachers can skip one or two topics and go back to "TSW". It is not necessary and compulsory to use the same method/approach all the time so you can include the three type of learners: visual, auditive and kinesthetic ones.

This morning, I decided to use "TSW" in one of my classes. I have 36 14-year-old students whose English level is pre-intermediate. The task was to create a poster to advertise any product they wanted. First of all, I told them to take 3 color pens: Blue, Red and Black (because they are the most common ones in the pencil cases). I started saying sentences and showing one color pen with each part of a sentence. After that, they had to do it. My students immediately inferred the rule and started saying sentences in English. As the task was a bit complicated to do it all in English due to new vocabulary, I allowed my students to write sentences in Spanish following the same pattern: Blue (doer of the action), Red (action), Black (rest of information). They did wonderfully! When they were done with the Spanish version (as Ayat suggested), they translated into English using the Blue/Red/Black pattern. I was astonished to see the results because for the 1st time they were able to produce complete sentences in English (in Spanish we can skip the subject).

What my students wrote in Spanish

What I wrote on the board when they were providing sentences in English

Definitely, her presentation made me grow and reflect because with something so simple, my students were able to produce something "big". And now I can share with you what they did. (Shelly... you are awesome for putting all these goals in us).

Smiles to you all! :)

Thank you!! :)