The other day I wrote about the power of the bell that I use in class to get quiet and students’ attention.
Today however I’d like to draw your attention to the other end of the spectrum – silence and near silence.
Have you ever remained silent after a student has given an answer? See how uncomfortable it can make them, we all need acknowledgement to our comments. A little nod, or frown can reassure a student or encourage self-correction.
What is it about whispering? When a student hesitates, or can’t answer, whispering to them is a great way of scaffolding, and although it boils down to the same thing, it doesn’t feel like giving away the answer, at least not to them. It’s more encouraging and often they will naturally repeat you. Mouthing can have a similar effect.
For a change of pace, or at least volume, try getting the class to do pair works in whispers, my students love it!
With difficult students, try going up close to them and talking very quietly to them, rather than calling them out in front of the class, if they go off track again a gesture or shhh might do the trick.
While we are on the subject, what about gestures? One of the most common teaching techniques, you probably use hundreds without even realising it, think about when a student says “yesterday I go…” I bet you’re already pointing over your right shoulder! Last term I filmed myself teaching a few classes, (if you haven’t done this already then I highly recommend it, turn the camera to film you, not the class, it’s an amazingly eye-opening experience,) it was like watching Marcel Marceau in action!
Mimes are great for correction, organising pair work, dealing with classroom management issues, not only do they save your voice, but they enable you to save speaking English for positive and useful language.