Breathe In, Breathe Out, Quiet

Yesterday was our day of “no talking.” Okay, it may not have been completely silent, but it was close. Right now we’re reading No Talking in class, and to give students an understanding of what it was like for the boys and girls not to talk, we tried to be silent all day yesterday. We also tried this challenge because our school is currently have an Acceptance Week, and just before the Winter Break, we finished Out Of My Mind. In this book, the main character, Melody Brooks, cannot speak at all. We know another child like Melody, and we wanted to try and experience what like is like for both of them.

Aligning with our school’s focus on “student voice,” I had the students work with me to create the No Talking Rules for yesterday. Since we’re in the middle of a number of collaborative projects, we decided that there were times that people could talk if they wanted to or needed to. After some great class discussions on Monday, here were our final rules.

2014-01-22_07-40-07And with these rules yesterday was silence: blissfully quiet. Students communicated though:

1) They wrote notes to each other.

2) They sent texts to each other.

3) They exchanged emails with each other.

4) They made faces and used gestures to show their thinking. (This was a great tie in to drama.)

5) They even used Siri to talk to each other. 

While we’ll be doing our official reflection today, students shared a couple of interesting thoughts with me at the end of the day yesterday.

  • Many students said that they really liked the quiet. It made the classroom feel even more peaceful. I can totally understand this. I think about when I write report cards or plan presentations. I need complete silence. It makes me feel relaxed, and then I can work. I think the students felt that way too.
  • One student told me that his “brain hurt” from all of the extra thinking. While this made me chuckle at the time, I can totally understand his point. As I sit here writing this blog post, it’s completely silent, and the only sound is my keyboard and the words going through my head. It’s amazing how much easier it is to think (for many) in the quiet.

What was neat is that collaboration didn’t need to end just because of the quiet. Even when students could talk, many chose to write to each other. Those that did talk were a lot quieter. I think that students realized the value in the silence and the calmness that comes from less talking. So I wonder if they’ll reconsider how much they need to talk, even when they can talk again today. I wonder if as a class, we’ll find more opportunities for quiet times, and more options for those that need the quiet.

Hopefully as part of our reflection today, students will also realize that while they could talk when they needed to, not everyone is as fortunate. I want them to see that even though many liked the quiet, others may feel differently if this is their constant reality. I wonder what their thoughts will be. How do you feel about a totally quiet classroom? How do you give students this environment if and when they need it? How do you balance “quiet” and “loud?” I’d love to hear your thoughts! In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a few more minutes of quiet time. 🙂



5 thoughts on “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Quiet

  1. I have read No Talking! I read it in Gr.3, but found it very strange that a whole SCHOOL was basically silent. I would have never imagined that it would happen in real life! It’s great that your students feel for people who have special needs. The rules were mild tempered and very fair! I hope it went well. I have a few questions! What were you feeling or thinking when you experienced the quiet atmosphere? Are you looking forward to seeing these sort of days often? I await your reply generously!

    • Thanks for your comment, Yusra! I really enjoyed the day. I don’t mind talking in the classroom — especially on-task talking that connects to the learning — but the quieter environment was nice. There was still talking, but everything seemed a bit more silent. Today my students reflected on the experience, and they really want to try this day again with no talking at all. We’re going to do so next week. You can listen to their thoughts here:

      Thanks again for the student perspective!
      Miss Dunsiger

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