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!! :)


  1. Thank you so much dear Maria for attending the session and for your sweet and encouraging words. You've definitely added a lot to it with your innovating ideas.
    You've proved how great teachers are in overcoming any obstacles and making it work no matter what we have or don't.
    I'm very happy it worked with your students and I'm really very proud of you !! :) Congratss <3

  2. How wonderful that you were able to incorporate Ayat's idea so swiftly into your own teaching!

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comments dear Nina! It is always great to have "VIP" guests in my blog! ;)
      Smiles, Maria :)

  3. As a long-time Silent Way teacher I was impressed by the professionalism of Ayat's presentation and also by how quick you've been, Maria, to adapt the ideas to your own situation.
    Ayat showed us how Cuisenaire Rods can be used to present and clarify grammar points. She mentioned that they can be used in other ways but didn't have time to develop that. If you're interested in other uses in the language classroom you might like to read this article:

    Hope you have as much fun using them as I and my students did.

    1. Hi Glenys,
      Thank you very much for stopping by and leaving a comment in my blog. I agree with you that Ayat gave us a great presentation and I'm sure she has been using The Silent Way in many ways with and without the rods. I'm using color pencils these days as neither my students nor me can afford the rods. It is interesting to see how kids/teens manage with colors and sizes.
      I'll be happy to read the article you mention.
      Smiles from Argentina,
      Maria :)

  4. Hi Maria,
    Any small objects that students can manipulate will do but Cuisenaire rods are more versatile. Don't be put off by what you see on Amazon com - they're presenting them for maths not language teachers. For language teaching purposes you only really need one large box -for over 30 students for some activities you might need 2 boxes but not more. I use the one pictured here: I've had it for well over 20 years and it's still in good condition - not perfect - small children have left some tooth marks! Before that I had wooden rods but the colours do fade. Students don't need individual sets.

    As I didn't use a course book and made very few photocopies I made savings in other ways. ;-).

    And thank you, Maria, for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.


    1. Hi again dear Glenys,
      Thanks a bunch for the piece of advise! I will see if I can find them out in any store here in my hometown. Maybe I'm surprised with the price!
      I enjoyed reading your article!
      Maria :)

  5. Thank you Maria for this interesting article! I've tried to contact you privately, but the only connexion I've found was through "google hangout" and I'm not convinced you received the message at all. I'd be happy to swap emails if you will!

  6. Hi Cedric,
    Thank you for stopping by! As you said, I haven't received any message in Google. You can contact me at mariabossa1 at hotmail dot com You can also find me in Facebook as Maria Bossa.
    I'll be extremely happy to be in contact with you.
    Smiles from Argentina,
    Maria :)