Theories, Methods & Techniques of Teaching - The Silent Way


Our next methodology is called the silent way and it's accredited to Caleb Gattegno and was developed in or around the 1970s. This particular methodology moved on from the behaviorist stimulus response to what's called a theory of constructivism and this constructivist approach was very very different, very radical to anything that had been tried before. The background to this particular methodology was that there was a French mathematics teacher who found that his students were finding it very difficult to understand particular concepts. What he realized was that what they needed was a more visual representation of the information. So he came up with a series of colored rods to help with those concepts in mathematics. He gave his name to those rods and they're called Cuisenaire rods and there's an example of Cuisenaire rods here. What teachers of English realized was that if this constructivist idea of using this visual representation of rods worked for concepts in mathematics, why could it not be applied to the teaching of English and this is what the Silent Way and Gattegno came up with. The idea is that each of these colored rods would represent a different sound, a phoneme if you like, and by using those rods he could teach vocabulary and indeed grammar by using a series of colored rods. One particular color may represent one particular sound and by putting those colors out in a series, he could represent the linking of those sounds into a particular word and indeed the length of the rod itself could tell you something about how long that sound should be pronounced. So, if you were quite inventive and you were trained in this particular method, you can use this series of colored rods to develop the pronunciation of words, move on to the next level into the way in which sentences are actually constructed by using the rods and so on and so forth. So, what was good about this particular methodology was they were said to use cognition in the learning process, in other words the brain was actually physically involved in constructing the language in how it works. So we're really building up the language within our own brain. This constructivist idea is very much the same way that we learn our native language. The other positive thing about it is that it's very good fun. One of the main problems with this particular methodology is the fact that it uses all of these rods and phonemic charts and so on and so forth so it takes quite a lot of learning. Before you actually get on to the learning of English itself, you have to know what each of these particular colors mean in terms of the phoneme and all of the charts and so on and so forth and that's true both for the teacher and for the students themselves. The second negative part is that you're actually too distant from the teacher. The whole point of the Silent Way is that the teacher would say as little as possible, apart from the modeling of language initially, and one of the main criticisms was that it was felt that this particular methodology was so far removed from didactic teaching, the teachers standing at the front and explaining, that the students found it very difficult to learn.

Below you can read feedback from an ITTT graduate regarding one section of their online TEFL certification course. Each of our online courses is broken down into concise units that focus on specific areas of English language teaching. This convenient, highly structured design means that you can quickly get to grips with each section before moving onto the next.

This unit was definitely the most difficult as it had so much information given that I am not particularly familiar with. I'm very accustomed to teaching students to read phonetically and it is what I applied in the bush but I can see how using theses methods would have helped a great deal by using the symbols to represents sounds rather then teaching the rules of the sounds.For new teachers a good teaching manual from a popular publisher surely is a good tool to use to get started. Adding materials especially authentic materials can help balance the too often standardised preconceived processes to follow in the book used. However, it sometimes can help the students to catch up more easily on a missed out or skipped lesson with their book at home!

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