I love lessons that, at their essence, require no materials — just some space and the children. Lessons that are the fundamentals to the Montessori classroom, but by Spring, can often be forgotten by both the children and the teachers.
This week I made an effort to play the Silence game at group and to reintroduce individual silence works as materials on the shelf.
Why silence? Can’t you just tell the class to be quiet? Dr. Montessori’s main goal in her education philosophy is the development of internal discipline and self-satisfaction. Bringing the entire class to self-imposed silence, everyone working together to a common goal, is a beautiful thing. As she said in her essay from 1930,
“ In other words they repress them [their movements], a thing that generally many people, children for instance, supposedly cannot do. But we know that small children are able to inhibit all their movements if they themselves have already had an education of the movements such as ours in which they have received indications in controlling movements, a process which prepares them for this last step: complete inhibition.”
When we do have a child that is not ready to make silence, we engage them in a meaningful errand with one of the teachers, but otherwise we have the children focus on making their own silence, and not reminding others that it is time for silence. There is no complete silence, just grades of silence. If our whole class is silent, what do we hear? Adults talking in the kitchen? The upstairs class walking on the floor? The pesky stink bug throwing itself against the window? The exercises in silence also develop self-control, how hard is it to not shush the noisy friend next to you when you’re doing an individual silence work, how difficult can it be to find that stillness and peace inside of yourself in a busy bustling classroom.
The initial group lesson I use is the same as described in this 1930 lecture by Dr. Montessori.
- Gather the children in one area of the classroom
- Explain we are going to make silence. I say that “Silence is making peace in our bodies and minds. We and going to be as quiet as possible, and listen to and feel the silence. I will move my body over there (point to another area of class). I will whisper your name. When you hear your name, walk as quietly and silently as possible, and join me at group.” At the moment I have to add, “I will call everyone’s name, so do not worry, I will make sure we all make it over to the second group. When you come to the group, you do not have to make a perfect circle, just find enough space for you body, even if it is a another row.”
- You may have a sign that has Silence written on it, as a visual reminder. I also use a singing bowl at the end for the last moments of silence.
- Move your body to another area of the classroom. Depending on your class, you may wish to start calling names immediately, or allow the children to experience the silence for a little while before you begin.
- Start calling names
- Once everyone is gathered, I play the singing bowl, and when we can no longer hear the chime, I say “Thank you for the beautiful silence game. I feel rested, more centered and peaceful.”
Individual Silence Works
Tibetan Singing Bowl
- Tibetan Singing Bowl
- Silence sign
- Lay a floor mat on the ground.
- Take the materials to the floor mat.
- Remove singing bowl from box, if necessary, and set up Silence sign
- Say, “We are going to make silence. I want to see if I can hear the singing bowl play from the beginning to the end.”
- Begin playing the singing bowl by rubbing the mallet around the outside of the bowl. When you have produced a nice sound, remove the mallet and close your eyes. Listen, do not open your eyes until you no longer hear the singing bowl.
- I say, “That made a long beautiful tone. While I was silent, I enjoyed listening to the entire tone. Would you like to try?”
- Allow the child to play the singing bowl and make silence
Making Silence with a Stethoscope
- Child-sized stethoscope
- Silence sign
- Tray to hold materials
- Unroll a floor mat
- Take tray to the floor mat
- Say, “This is a stethoscope. We can use this to hear inside our body, we can hear our heart, our lungs and our stomach. Today we are going to listen to our heart. Let’s find our heartbeat.”
- Help child position stethoscope on their chest and find their heart beat.
- Say, “We have to be silent to hear our heartbeat.”
- “What happens if we move our body quickly? Let’s see.”
- Remove slippers, stand on floor mat and run in place for about 30 seconds.
- Sit down and find heartbeat again. Allow child to listen to your heartbeat.
- Allow child to run in place and then listen to their heart beat.
- Yoga mat, ours it cut a little too short!
- Lavender eye pillow
- Silence sign
- Basket to hold pillow and silence sign
- Take yoga mat and unroll it on the floor
- Take basket to yoga mat
- Go get a tissue from the box in the classroom
- Remove shoes
- Say, “We are going to practice savasana, it is a yoga pose where you lay on your back and focus on calming your body and breathing. I’m going to try to relax all of my muscles and make my body as still and as calm as possible.”
- Wrap the tissue around the eye pillow, lay back and place pillow over eyes
- breathe deeply
- When done, remove eye pillow and sit up.
- Place tissue in trash
- Invite child to practice savasana
I think it is important to always have one type of silence work on the shelf and available. I know that everyday in my class I have a child who could benefit from a moment of calm reflection, and having a work ready to meet their need is what a prepare environment is about.