The Silent Way Method's History, its advantages and drawbacks

The History of the Method: The Silent Way

The History of the Method: The Silent Way

28.12.2023

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Our series of discovering teaching methods’ history goes on. This time we are going to discuss a rather interesting method which is not mentioned as much but we do think that knowing it is an important part of every English professional’s training. It is the Silent Way! 

If you have never heard of this method or feel intrigued by this unusual name, stay with us and join our discussion.

What is an Audio-Lingual Method?

What is the Silent Way?

All the methods that we have discussed before, specifically the Grammar-Translation method, Direct method, and Audio-Lingual method, have proved that thoughtless repetition or constant recreation of the given examples do not provoke enough critical thinking behind the actions

Moreover, the figure of the teacher turned out to be too dominant by having the authority to present the correct models, explicitly explaining grammar, and being relied on too much when it came to checking the answers.

This is why the Silent Way appeared. Its main aim was to provoke much more critical thinking than before and to embrace relying on one’s own knowledge without being dependent on the teacher’s appreciation. 

The Silent Way was distinguished by a problem-solving approach to learning and was predicated on cognitive arguments as opposed to emotive ones. 

It was highly desirable for students to grow toward autonomy and independence as well as collaborate to find solutions to language-related issues.

The method’s name comes from the teacher’s expected silence, during which they must resist the urge to let students in on everything.

What were the cons of the method? We are going to get to know them further.

More about the history of the Direct Method!

What is the role of the teacher in the Silent Way?

Within the Silent Way, the teacher is a promoter of the learning process rather than an educator.

Students are taught to rely on their knowledge and themselves. They are also encouraged to try expressing themselves a lot. Therefore, teachers can interfere only when it is necessary.

Meanwhile, the teacher is expected to moderate the lesson, promote critical thinking and self-learning as well as implicitly participate in the explanations.

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What are the key characteristics of the Silent Way?

As with any other method or approach, the Silent Way is driven by certain principles, which are the following:

  1. The teacher gives a chance to answer first rather than explaining something. The chance might be given through silent pointing at the objects and encouraging students to name the objects  themselves.
  2. Students don’t have a ready-to-repeat model they can use. They have to build their own associations with the teacher’s gestures and try naming the objects on their own with no extra help.
  3. Students have to show the teacher that they understand the material, simple recreation or repetition without any extra thinking is not enough.
  4. Students try to rely more on their knowledge and peers than on the teacher’s help.
  5. Reading is taught from the start, however, some prior knowledge is actively used in order to avoid extensive explanations. 

The list of principles can be also expanded with some other recommendations:

  1. Silence is an important tool. Teachers may stay silent to provoke students’ independent thinking and encourage them to be more active and engaged.
  2. Vocabulary is rarely translated, the meaning is explained through perception and associations.
  3. The teacher is not supposed to interfere with the students’ work as soon as they hear a mistake. Staying silent allows other students to correct each other and in this way cooperate more.
  4. Errors are a norm. However, students have to try to correct them on their own first.
  5. Students have to be very observant because the teacher often uses gestures only.
  6. Language is used a lot for self-expression.
  7. Meaningful practice is much more important than repetition.
  8. No homework can be assigned as the Silent Way followers believe the language can be processed even during sleep.

Pros and cons of the Grammar-Translation Method

How effective is the Silent Way?

Lots of people have negative things to say about The Silent Way. More precisely, because of the teacher’s distance and the generally unfavorable classroom conditions, it was viewed as rather severe.

However, even though treating the students with silence or expecting a lot of independence might not always work, a lot of the Silent Way principles are still used. 

Till now we know enough to assume that the creation of up-to-date techniques took a lot of time and effort, achievements and mistakes. Yes, some methods, principles and approaches have lost their popularity throughout time, but at the same time, all of them have given us something we consider effective till now

In the case of the Silent Way, it’s students’ independence, application of critical thinking, use of  rods etc. 

What are the pros and cons of the method?

ProsCons
The emphasis is on the students’ autonomy and critical thinking.Lack of a teacher's assistance sometimes.
Students are more engaged in the process of learning.The silence as a method may create a lot of extra tension and confusion.
A lot of meaningful practice rather than automatic repetition. Lack of practice at home has a great impact on the students’ progress.
Studying through the associations rather than repetition.

Lack of understanding because some topics do require some explicit explanations and help from the teacher.

 The assistance that the Silent Way promotes sometimes is not enough.

A lot of pair and group work.Can be harsh and challenging for introverted students.

More on an Engage-Study-Activate Method

What are the teaching techniques of the Silent Way?

As for the Silent Way’s techniques, the most popular methods used within the Silent Way are:

  • Teacher’s silence which is used to provoke students’ active work and give them space for their own critical thinking.
  • Rods which can be used for both explanation and practice of certain vocabulary and grammar. For more detail, you can read our article on using rods!
  • Peer correction. The teacher  is not supposed to correct every single mistake. They should promote peer correction, self-observation and independence.
  • Gestures, which is a popular way of making students guess certain words or build some association without interfering, interrupting, or talking too much.

Conclusion

To sum up, a lot of things about teaching methods do change rather quickly, so it’s hard to be fully aware of what things are useful enough and what should be omitted. 

However, with Grade University you may always stay in touch with the latest trends and some recommendations from colleagues. So, don’t miss this chance!

There is no negative feedback on the Silent Way. True or False?

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko

    Author

    Teacher of General English & IELTS

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