Have you ever been listening to someone and then they stop talking and fall silent? Suddenly you find your awareness piqued or you are attempting to rewind what they said to see if you have missed something. Was the silence an invitation? An emphasis?
Silence is a powerful tool that great speakers and leaders use to:
- Emphasize a point
- Create a sense of authority
- Read and understand others
- Choose their words wisely and intentionally
- Make others feel heard
- Negotiate more strategically
It’s a tool teachers can use, too. When we share ideas or content with students and then allow for silence, we invite contemplation, questioning, visualizing. That silence is filled with so much thinking. Perhaps not at first, as students may seem confused or disoriented by the void of information coming at them. But if we make it a practice they will build a habit.
I know it is even more difficult, a seeming luxury, during pandemic teaching where every moment has to count and we are racing to keep up with teaching and learning as our time is so limited. But if we do not offer some of that time for absorption our students become overwhelmed (super saturated) with information and we may experience a further gap between what we teach and what they learn.
I’m not talking about ‘time outs’ or meditation as much as trying a few small adjustments.
- Notice how long you give for wait time after questioning. 10 seconds can feel like a long time for students who are used to none. The quiet can nudge them out of their comfort zones or give them time to really process what is being asked.
- Pause after sharing information you think is important. Give it time to sink in. Give them time to visualize. Give them time to recognize, “Oh, that must be important!”
- Pause before giving feedback to a student response. That time may be an opening for the student to reflect on their thinking, revise or add to their thinking, and evaluate their thinking before you do.
Some of you may already do these things regularly with students. If so, I’d love to hear what effects you think it plays on their learning. Wishing you all a great week out there.
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