The silent way method is a method of language teaching. It is based on three main points.
1. Learners discover, rather than remember or memorize
2. Use of physical objects
3. Development of problem solving skills (Tim Bowen).
The name of the method comes from the role the teacher plays in the classroom. According to it the teacher must remain silent as much as possible, thus motivating students to talk. In this method, the learners take active part in the lesson and are not only involved in what is being taught, but in a way, teach it to themselves. They completely dive into the spirit of a language and begin to accept most of the functional vocabulary, often absent in their mother tongue, as normal.
Caleb Gattegno, the founder of this method, believed that teachers take too much on themselves in class. This is unacceptable when the subject at hand is a foreign langue. He believed that teacher should be guides in the process. They should prepare the set and direct the action in front of them, allowing their students to brilliantly act out the pain roles. Each student has his way of learning and by transferring the responsibility to the pupils each one is given freedom to learn how he or she does best.
This method limits the amount of memorizing that a student needs to do. All the rules and vocabulary are taught step by step. This can be compared to the building blocks. One idea is followed by the next and together they form the foundation of a language. It is true that this method is mostly useful for beginners but it does help set the basis for further language learning.
Such physical objects as rods and coded charts are most often used. One rod is provided and the learners have to develop it until the time when they need a new one. This is when the teacher steps in and provides the necessary material for further teaching. Such color, sound (pronunciation) and vocabulary (word) charts are used throughout the teaching process to introduce new material. The material is introduced only once and so students must always keep up and never lag behind. Every new piece of information is based on what has already been learned and thus the student grows.
The methodology of the silent way of language learning is based on the student. It is important for students themselves to learn to solve problems at hand, to recall information and be able to verbalize their thoughts. Moreover, mistakes are considered acceptable. One can correct one’s own mistake or it can be done with the help of the peers. Thus, instead of the teacher repeating what he already knows the students search for the mistake and become teachers in a way at the same time. Teaching to oneself and to others is the best way to learn or revise what has already been introduced. Although constant repetition of what has been learned is important it is drastically diminished. This way the student has to stay focused and involved all the time. The flow of new information is more efficient and also keeps the mind active. Student-student communication is encouraged, while the teacher is desired to remain silent as much as possible. Although the native language can be used to give instructions, all is done to avoid it as much as possible. The evaluation is performed not in the form of test. Since the teacher is always a passive viewer of the classroom, he or she always knows the progress of the student. This gives way to the possibility of continual assessment.
As a result of this method of teaching, students become a lot more independent. They feel free to help each other out and to help oneself as well. The teacher’s role is made smaller but nevertheless is still very important. He is still the man to runs the show. The teacher’s responsibility of preparing all the needed materials is very important. Without these physical objects there would be no way to teach. Apart from the independence, this method also uses all different types of learning – audio, visual, tactual. This method is appropriate for students with various study methods. Each one can choose what works best for him and try what works best for others. Perhaps the way the teacher had learned the language is not how his students will learn it. The silent way method makes the students talk and this is vital. Constant communication is the correct way to success. Only through communication can one truly master the language or at least acquire the needed skills for a basic talk.
Several schools have successfully implemented the silent way method of teaching into their curriculum. One of these is the SW Language center located in Japan. This center has developed over time and now offers courses for all willing and wishing to learn Japanese. They offer regular courses as well as special courses for tourists. Schools such as these are the best proof of the validity of this method. It works and people use it. The methodology is based entirely on the charts, fidels, rods and pictures. Both the teachers and students play their roles and attain success.
Teaching methods are like languages. They are needed only when they are useful. So as long as there is someone out there teaching languages by the silent way method, the ideas formed by Caleb Gattegno will live on in their work.
Benjamin Franklin had once said:
“Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn”.
These words best describe the goal of the silent way method. It aims at involving the students in the learning process. The teacher steps back and the learners step forward. They are the center of attention.
Tim Bowen. Teaching approaches: what is the silent way? Retrieved from http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/methodology/teaching-approaches/teaching-approaches-what-is-the-silent-way/146498.article
Silent way language center (2005) Retrieved from http://www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/~SW_LANGUAGE_CENTER/index.html
Silent way charts. Retrieved from http://donaldcherry.com/silentway/