The Silence Game
The Montessori Silence Game really is a gem! The children enjoy the peaceful nature of the game and love to try to improve on their previous attempts. But the Silence Game takes a lot of preparation - it's generally not a game that you play until the classroom has normalized.
In order to prepare for this game, you need to take time each day to speak with the children quietly. You need to bring the idea of 'quiet' to their consciousness and then give them an opportunity to become quiet. If they respond in a loud voice, simply make your voice quieter. Keep making your voice quieter until the light bulb goes off and the child has that 'aha' moment. You must show them how to be still and listen to the silence.
You must also allow them to gain an internal understanding of how their own movements and their own voice can make or break the silence. It is only then that they will learn to control their movements and voice and understand the impact they have on the world around them. Read how one primary Montessori classroom is shown how to nurture quiet.
"One day, I came into class holding in my arms a baby four months old, which I had taken from the arms of its mother in the courtyard. ... The silence of the little creature struck me, and I wanted the children to share my feeling. ... To my amazement, I saw an extraordinary tension in the children who watched me. It seemed as though they were hanging on my lips, and felt deeply all I was saying. "Then its breathing," I went on, "how soft it is. None of you could breathe as it does, without making a sound..." The children, surprised and motionless, held their breath. In that moment, there was an extraordinary silence; the tick of the clock, which generally could not be heard, became perceptible. It seemed as if the baby had brought with it an atmosphere of silence such as does not exist in ordinary life. This was because no one was making the smallest movement. And from this came the wish to listen to the silence, and hence to reproduce it." Maria Montessori (The Secret of Childhood)
The Silence Game is played in Montessori classrooms to help the children develop a higher level of self-discipline. In turn, this will help to normalize the classroom.
The Silence Game
- Read: The Secret of Childhood, pg 131-133
- Silence is a "point of arrival".
- The Silence Game should not be attempted until there is certainty of basic success.
- All of the exercises that have movement are indirect preparation for The Silence Game.
- The children must have control over their will, they need to be able to inhibit movement and concentrate and must have a sense of ease about themselves and their body.
- The silence game should bring a sense of joy, achievement, and self-reliance.
- The silence game is a measure of normalization of the class.
- The silence game is the summation of all that is necessary for the development of the individual to bring about that integrity, which is the wholeness of the personality.
- If all the sensitive periods are allowed to develop, the capabilities and capacities all integrate and normalize the child; the result is the whole personality is formed.
Preparation for the Silence Game
All preparation exercises help the child achieve control, and the children can then participate in the Silence Game.
- Teaching the children to sit quietly and still.
- Show them how to arrange themselves comfortably on the chair or floor; if using a chair, center yourself on the chair (important that the children have chairs that allow their feet to touch the floor).
- Children need the opportunity to hear the silence and the sounds of silence
o Ask a small group of children to sit quietly and see what they can really hear … ask them to listen to rain on the window panes, birds chirping, the snow falling, the sound of nature, and the sound of traffic).
o Allow the children to experience the silence without you (the teacher) calling forth things for them to be aware of (don't ask them what they smell, hear, or feel, just let them be).
- Once the children are a cohesive unit working towards a common goal for the good of all (collective will), the Silence Game can be played.
Directions for the Silence Game
- Tell the children that together, you are going to make silence.
- Ask the children to sit on the floor comfortably, sitting somewhere that they can get up easily.
- Tell the children to sit with their eyes closed and listen for their name; when they hear their name, they are to come over quietly and sit down.
- Quietly, the teacher walks outside the classroom (or to the other side of the room) and allows for a minute or so of silence.
- Then gently, quietly, the teacher whispers a child’s name.
- When a child’s name has been called, the child gets up from where they are sitting, quietly walks over to the teacher, and takes a seat on the floor.
- After the last child has joined the new group, everyone can enjoy a final moment of silence together.
The Importance and the Nature of the Silence Game, 1930 was written by Maria Montessori. You can read it here.