There has always been a great deal of value placed on class discussions and open communication between peers in elementary classrooms. The benefits of effective communication in the classroom have been researched and proven many times over. As a result of this association between talk and success, silence has come to acquire a negative connotation. These negative feelings that educators have toward silence in their classrooms is causing an oversight of the potential benefits it has to offer. The research provided in this paper aims to change the way educators perceive silence and encourage teachers to rethink the amount of importance they place on talking. This research will define two different types of silence and discuss the benefits that it can have on students. It will then cover several ways that teachers can use silence productively in their classrooms.
Weak and Strong Silence
In her article “Schools Weak on Strong Silence”, Adi Bloom describes that there are two types of silences present in schools, weak and strong. The terms “weak” and “strong” are used to describe the classroom environment created by the way teachers utilize silence. Weak silence, also referred to as negative silence, is used by teachers for the purpose of maintaining control over students. Teachers use this type of silence to keep order in their classrooms, and to show authority. Weak silence is used as a tool to benefit teachers. Generally, a teacher’s attitude toward silence stems from their own personal experiences. The influence of these experiences is apparent in the way they use silence in their classrooms (Waite, 2013). As a result of the encounters students have with weak silence in their classrooms, students learn to associate silence with fear, unease, and rejection (2009). This association with silence can have a negative impact on the lives of students outside of school.
Strong silence, or positive silence, is characterized by the mutual agreement made between students and teachers choosing to be silent. This type of silence is a choice made by students; it is not forced onto them. Adi Bloom (2009) explains, “Choosing something gives it the strength to emerge. Because silence is a powerful aspect of human experience, choosing it allows its power to enter a person’s world-and, of course, the world of others” (p.15). Forcing silence creates a sense of oppression, while giving the opportunity to choose silence is freedom. Students enter into an agreement with the understanding that in order to achieve silence, they must be respectful of others around them. Eventually, students will discover that silence is not only about respecting their peers, but that it is also about taking care of themselves. Another aspect of using strong silence in classrooms is taking the time to teach students how it can help them. For many students it is a new experience and it must be introduced and explained by teachers. In time, students will understand the value of...