As a parent, silence is a rare, wonderful thing. Its effect is calming and centring, and although it might seem like children do not value the gift of silence, its benefits are paramount.
In The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori said, “One day I had the idea of using silence to test the children’s keenness of hearing, so I thought of calling them by name, in a low whisper…This exercise in patient waiting demanded a patience that I thought impossible.” This was the very first Silence Game, which has many different variations and applications in modern Montessori teaching.
Possibly the most common manner of play is to merge the whole class in a joint effort to ‘create silence’ together; explaining that in order to be silent, there must be no noise. It’s a good idea to show the children a picture of a peaceful, tranquil place in order to illustrate the connotations of silence. Many directresses use a board, with the word “silence” on one side and an image of serenity on the other – when the word “silence” is shown, children are to create silence but keeping still and making no noise, and when the illustration is shown, they may stop creating silence. When the children have successfully created silence, the directress will whisper their names, one by one, and ask them to quietly move to sit next to her.
If the children do not manage to create silence (it’s a game that might require some practice), directresses will talk to the children about what caused the silence not to occur. The point of the exercise is to build children’s awareness and sensitivity to the noises around them as well as the noises they create. Watch this little boy play the Silence Game, illustrating a different version of Maria Montessori’s initial idea:
Maria Montessori concluded that when children have become acquainted with silence, “(they) go on to perfect themselves; they walk lightly, take care not to knock against the furniture, move their chairs without noise, and place things upon the table with great care…. These children are serving their spirits.”
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Source: Infomontessori.com – The Silence Game