Schools are often very busy, noisy places. All of the noise that naturally comes from placing many people together in one place, can be over stimulating. If left unmoderated, it can be difficult to focus, feel calm and to stay on task in noisy environments. Learning to sit in silence and allow thoughts to just happen is one of the cornerstone skills of relaxation practice. It is a skill that can support a child for his/her entire life and is especially effective when cultivated and practiced early.
However, when first introducing the experience of silent time, the body and mind will often rebel and encounter some form of resistance. For this reason, it is important to scaffold the experience and gradually build your students’ “sitting in silence” muscles. This game, Playing with Silence, as a way to bring practicing silence into the classroom in a fun, playful manner. Here are the steps:
1. Sit comfortably in a circle on the floor.
2. Place a ticking clock or softly ticking metronome in the center.
3. Tell students that we are going to listen closely and invite our friend Silence to appear.
4. We simply are allowing Silence to visit us, not forcing or making anything happen. When we quiet our bodies, our friend,Silence, naturally visits.
5. We will only know if Silence has arrived if we can hear the ticking of the clock.
6. Next, tell the students that we are going to do some body talking.
7. Say softly out loud, “My head is quiet, my head is still. My eyes are quiet, my eyes are still. My mouth is quiet, my mouth is still. My hands are quiet, my hands are still. My arms are quiet, my arms are still. My legs are quiet, my legs are still. My feet are quiet, my feet are still. I breathe deep. I listen”.
8. Pause for a few moments, allow Silence to appear. After a few moments say: “Now you can gently rub your hands together. Place them softly over your eyes. Now, open your eyes with a smile.”
9. End with a discussion, talking about how it felt, if they think that Silence appeared or not, if they were able to hear the ticking.
- Small Group to Large Group: If you have a very high energy class or a class that has not been accustomed to quiet time, you may need to drop back a few levels before practicing in a large group. For example, designate a small group of positive peer role models and introduce the activity to them. Once they have gained mastery of the skill, intersperse them throughout the large group for practice. It is also possible to practice the silence while doing seat work to prime the brain for practicing without any external focus. Depending on how long your class is able to practice to start, you may need to begin with a simple 20 seconds and have a class goal of getting to 2 minutes by the end of the year. However, it is important to maintain the focus of simply allowing our friend Silence to visit, (rather than forcing or commanding).
- Personalize Silence: The class can cut out pictures of peaceful scenes and glue them inside, decorating the outline of a person. This can be known as “our friend Silence” and posted where you practice.
- Freeze Breaks and Quiet Chart: It might be necessary to practice quiet before silence. Create a quiet chart where you can monitor and record the noise level in the room throughout the day. You can have “freeze breaks” where you deliver a signal such as a bell and the class pauses for a moment and listen closely to hear what they can hear. During large group you can discuss at the end of each week how the class quiet times are progressing and what you might do differently to increase the quiet.
- Throw a Silent Party: After your class has practiced silence for a while with success, throw a silent party. Bring treats and create a fun, novel, close ended, (i.e. it has a beginning and an end), task to do while practicing silence.
- Recognize and Verbalize Specific Positive Feedback: It also helps to notice and give specific feedback when the class spontaneously experiences quiet times throughout the day. Celebrate, by recognizing saying, “Wow, that was a beautiful quiet moment. Did any of you notice that? I felt very calm when it was very quiet in here. Excellent work!”