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to think that asking y5 to work in absolute silence is OTT

(49 Posts)
mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 13:38:33

and counterproductive to a good working environment?

Son's teacher expects silence even in PE (eg playing benchball) and Art (yesterday in pairs making papier mache balloons.)

He is extremely strict, but some of the things my son comes out with make me think he's utterly squeezing out any sense of the joy of learning.

Their topic at the moment is Space, and on Tuesday they were due to discuss the International Space Station. I said "oh, perfect timing, I bet you'll have a brilliant chat about the space walk" (a couple of the crew did some running repairs outside the ISS at the weekend - son fascinated by Newsround reports, and watched a bit live on the internet. Er, no. They covered what it said on the worksheet. Some of the children brought up the space walk from the news, but were told there wasn't time to discuss that.

Am I naïve to think that by Y5 they should still be able to have a bit of a creative hum in the classroom during some of the activities, and also that a little bit of linking planned teaching to what's going on in the news can be invaluable in bringing topics to life?

ReallyTired England Thu 16-May-13 13:46:44

Your son's teacher sound brilliant.

"Creative Hum" distracts children. Many chidlren end up talking about what was on TV, football scores rather than getting on with their work. Its not "creative hum", its a distraction.

There is a time for chatter and a time for work. I am sure that your son has an opportunity for discussion ABOUT THE TOPIC in his lessons as well as independent work. I realise the space walk is interesting, but it may well be irrevelent to the learning objectives. (Ie. if they are learning about planets)

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 13:57:39

Fair enough, it's useful to get different views.

I am probably naïve and wishy washy, but I don't think primary school lessons should be conducted in silence, with breaktime only for chat.

I was prepared for Y6 SATs regimented teaching to the test (which I also disagree with, you might not be surprised to know!), but it's a shame that since this teacher arrived in January like a new broom, an entire class has had any residual enjoyment in school crushed.

Yeah, I know, I was lucky that my son was still pretty eager and bushy-tailed, but it saddens me that this teacher's style is so prescriptive and regimented.

DollyClothespeg Thu 16-May-13 14:01:32

I'm in agreement with reallytired. My DS is in year 5 and they should be getting on with their work, not chatting.
I think it's counter productive and can only serve to distract.
Get their heads down and make them get on with it. harsh but true

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 16-May-13 14:04:52

How old is Yr 5? Am not in UK, but it's about 10 is it?

I imagine "creative hum" (or kids being bloody noisy as I call it) can be very offputting to children who need silence (or at least, a bit of quiet) to concentrate.

Obviously your bushy-tailed child doesn't, but that doesn't mean others don't.

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 14:09:34

There's no point making something in a team like a balloon if you can't discuss it. Fine to limit the discussion to the task but very odd to do a team-task in silence, why bother putting them in pairs, why not just have them sit alone making a balloon wondering what the heck that has to do with creativity or art

I think having all lessons in silence, especially those focused on news topics and current affairs, or political/moral issues is just bizarre.

He can't be a very good teacher if he can't differentiate between types of topic that might benefit from interaction and discussion, and those that do not (silent reading, creative writing, getting on with previously explained maths).

PareyMortas Thu 16-May-13 14:09:58

I'd love that teacher to teach my DS who is also in year 5 as would my DS. He hates the fact there's so much chatter and he can't get on with his work, there are a lot of disruptive children in the class and I don't think they're able to moderate themselves. Total silence is a rule they could all understand.

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 14:11:16

Y5 is age 9 and 10.

Yes, that is the line I've taken, that in the teacher's view it is better for the majority of children. Just had a free minute to mess about on the laptop and thought I'd put it out there.

I'm certainly not thinking everything should be in place to suit mine!

I'm interested that so far everyone is happy with his approach. The absolute silence rule is new to their school (as in, this teacher is the only one so far who has demanded it, I don't know about Y6 as this is my eldest.) I am surprised that people think it's reasonable in PE, but there you go.

anastaisia Thu 16-May-13 14:16:04


Glad we home educate and my DD has the opportunity to really socialise when she goes to activities and gets to work collaboratively on things that interest her instead of having to work in silence alongside a group of other children. Doesn't stop her learning or them from creating things or teaching each other fascinating things.

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 14:21:35

I am not against silence for some lessons, but not PE or Art, and certainly not for debates/discussions/current affairs/moral issues all of which my Yr 4 daughter does in class. In fact, I find the idea of a silent PE lesson quite disturbing, what if they are in a team, can they not shout 'over here' or express any enjoyment?

Too simplistic and smacks of an inability to control discipline in general to me, thus going for the over the top approach.

There are countries in which every class is held in silence, and those students turn up at UK universities at a real disadvantage in terms of being able to interact in groups (communication skills) and also think for themselves (original thought), both of which are assessed at that level.

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 14:22:36

Although I can see a short period of silence (few days?) could be used to establish a new norm of quiet working.

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 14:23:00

Sorry, papier mache balloons are going to become planets!

Mumsyblouse: He can't be a very good teacher if he can't differentiate between types of topic that might benefit from interaction and discussion, and those that do not (silent reading, creative writing, getting on with previously explained maths).

This is my view, too. I take others' points about the Silent Full Stop type rule being perhaps the only way to get the real chatterers to understand, but I think it's way too broad brush an approach.

I don't think he could be described as a 'brilliant teacher', whichever way you look at it, though. Some teachers just have that ability to inspire children, and also to have authority over the class without stepping over into authoritarianism.

FullOfChoc Thu 16-May-13 14:26:22

They learn lots during discussion. As long as they are on topic and not discussing last night's eastenders!

Are you sure what your son is telling you is the full story. Maybe the teacher demands more silence than other teachers but they must talk sometimes?

piprabbit Thu 16-May-13 14:29:47

I had a sixth form teacher that made her A-level economics class sit in silence and alternate boy/girl.

Possibly the worst teacher I have ever come across, she spent so much time and effort trying to micro-control every tiny interaction that we didn't actually cover much of the syllabus. She lasted one term.

Asheth Thu 16-May-13 14:34:37

Yanbu. Silence for some things is fine - individual writing for example. But topic work is enhanced by discussion by the whole class or in small groups. Yes, some children will go off topic. But that is what the teacher is for - to get them back on topic or to help draw out the shy ones etc. What does this teacher do while the children are working in silence on their worksheets?

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 14:35:33

Yes, they have teacher-led class discussion, but all work is conducted in silence. Including, as I've said, activities like PE. That to me is just utterly barmy. That side of things is not an exaggeration, because I spoke to the teacher soon after he started about various things (son was regularly in tears on the way home because "Mr X has ruined school for me").

He was very clear about his methods, and it did include working in silence as my son reports, along with many other 'quirks' - things he expected to be done differently from how the class had been used to. Down to tiny things like the date to be written on the other side of the page to what is detailed in the School Policy.

On a slight tangent, and I know he's not the only teacher to do this, but using 'boy-girl-boy-girl' lining up and seating as a 'punishment' strikes me as sending a bit of an unhelpful message.

pooka Thu 16-May-13 14:35:43

Dd has a teacher (yr 5, new to school in January) who is hot on silence while working and discussion being guided and relevant rather than a free for all.

It's awesome! Dd has learnt heaps since January, the previously rather unruly and chaotic class are much calmer. Dd was getting pretty distressed at beginning of the jan term because it took some time for some kids to learn to be quiet and not to chit chat while working. Which meant a lot of waiting until they were quiet. But gradually the behaviour has improved and the class are making good progress and hitting targets.

Creative hum is actually very disruptive when, inevitiably, it just becomes plain hum and is unrelated to work going on.

pooka Thu 16-May-13 14:38:00

Boy girl boy girl now being used at our school for lining up and assembly. Works very well. I isn't done as a punishment though. Children were just told at the beginning if the term that this was ow it was going to be from now on, and while there were grumbles at first, it means that the kids are listening in assemblies and are going in and out of class more calmly (I've seen this with own eyes).

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 14:39:12

Interesting, pooka. It does help me to know for sure that kids can learn in that environment.

Please be assured it's not all about my child - I am very realistic about the fact that he's going to come up against teachers that he doesn't like.

It's just that I was interested in other people's views on the working in silence thing.

Wonder if it's the same teacher??!

thecakeisalie Thu 16-May-13 14:40:27

That sounds utterly dreadful being made to sit in silence even during an art lesson! Yes sometimes quiet is needed for concentration and busywork in schools but working in pairs but not able to talk sounds silly to me.

In all the jobs I've worked in there was never a time when the office was silent yet many people who work in office jobs are very productive without complete silence. How does silence fit into the real world anyway?

In order to maintain concentration the human brain needs distractions. When I went to a driver awareness course they were telling us about a long straight road in Australia where they removed all the billboards deeming them a distraction and actually found accidents rose because the human brain needs the odd distraction to help continue to concentrate.

So I would say OP yanbu.

FJL203 Thu 16-May-13 14:40:52

Silence was expected in my children's lessons. It created a productive, well disciplined environment. I have no complaints - in fact I'd be complaining if there was constant chatter a "creative hum".

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 14:42:13

nah, not the same school then, the boy-girl thing is very clearly used as a response to some kind of transgression by the class.

(This is what I was getting at about the x factor in those teachers that can get the authority through respect and not authoritarian stuff that only gives certain kids the desire to rebel. I remember how I hated all that whole class responsibility stuff, when it was always the same kids causing us to get into trouble.)

pooka Thu 16-May-13 14:42:15

Should say tat the class isn't silent all the time. They pair and share - where in twos or threes they talk about each others' work - and have opportunities to discuss group projects and so on. It's all about striking a balance and recognising that there are times when chat is a distraction.

PeterParkerSays Thu 16-May-13 14:45:49

Are we all talking about the same thing though? I can see why you'd want children to do written work silently, but surely a decent teacher would allow students who wanted to mention related events, such as the space walk, to contribute to class - they could ask for the experiences of other children, and it might encourage other puils to watch newsround etc. if they don't already because it will give them an opportunity to contribute to future discussions. They should also be allowed to do quiet level chat when doing practical group work, such as the papier mache.

Miggsie Thu 16-May-13 14:48:14

This sounds wrong to me - I think there is room for silence especially when owrking on a test or set of questions - but ho can you work in pairs, in silence?
It is unnatural. I don't agree iwth kids talking non stop all over the teacher but total silence sounds a very rigid, unimaginative and ultimately joyless experience.

My DD's school sacked a teacher who refused to hold class discussions. But DD's school is hot on debating skills, ability to hold an argument (intellectual not a slanging match) and listening to other people's point of view.

PE in silence - well, that's just weird, and unnatural - would anyone work in an environment like that? You are in close proximity to 20 other people and no one speaks except the teahcer - such desperate authoritarianism.

I sympathise with your sn. DD is in year 5 - she does complain about other children beign chatty sometimes but I think se'd complain a whole lot more having to sit in total silence for 40 minutes at a stretch.

Being quiet while someone else is talking IS a skill that should be learned by year 5, not total silence - it sounds like a school Charles Dickens would write about!

Miggsie Thu 16-May-13 14:49:00

sorry about typos I meant to say I sympathise with your SON

flatpackhamster Thu 16-May-13 14:55:53

Good for the teacher. 'Creative hum' is chatter and is totally unnecessarily, particular for 9 and 10 year olds. LOL at the 'oh, how dreadful, time without the little darlings expressing themselves!'.

SantanaLopez Thu 16-May-13 15:07:51

I'm on the fence. The PE thing is bizarre, but I don't see a problem with 10 year olds being expected to work on certain things in silence.

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 15:17:26

Santana, there is no fence if that's your reason for sitting on it. I don't disagree with working in silence as a concept. My problem is demanding total silence at all times, which the teacher himself has told me is his policy.

mathanxiety Thu 16-May-13 15:19:48

'Too simplistic and smacks of an inability to control discipline in general to me, thus going for the over the top approach.'

I agree with Mumsy's suspicion.

The DCs' primary school uses the boy/girl approach to keeping some sort of order in the classroom and while lining up. I don't like it, as the approach is clearly designed to make the girls into the classroom and line police. There are philosophical/feminist implications to that imo. I think there are studies that show that girls do better in maths in particular when allowed to work together in well-managed collaborative groups, while boys tend to do fine working on their own. An approach that places boys basically in their comfort zone while the girls facilitate an atmosphere that enables the boys to work well on their own may ignore the needs of the girls to a large extent..

However, their primary also favoured the creative hum and this was managed very well. I myself went to primary and secondary schools where the rule was total silence except in Art, Home Ec and PE. Suited me fine and but I think the creative hum would have developed some useful people skills, which are just as valuable in the long run. A teacher needs to be able to manage it for it to work, and I suspect, along with Mumsy, that this teacher isn't up to that.

Wishihadabs Thu 16-May-13 15:23:23

My Ds is year 4 , but taught with year 5's really can't concentrate with ambient noise. He prefers to do his homework in silence. A creative hum has no place in a maths lesson or writing task IMO. Silence for art and PE seems a bit OTT. I think we used to have the radio on for art.

soapboxqueen Thu 16-May-13 15:34:28

As a teacher I would be horrified to find children working in silence. There are some occasions when it is necessary but they are few and far between. Children learn best when they can discuss solutions etc In longer writing I encourage them to read their work to a partner so that they can hear their errors and discusses improvements to the plot. In reading I need the rest of the class to be quiet otherwise I can't hear the children reading but otherwise it is testing only.

DorisIsWaiting Thu 16-May-13 15:54:27

Is this all the time or just this week as the Yr 6 are working on their sats?

mixedpeel Thu 16-May-13 15:58:21

All the time, since teacher's arrival in January.

Soapbox, I wish you were my son's teacher!

But thanks to everyone for their perspectives.

kim147 Thu 16-May-13 16:07:23

I don't think art / DT should be in silence - I work as a primary teacher and do believe there should be a creative hum. I don't really mind in art what they talk about as long as they are working. Sometimes it's interesting to listen in to their chats.

The problem is when the hum gets too loud - and of course, what is fine for you may be too loud for a head who comes in.

So it's a balance.

Same for PE - children get excited in active games but the gym can be near other classes or the offices. And in gymnastics, the teacher needs to be heard.

30 children can get very noisy. I insist on silence in silent reading (I use the word silent a lot in that) so I can hear a group. In other subjects, I usually expect some talk but work related.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 16:09:31

God, I wish more teachers insisted on absolute silence every now and again.

SprinkleLiberally Thu 16-May-13 16:20:30

As a secondary school teacher, I wish more primary schools would encourage silent working for more of the time, although not all. Most of the pupils act as if they'll expire at once if they can't talk. I'd be amazed at silence in PE, but sometimes it is necessary.

KitchenandJumble Thu 16-May-13 16:31:07

YANBU. Silence during PE and art? Madness. I also think that children can achieve much more through collaborative learning and discussion than silently completing a worksheet. I teach adults (university students), and I am often stunned by the passivity that they display. Many of them seem to expect education to be a matter of passively absorbing information, rather than actively, creatively, analytically engaging with a subject.

There is a time for quiet in the classroom, certainly. But all the time? That smacks of a lack of imagination on the part of the teacher, as well as some insecurity in terms of his own ability to manage the class.

A friend's children attend a school that requires absolute silence while eating lunch. That sort of control just makes me shiver.

valiumredhead Thu 16-May-13 16:32:29

Yr 5 is middle school here and working in silence is the norm unless you are doing a team project at ds's school.

Many years ago I worked in a primary school where the reception kids did PE/gym in silence, it was amazing and it meant that the teacher could give out instructions and the kids were concentrating on what they were doing. It worked really well.

I think there is room for both. ds2 is y6 and they quite often work in silence, but at other times they have discussions as a whole class, and other times they are split into smaller groups to work on group projects which requires discussion and delegation, and sometimes even arguing about the best way to do something!

these are all skills that everyone needs in order to thrive as an adult.

there should be discussion, and if the teacher is good and the subject gets railroaded, then he should have the skills and knowledge to bring the discussion back on track.

will your son have the same teacher again next year. if not I wouldn't take any action, but if he is then I suggest you have a chat with the teacher and ask him about his teaching methods?

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 16:40:06

Kind of makes a mockery of the claim, then, about all that socialization they get in school, if they are doing all activities in silence, and in kitchen's example, eating lunch in silence. Mine are always complaining that they only get about 10 minutes after queuing for lunch, then perhaps 30 min run around either break, 40 minutes a day is easily replaceable by an after-school activity like art club! Perhaps those home-edders are on to something.

valiumredhead Thu 16-May-13 16:47:31

Not really, socialising goes on all the time and by 10/11 they need to buckle down and get work done, and tbh at that age they are as easily distracted as reception aged kids ime hmm grin

WilsonFrickett Thu 16-May-13 17:29:33

In Scotland, the Curicuulum measures listening and talking, in fact they're considered as important as writing and reading. Lots of paired work and talking work and team problems to solve. Silence in a classroom (all the time!) is weird.

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 17:37:09

Complete silence in every lesson, including joint art projects, does not sound like a great opportunity for socialization to me. I'm not saying there's none, I'm saying that it appears that in some schools there is a very modest amount easily replicable by social activities afterschool/clubs.

Surely it's not an all or nothing situation? I would worry if my child was in a class like this, and probably go in to see the teacher to see if they were exaggerating just a wee bit

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 17:40:34

And- I am staggered at how inarticulate some 18+ students are who have been to very expensive private schools where I imagined they would be getting lots of opportunities for debate/structured discussion. Lots of mumbling, lots of complete inability to hone in on the key points of a topic, lots of statements asked as questions? (lol, ok, this rising inflection at the end of a statement is the fashion but it's not a good strategy when explaining something as it makes you sound unsure of what you just said).

SantanaLopez Thu 16-May-13 17:54:28

The Curriculum for Excellence is a pile of shite though.

I think they need a balance, doesn't sound like this teacher is providing it.

balia Thu 16-May-13 18:00:57

The teacher told you they have to work in total silence at all times? How do they let him know if they are stuck, or need the toilet, or have lost their pen, or have finished?

BackforGood Thu 16-May-13 18:05:17

Of Course YANBU - am amazed at the first few responses. shock
Totally agree with what MumsyBlousy said in her first post - silent working is excellent for some areas of learning, and clearly ridiculous for something such as making something together / playing team sports, and like you say, not allowing interesting input on what could me a really motivating topic.

OwlinaTree Thu 16-May-13 20:29:29

You need a bit of all of it really.

Sometimes silence, but not all the time.

Children are all different, but the best learners are able to adapt their learning to suit different situations. You won't get better at that if it's always the same situation - silent individual work.

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