The silent lesson

I’ve had a few questions (via twitter) about the practicality of the silent lesson (mentioned in my last student talk post).  So I thought I would share an example of a ‘normal’ English lesson where I didn’t speak.

This was part of a year 9 unit on war poetry and we were studying an exert (below) from Elizabeth Wise’s poem Auschwitz.

From the poem Auschwitz by Elizabeth Wise

What big heavy doors!

Strange, lingering odour,

Faint but still here…strong disinfectant

‘Stand round the shower point’

Wait for the water.  Don’t think about the crowd.

They don’t notice your degradation.

They can’t see your shaved head from all the rest!

My God!…They’re locking those bloody great doors!

Why?…It can’t be!

No, the water will come in a minute.

Don’t cry, just be patient,

It will be over very soon.

There’s a noise – up there.

He’s lifting the grate.

All eyes watching, wondering.

No sound.

What are those pellets?…Dry disinfectant.


Gas! Gas! Gas! Panic!

The screams, the clutching,

Pulling, scrambling.

The total terror of realisation.

Timeless minutes climbing and scrambling.

Families forgotten.Self preservation.

Flesh on flesh – clutching and tearing.

Gas, screams, death…silence.

As you will see from the powerpoint, I did all the usual English type activities – a pre-reading activity, some technique analysis and a PQE response.  In a normal lesson, this whole thing could have been quite dry.  The choice of poem was an important one, students know about Auschwitz, this section of the poem is dramatic and heart wrenching but there also some questions like how did she survive? Was Elizabeth Wise actually there?  The poem itself is one that students enjoy talking about and that was the key.

You will see from the powerpoint Teacher silent lesson example I was typing questions or prompts onto the board as I went.   I also had an LSA in the room, although we had agreed in advance that she would provide no support beyond her normal written intervention for specific students.

Why not have a go?


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