The Silent Way – a discussion contribution for EDDN 673, Methods and Materials for Teaching English as a Second Language at Touro College, GSE by TESOL candidate Rose Linehan

This discussion board focus for EDDN 673 was on The Silent Way, an unconventional Language Teaching Method in today’s teaching landscape. It was based upon ideas outlined in Caleb Cattegno’s book “Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools the Silent Way,” published in 1963. Like most cultural events of the 60s and 70s, it was a reaction to previous approaches and methods that were considered excessively rigid and constricting. The basic method that underlies this approach is simple but potentially quite powerful: The teacher is silent, only speaking if the students are struggling.  While Silent Method is currently not used in schools I believe understanding the different methods and their applications gives teacher candidates for TESOL and Bilingual  Education powerful ideas to incorporate into their clinical teaching approaches. (Adapted from

Rose Linehan holds her Bachelor’s Degree in History with a concentration in General Education and Students with Disabilities 1-6, with a minor in Psychology. She is a New York State certified teacher currently working in the East Meadow School District as an Intervention Teacher while obtaining her Master’s Degree in TESOL at Touro College.


The Silent Way Video

1. What did the students learn in this lesson?

Throughout this lesson, the students learned a few different topics with the Silent Way Method. Students learned vocabulary and prepositions with a location as they both related to a house.

• What was introduced?

Fidel chartThe first thing that was introduced was the different pronunciation of ‘the’ with the help of a color-coded word chart, a Fidel. Next, the teacher introduced a floor plan to the students using different colored rods. The teacher created the floor plan of a house so that students could practice words such as other, another, front wall, back wall, etc. With the floor plan, students also learned other vocabulary words such as living room, kitchen, bed and dining room. Furthermore, the teacher introduced students to the appropriate word structure in sentences.

• What points were practiced?

The first point that was practiced was the pronunciation of ‘the’, which was practiced with the Fidel chart. Students reviewed many words always coming back to ‘the’ and making sure the pronunciation was correct. The next point that was practiced was with the floor plan. By creating the floor plan the teacher was able to have students come up with their own answers using the language while only guiding them. In the Silent Way, it is important that the students are responsible for their own production of the language. Therefore, the teacher uses a variety of strategies to guide the students and allow them to come up with the language on their own. The next point that was practiced was labeling the different rooms and their locations. This point was practiced by having the students sit together in a circle and ask them questions about where certain furniture should go. The students answer with the help of the teacher’s cues. Students need to be watching the teacher closely.

• What was mastered?

Students were able to master the location of certain areas within the house and the floor plan. Students were able to determine what location the teacher was pointing to, such as the living room, dining room, etc. Students were also able to master using prepositions as they related to the house and floor plan. In addition to mastering the location, students were able to decide where certain pieces of furniture went where in the house. They were able to decide what furniture would go in what room. Lastly, students continued to perfect their sentence structure when speaking with the tools used by the teacher to guide them.

2. How were the four basic language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) used in the lesson?

The four basic language skills were used throughout this lesson. The students had to listen closely to the teacher from the very beginning. As soon as the lesson started students had to be listening to the correct pronunciation of different words in order to learn. Students had to make sure to be listening to each other as well because it is important that students learn from each other as well as the teacher. Speaking was used throughout the lesson when students were constantly working with the language. Students were continuously speaking and practicing the language. It is important that the students speak up and practice the language so the teacher can take note and see what they are learning. It is important that students are speaking because mistakes are important and once they are addressed the content can be retained more easily. Reading was used at the very beginning of the lesson with the Fidel Chart that the teacher used. The teacher pointed to different words on the colored chart and students read them out loud. The teacher was listening for the correct pronunciation. If there were a mistake the teacher would have the students keep trying until they got it right. At the end of the lesson, students also read out loud sentences that they had written. Writing was used at the end of the lesson when the teacher had the students write about what they learned about the house today. The teacher gave the students some time to complete the writing and then asked for volunteers to share their sentences. The teacher was looking for correct pronunciation and sentence structure within their sentences.

3. Describe any assessment or corrective feedback the teacher incorporated during the lesson.

The teacher was informally assessing the students throughout the lesson. The teacher was observing students during the lesson and listening to how they were interacting with the language. When it came to errors made by students the teacher worked hard to help the student’s self-correct. While providing corrective feedback to the students the teacher used different techniques to guide the students, such as gestures. The teacher makes sure to guide the students to realize their own errors and correct it themselves. This makes sure that the teacher is as silent as possible when it comes to the language. This is beneficial because students are responsible for their own production of the language.

4. Have you ever seen the Silent Way Method before this course incorporated in a classroom for ENL’s?

I have not seen the Silent Way Method incorporated into the classroom for ENL’s before this course. I can see how this method would be very beneficial for the students. I like that students are guided to self correct their own language. I think it is very important for the students to be able to produce as much language as possible on their own. I would be very excited to see the Silent Way Method incorporated into more lessons for ENL students!


English, A. (2013, January 25). Language Teaching Methods: Silent Way. Retrieved from qLzbLCpack

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richards, J.C., & Rodgers, T.S. (2009). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.