Snowballs and Puddles to Break the Silence

10 Feb


I have a student who spent the first half of the school year in silence, who I will call “The Thinker.”   The Thinker is not completely silent, since we’d occasionally get a one or two word answer to questions that were asked, but otherwise this child would not talk to us or other children at all. The Thinker comes from a home that speaks 3 languages, and English is one of those languages.  I thought that language barriers were the reason behind the silence, so I wasn’t terribly worried and we made accommodations accordingly. 

The Thinker spends a lot of time in the classroom exploring how things work.  The Thinker often takes things apart, examining each piece while doing so.  The Thinker will also play alone with toys for long periods of time without uttering a word to anyone.  You can almost see the wheels turning in this child’s head.  I enjoyed watching The Thinker’s explorations, and would guide the behavior when things were being taken apart or used inappropriately.  The Thinker’s curiosity is an interesting thing to watch, but it had to be done unobtrusively and in silence.

Then this past Friday, the silence broke. We went outside as a group to our play yard to enjoy the warmer weather, which in these parts means slightly above freezing. The snow was melting and sticky, and perfect for making snowballs. Since throwing snowballs at each other was out of the question, throwing the snowballs in the puddle that was growing on the other side of the fence seemed like a wonderful option.

It thrilled the children, especially my Thinker. That’s when the floodgates opened and this child began to talk, not just with one or two words, but in complete sentences, with emotions and interaction. The process of the snowballs melting in the puddle fascinated The Thinker. Actually, come to think of it, this child was fascinated by all of the melting snow, and just continued talking until it was time to go home.

What a wonderful breakthrough! I was worried about how long this break in the silence would last, and how long I could keep those floodgates open, but I also reveled in the sound of my student’s small voice.

So when I went to work on Monday, I wondered what the day would hold. Well, The Thinker seems to have decided that silence is not an option anymore.  I’ve never heard this child speak so often and so well, with so many people, and this includes the children and teachers.  The other children were watching The Thinker, and were interested in what this child had to say.

I don’t want to analyze this right now, I just want to enjoy the idea that this child can trust us enough to speak in our classroom now.  What a thrill that is!

Mrs. V

8 Responses to “Snowballs and Puddles to Break the Silence”

  1. RC February 10, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    Congrats on building a bridge across the silence (and over melting snow and puddles).

  2. Just a Mom February 11, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Great post! I was a thinker as a kid. My dad used to tease me and say, “It took us forever for you to talk and now we can’t get you to shut-up!”
    I hope your Thinker never shuts-up! 🙂

  3. Daisy February 12, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Nice. I’m just oh so curious as to what the child said about the melting snow and puddle!

    I’ve had snow in my life forever it seems, and I don’t think I’ve ever thrown it at puddles before. Wow. What an interesting idea. (I think it’s because we don’t normally have snow and puddles on the same day).


  4. debra February 12, 2009 at 7:55 pm #

    I was that child! (I still am that child!)

    How wonderful for you and for The Thinker. These little windows into your world just amaze me. Keep them coming. 🙂

  5. kiri8 February 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    What a fascinating story. I wonder what’s been going on inside the Thinker this whole time, and why exactly the snowballs caused the big turnaround. What do the parents say?

  6. Julie February 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    The Thinker sounds like a great little kid. One I would love to help teach. 🙂


  1. Ripped from the Headlines… « Don’t put boogers in your neighbor’s cereal… - February 26, 2009

    […] The Thinker’s Thoughts […]

  2. Playing Hide and Seek « Don’t put boogers in your neighbor’s cereal… - May 2, 2009

    […] The Thinker really has become “The Talker.” This child now speaks freely with the teachers and with the other children. Hooray! The Talker also has become the “Take it Apart and See How it Works Kid.” If something has been dismantled in the classroom, we usually can figure out who did it. The Talker is really quite stealth with these self-appointed duties. […]

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