Friday, December 17, 2010

What is The Montessori Silence Game? Learning to Play and Building Attention Spans

The Silence Game Part 1 
To me the Silence Game means stillness, self control, and intense concentration.  It isn’t something that occurs naturally with a group of preschoolers and it certainly isn’t something that can be achieved the first time it is implemented. I remember the first time I observed the Silence Game being implemented by a skilled Montessori Directress…I was in utter awe!

NAMC montessori silence game what is it learn to play build attention span
Dr. Montessori created the Silence Game while working with children who were partially deaf.  After a great deal of observation, she noticed that their hearing improved when they were given the opportunity to listen carefully for sounds.  She began implementing a variety of different activities to do just that, one of which involved her standing at the back of the room with the children facing away from her while she quietly called the name of each child.  The children listened so intently and when they heard their name called, they would quietly walk to the back of the room and stand silently by Dr. Montessori.

A similar activity is now implemented in Montessori schools all around the world and it is called ‘The Silence Game’.  It is a wonderful activity to help children relax their bodies, become in tune with their environment, lengthen their attention spans and most importantly, to appreciate the beauty of silence.

What is The Montessori Silence Game?  Learning to Play and Building Attention Spans

Today I had the opportunity to implement the Silence Game in my Montessori preschool classroom and for many of my students, it was their first time playing the game. For some, they had no problem with remaining still while others couldn't help but fidget, make faces at the friend beside them as well as make a variety of little noises. It is always so interesting to see how each child reacts to the Silence Game and to observe how their attention span increases from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

To implement the Silence Game, I always begin by talking with the children about what it means to be silent.  Their definitions are usually very interesting!  I invite them to close their eyes and listen to the sounds in the classroom for ten seconds and when the time is up, raise their hand to share what they heard.  Usually, they respond by saying they heard a friend breathing, water dripping, the clock ticking, a class pet moving, etc.   Before playing the game, I feel it is important that each child understands what it means to be silent and that they have the opportunity to listen for the sounds around them.  I also make sure that I choose a time of day when the group is relatively calm and then I proceed with the steps below
  • Once everyone is sitting at circle time I make a sound on our calming chime and the children know it is time to ‘tuck their sounds away’ and listen.
  • I then explain that we are going to play game called “The Silence Game”.  Right away their interest is peaked because it is a game.
  • I explain that they need to keep their bodies still and calm and to not make a sound.  I also let them know that they can play the game with their eyes open or with their eyes closed.   Some children prefer to close their eyes and it does tend to help them focus on really listening for their name to be called.
  • I then stand at the back of the classroom and quietly call the name of each child.  I always begin with a few of the older children who are ‘normalized’ and understand how to play the game.  It is such a treat to observe the children quietly get up from their spots and walk toward me…they are clearly determined not to break the silence. Of course, there are some children who struggle to keep their bodies calm, but by the end of the year, even the children who can’t sit still for more than a few seconds learn to appreciate the stillness of the class during the Silence Game.
  • I make sure I call each child’s name and once everyone is with me at the back of the room, I thank each of them for playing the Silence Game and then send them one by one to choose some work from the shelves.  It always amazes me how calm and peaceful the atmosphere feels after playing the Silence Game.
If there was a lot of fidgeting and noises throughout the Silence Game, the next time we play the game, I make a point to reinforce the importance of being completely still and quiet and we talk about how much harder it is to hear each name being called when children are moving and making noises.  I find that each time the game is implemented, the children try harder and harder to sit still and to keep their sounds tucked away until the game is over.

Today, I was especially amused with Jordan’s reaction to the Silence Game, as it was his first time playing the game.  It was evident that he was excited to play the game and he loved the challenge of staying quiet.  He didn’t make a sound the entire time, however, the facial expressions that he made while waiting for his name to be called were priceless.  I observed everything from frowning, pouting, eyebrow lifting, puffing out his cheeks and even trying to touch is nose with his tongue.  Jordan clearly mastered the silent part, but definitely needs to work on the stillness aspect…

View Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog series.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, December 17, 2010.


  1. Question: How do you react if the child does not hear his/her name, do you wait til the end and say it again at the end? You didn't mention it, but I assume you explain that the children waiting with you also need to be silent: do you ask them to sit near you after they have walked toward you? Also, how often do you play the game (i.e., practice!). Once a week, each day? Thank you!

  2. Thank-you for your queries about the Silence Game and yes, if a chid doesn't hear his her name you simply move on to a different name and go back to that child's name at some point during the game. It is also important before you begin to remind the children that even once they've heard their name, they still need to be silent so that the remaining children can hear their names being called. Once the children have heard their names and have walked towards you, some teachers prefer to have the children remain standing, but I always invite them to sit near me on the floor......they are less restless when they are sitting. It really depends on the individual teacher and the dynamics of the group as to how often the game should be implemented. I always aim for a few times each month. I find if I do it more frequently, it loses its impact! If you have any other questions about the Silence Game, please don't hesitate to ask.


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