"One minute of solitude"

Siobhan Curious reports that two of her three classes are calm, focused, and respectful. But the third has been “a bit of a pain in the ass.” They find a lot of things funny and generally create a “frenetic, nervous and silly atmosphere.” This is a remedial English class, and it meets in the late afternoon, when their “brains are buzzing from a day’s worth of Red Bull and adolescent drama.” She realized she had to do something about this right away, or it was going to be a difficult year.

Then she remembered something a friend had mentioned to her. The friend lets her students chatter for the first five minutes and then has them sit in silence for a minute before the start of the lesson.

Siobhan Curious calls it “one minute of solitude.” She tried it with her class, explaining the reasons and setting the rules (any talking, and they start the minute over again). Even though two boys came in late, it seemed to help; there was less “foolishness,” and the work got done. She plans to do it every day:

I’m a bit nervous about starting every class this way, but I’m hoping that, instead of becoming tedious, it really will be a tiny oasis of peace for some of them. And perhaps some of them will learn that if they can’t sit still and quiet for 60 seconds, it’s probably causing them some problems that they should really address.

I love the idea of one minute of solitude, not simply a minute of silence. The point is not only to quiet down, but to be alone with one’s thoughts for just a little while.

Read the whole story–she tells it wonderfully.


  1. Self-selected reading or freewriting can do this also, but it takes more than a minute 😉

  2. Some of them are a bit resistant, and last class there was more shuffling and sighing. One guy slowly and ostentatiously squirmed into his jacket and loudly pulled the zipper up to his nose, causing heads to turn.

    Next time I may point out that even if you don’t want to do this exercise, someone near you might, and by making a little show of not cooperating, you’re telling the people around you that you don’t want THEM to get anything out of it, either.

  3. Building in contemplation time is important. I have them work quietly on a writing prompt (in science) Any students with issues take it up with me out side. It gives every one a chance to start at the same place no matter where they just came from. To those silly boys- you wont be able to reason with them- everything they do is for peer attention and this might have the opposite affect. Try some 60 beat per minute music once they come in.

  4. I have trained my seventh graders to enter the classroom and begin their warm-ups in complete silence. It has become habit now, but initially I had to play hardball — ordering talkers to leave the room and re-enter silently, or giving consequences with my assertive discipline system (name on board = first warning; check = write an apology letter; etc.) I need this calm for my peace-of-mind. And, you know, I don’t think it harms the children either.

  5. It’s a good tactic.

    It gets to one reason why No Excuses charter schools are so teacher-friendly, and why so many good teachers, if they could see them in action instead of simply reading the union’s characterization, would understand how kids learn so much more there.

    Basically, a predictable problem – settling kids down – is solved at the schoolwide level, not the individual teacher level.

    The norm is a 4-minute silent Do Now written task.

    So instead of Ponderosa needing to individually impose this on kids, the kids get exactly the same message all 8 hours of the school day, from every single teacher.

  6. Mike G.,

    You’ve given me the idea to try to make silent entry a schoolwide institution. However I have a feeling that it won’t fly here. The principal and superintendent have a “love ’em up” philosophy –all behavior issues should be cured with warm-and-fuzzy rapport rather than anything that smacks of military-style discipline. A number of teachers share this view, despite the fact that they end each day frazzled by the herculean task of settling kids down every few minutes.

  7. Of course, as teachers face pressures to increase “time on task,” the full 6 minutes (5 minutes chatter; 1 minute of silence) might get them in hot water.

  8. “…then has them sit in silence for a minute before the start of the lesson…any talking, and they start the minute over again”

    And them you get to a few who would happily break the silence because “nothing” is exactly what they want to accomplish during the class


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephen R. C. Hicks. Stephen R. C. Hicks said: For educators with boisterous classrooms: Siobhan Curious tried "One minute of solitude." At Joanne Jacobs's site http://tinyurl.com/qnuyof […]