At Edupstairs we always talk about such topics on our blog and this topic has been requested so many times and it’s very important. Individual work is the most critical factor in developing academic skills and competency. When done right, it can also strongly affect the learner’s maturity, mental toughness and enjoyment of learning.
So what’s the answer? Is there room for allowing learners to talk while working individually?
No, there is not. And here’s why:
They can’t concentrate.
The quieter it is, the easier it is to concentrate. Plain soft sounds, like planes flying overhead, raindrops on the roof or wind blowing.
In the presence of louder environmental noise, like construction around the area or an unruly classroom next door, playing classical music for your learners can be a big help.
But talking, even whispering? Like a surprised knock on your front door, it cuts straight through to the prefrontal cortex, breaking concentration in an instant. If you allow talking, this will happen again and again all over your classroom.
Even if your learners get used to the chatter, the brain will naturally attempt to decipher what is being said, pulling it away from the focused work that needs to be done.
Interruptions ruin flow.
It takes a couple of minutes of quiet focus to get into a state of flow, whereby time slips by unnoticed, performance soars, and the very act of doing the work becomes an enjoyable experience along the lines of running, drawing, meditating, and other highly focused activities.
Each time an interruption breaks the flow, it takes more time to get back in. And if the interruption is perceived to be an annoyance, the state of flow will often never return.
Individual work then becomes what it is in so many classrooms: A boring piece of activity which learners’ fight through and get over with as fast as possible while giving the least amount of effort.
It makes learners less independent.
Independence is a muscle learners develop through daily practice. It results in an ability – a superpower in this day and age of shortening attention spans – they can enjoy and carry with them into the future.
And it’s good for all learners, even those who have struggled with attention issues. In fact, it can be a powerful antidote to ADHD.
One thing is for sure, if you do allow talking, then the ability to attend will weaken for all learners. You’ll create a dependent, immature class that can’t sit still for more than ten minutes.
You’ll struggle with work production, knowledge acquisition, writing ability, memory, listening, motivation, and the freedom to move on to new and more challenging topics each day.
Having the skill to push day after day and week after week on the amount of time your learners can focus independently is a sign of great teaching and the secret to enormous academic progress.
It also results in mature, mentally tough learners who are on task weeks longer than the average classroom.
But what if they have questions while they’re working? What if they need help? What if they like to talk things out with a classmate or have to borrow an eraser?
You take care of all of this beforehand by preparing your learners to succeed all on their own—yes, every learner—and without help from you, their classmates, or anyone else.