The Gattegno Effect – my contribution

I was delighted to be asked to contribute an article to “The Gattegno Effect: 100 Voices on One of History’s Greatest Educators”, which was published by Educational Solutions in 2011.

Here is the article:

For those unfamiliar with Gattegno’s Silent Way of Teaching Languages, I’ll add a couple of details here to clarify references in the article itself.

  • The Rods – these are a set of Cuisenaire rods, initially designed for teaching Maths, which Gattegno adapted as tool to represent words, phrases, ideas, and elements of grammar, syntax or pronunciation.


A series of colour charts: 

  • One with rectangles of colour to represent each sound in a particular language:

Sound-colour chart (PronSci and Silent Way)

  • One called a Fidel, containing every spelling combination for all the sounds in that language, spelt out using the colours in the chart above:Fidel (PronSci and Silent Way)
  • And 16 word charts, where the basic building blocks of the language are spelt out using the colour coding represented in the Fidels  (4 of the word charts are illustrated below).  The teacher, and later the students, use a pointer to create sentences by indicating individual words, one at a time.  This is done in silence, so that the whole class can focus attentively on meaning and grammar.  After each sentence has been pointed out, the students may speak it aloud.  The ideas of the sentences can relate to elements in a picture, for example, or items in the classroom; or arrangements of the rods, either in response to what they see, or to prompt a demonstration of meaning.Word charts, British English 9-12



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