What a difference a year makes! A year ago I was presenting to a friend’s class of college students about the Big Seven in Whole Brain Teaching. One thing led to another and – bam! – I opened a store on Teachers Pay Teachers. I never dreamed I would have the success I’ve enjoyed. Even better than the monthly payouts (and that’s pretty awesome!) is the sense of fulfillment I get helping other teachers be successful with their students. That’s my true calling in life, I think…encouraging and helping people achieve and excel. I just happen to do it in the context of an elementary classroom. Now, thanks to the Internet, I can influence even more people!
Response Rate Strategies
It’s impossible to help others grow and improve unless you’re also doing it yourself. My district’s teacher evaluation model is designed to do just that by focusing on a few goals. One area I hope to improve in is creating a highly engaging classroom through response rate strategies. Last week I wrote about one strategy – randomly calling on students. This week I’m focusing on wait time.
Wait time is when a teacher deliberately pauses at a strategic moment during questioning. Wait time is not wasted time, however. It gives students a much needed opportunity to process the question and formulate their own response. Teachers should explain the concept before questioning begins so students will understand that no one will be called on to answer during wait time. I like to touch my index finger to my temple and look up at the ceiling a bit to visually remind my students that we should be thinking during wait time.
Variations on a Theme
As with just about every other strategy under the sun, there are lots of variations of wait time teachers can employ with their students. Here are a few to consider…
- Actually Wait – research shows that after asking a question, most teachers only wait less than 2 seconds for a student to respond. While it may feel like 5 minutes to us, it probably seems like a nano-second to our students. Best practice is to wait 3-5 seconds. Look at the clock or silently count to yourself if you have to, but actually give students some time to think.
- Pause Time – sometimes when answering, students pause during their own response. It’s easy for teachers, in an effort to maintain momentum in the lesson, to not wait on a student at this time. Again, giving a student a full 3-5 seconds during their pause is essential to promote learning.
- After an Answer – once a student has answered, wait a few seconds before continuing the questioning. You could even say, “Hmmm…let’s think about that answer.” This reminds students that thinking is a vital part of learning.
- During Instruction – students can’t absorb an hour’s worth of new information without “coming up for air.” Include some wait time after presenting “chunks” of information. Think of it like eating – you take a bite, chew it and swallow. While teaching, wait time allows students to “swallow” the content without choking on it!
- Dramatic Moment – I use this most often after I get my students’ attention with “hands and eyes.” I wait until I see that I have 100% of my students with their hands folded and their eyes locked onto me. Then…the pause! The tension builds ever so slightly before I announce what’s happening next in class.
Giving Students What They Need
When we give students what they need (thinking time), the effectiveness of our lessons increase. No one likes feeling rushed. And no, especially, likes being put “on the spot” in front of their peers. Let’s use wait time to give students a chance to articulate thoughtful answers to our questions and create a climate of high engagement.