Teachers using Wait time in the Classroom

Last week we mentioned wait time in our discussion of take up time in behaviour management.

The two are not to be confused. In its most fundamental sense, wait time is the time you give a student before you ask them for their answer.

The question is, how much wait time should you give a student?

Well that depends! As a teacher you will know if you are looking to extract answers from an individual, a group or a whole class.

You will be aware of the cohorts ability and their self control.

In the lower primary years you might find that students can’t keep quiet and getting them to stay silent for a few seconds or more might be a challenge.

Towards the senior end of high school students are more reticent to volunteer answers and risk losing face if they get something wrong.

So these are all considerations that a teacher must reflect upon.

No matter; several studies over the years have concluded that giving students wait time of three or more seconds after a question, solicits a much better response than looking for instant responses.

Here are some well known benefits of extending wait time:

  • Improved quality of student responses as a result of having more time to think about their answer.
  • Students are inclined to listen more attentively and follow teacher discussions knowing they will be given time to respond to any questions.
  • The atmosphere in the class changes to that of reflection and use of the intellect rather than measuring intelligence in terms of speed.
  • More students are likely to construct responses because of increased thinking time.
  • The ‘I don’t know’ responses in the classroom decreases.
  • The questioning strategies of teachers tend to improve qualitatively.
  • Academic results trend upwards.

Certainly, this is one simple strategy to implement in the classroom at any age level.

It’s worth giving it a go and reflecting on the quality of responses you receive.

Do you already implement this in your classroom, and do you find it makes a difference?

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