When a teacher asks a class question you usually get the same hands go up in the air to be the first to answer. Usually, the same students try to avoid eye contact and try to shrink away. And sometimes you get answers with very little depth.
I know that the amount of time that it takes each child to process the question and formulate a response differs. My goal is to have each child able to contribute a meaningful response. Using wait time for them to formulate their thoughts certainly increases their ability and willingness to answer questions.
Benefits I’ve found as a teacher by using wait time:
- Improved quality of student answers
- Increased student participation
- Improved student esteem
- You sometimes get answers with related connections that you hadn’t thought of yourself, but perfectly relevant
- Even in receiving student answers that may be off-track, you may be able to identify a student’s line of thinking assist in making better connections
- Creating a class where you expect students to contribute and share their learning makes for a more powerful learning environment.
Strategies to help students give better answers:
- Increase the wait time you give for students to answer questions, try 3 to 8 seconds – notice a difference?
- Ask students to share their thoughts with a classmate – put a time limit on it, like 30 seconds. Then have students feedback answers to the class
- Write your questions on sheets of paper. Split your class into groups and have them go around and answer the questions on the sheets. Feedback answers to the class for discussion
- As your class gets use to using wait time, try varying the amount of ‘wait time’ you give for questions.